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Rita Ackermann on her Mama paintings

From her studio in upstate New York, Rita Ackermann is working on her latest body of work—a continuation of her Mama series—consisting of automatic drawings and paintings on canvas which reveal her persisting interrogation of line, color and form.

This new suite of paintings on both canvas and paper, feature figures and motifs which rise to the surface only to dissolve and reappear elsewhere again. In Ackermann’s Mama series, repeated imagery is often combined with vivid swathes of color, giving her work a complex visual component that oscillates between abstraction and figuration. Her images are the product of automatic lines and gestures, a subconscious unfolding of form.

Her distinctive approach to layering yields a framework for a maelstrom of vibrant pigments and textures that invite and immerse the viewer. Pastel, pigment, china marker, and oil create a depth of surface, which are scraped away to reveal figures of shattered compositions.

‘I like to look at books and images of old paintings—some get stuck and digested into the threshold of visual materials to become colors or figures in the paintings.’—Rita Ackermann

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Installation view, ‘Rita Ackermann. Mama ‘20’, Hauser & Wirth Zurich, 2020
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Rita Ackermann, Mama, Let me in, 2020 © Rita Ackermann

For her new series of works on paper, Ackermann applies oil and china marker to create intimate incarnations of her larger canvases. Titling them as ‘studies’, Ackermann focuses on details of her Mama paintings, obscuring various pencil-drawn figures through thick veils of brightly colored oil paint.

‘Mama ‘20’ at Hauser & Wirth Zürich continues Ackermann’s distinctive approach to painting and the coalescence between the personal and collective experience within. As the artist says,‘The paintings reflect being surrounded by nature every day and experiencing the light as it changes through the green leaves.’ She continues, ‘Then again, they are also inspired by Synthetism. I like to look at books and images of old paintings—some get stuck and digested into the threshold of visual materials to become colors or figures in the paintings.’

Rita Ackermann’s exhibition ‘Mama ‘20’ is on view at Hauser & Wirth Zürich from 12 September – 22 November 2020.