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Karl Ballmer

Gegenüber, s.d.
oil on wood
90.0 x 134.0 cm
Presented during the retrospective that the Aargauer Kunsthaus dedicated to the artist in 2016, these three paintings are later works of Karl Ballmer, which were still showing the influence of his formative years among the Hamburg avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s.

Even before becoming a member of the Hamburg Secession in 1929, Ballmer regularly visited the group’s annual exhibitions, which also showcased recent art trends, presenting works by the most important modern artists of the time (like Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Giorgio De Chirico and Georges Braque). In the late 1920s, Ballmer counted among the young painters who were developing a new pictorial language under the influence of Edvard Munch’s work.

Characterized by a limited set of colors often dominated by blues and greys, his compositions were like brief summaries of characters and landscapes with rounded contours.

The painting Gegenüber (Face to face), whose high-contrast chromatic world probably links it to his 1940s work, represents a kind of silent dialogue between a human figure in the foreground and some imaginary beings. It seems to echo Jean Arp’s formal language in the flat superimposition of linearly drawn organic shapes, which are as if transparently glued onto the pictorial surface. It already contains the beginnings of a disarticulation of the human figure that would become prominent in later works, with subtle earth tones.
Karl Ballmer, Gegenüber, s.d.