Blalla Hallmann – Die Heilige Familie (The Holy Family) (Works)

Selected Works

Blalla Hallmann

Die Heilige Familie (The Holy Family)
March 2 – April 15, 2006

Blalla Hallmann – Die Heilige Familie (The Holy Family) Press Release

Thomas Erben is pleased to announce Die Heilige Familie (The Holy Family), selections from a body of large reverse paintings on windows by the German artist Blalla Hallmann (1941 – 1997). This is the artist’s first exhibition in the US since his sojourn in San Francisco in the late ’60s.

With highly polemical intent, Hallmann chooses to populate archetypal Christian imagery with Disney characters cheeringly involved in scenes of blasphemous sexual acts, horrific cruelty, and mayhem. A vulva “Madonna and Child” is circled by penis headed Magi; the Holy Trinity interpenetrates and a naked Mickey is nailed at arms, feet and genitalia to the cross under a Cardinal’s watchful eyes with rows of soldiers in attendance. He gets under our skin using visually emotional strategies such as seductive primaries, a particularly endearing, seemingly naive style, and a mise en scene reminding us of the Renaissance originals.

Hallmann’s work has often been discussed in terms of his biography:

Born 1941 in Quirl, Schlesien, his family was ousted after World War II and moved through different refugee camps. His drawing abilities were recognized and fostered early on; at age 16 he studied for one year at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf and was later an honor student at the Academy in Nürnberg. Residing in Northern California from 1967-69, he had two solo exhibitions and participated in group shows within the circle of Bruce Connor, Peter Saul, and Robert Crumb. The experience of a hospitalization as a result of a history of psychological imbalance, malnutrition and a “bad trip” led to his extreme disdain of America. After returning to Germany, it was not until the late ‘70s that he regained full creativity. In the ‘80s he was celebrated within the booming Cologne art scene and had exhibitions with such important galleries as Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne, and Produzentengalerie, Hamburg.

Cloaked in a lusty, figurative style with a plethora of art historical and cultural references, it is Hallmann’s ferocious emotions and abrasive zeal, which pushes his work closer to an outsider’s sensibility. It invites discussion on the interdependence of destructive impulses and creativity, and to what degree boundaries of taste and societal norms can be tested on artistic grounds. Finally, Hallmann’s work explores how complex truths can be articulated through art.

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