Charlotte Hallberg: Short Sight Soft Touch

June 2 - 30, 2016

CRUSH CURATORIAL is pleased to present Short Sight Soft Touch, new paintings by Charlotte Hallberg, opening June 2nd, 6-8pm, and open by appointment through June 30th.

 “And the students asked me what I was going to do. I said, and stuttered, ‘To open eyes.’ And this became the rule for my life. I have taught to learn to see. In my color book there is no new theory of color. But in it there is a way how to learn to see.”[i]  So recounted Josef Albers in 1968. Charlotte Hallberg, a generation removed, still lives with this teacher’s ghost. Albers’s contributions to the fields of art and graphic design are encapsulated in the publication mentioned above, Interaction of Color. Albers and his students carried out the corresponding experiments in paper, more expedient and consistent in texture than other materials. Hallberg moves the experiments forward in labor-intensive, complete paintings. Albers haunts, Hallberg exorcises. The concise exhibit Short Sight, Soft Touch offers four moments in which the artist, vigilant inheritor of a long line of color theories and this thing called painting, recasts Albers’s layer-and-juxtapose lessons through her own evolving geometry of wave-and-radiate, a muscular psychedelia all her own. 


“Asleep with the lights on again” and “So much time, not even tired,” as their titles hint, speak most directly to Hallberg’s source material: an historically unprecedented oscillation of electronic and “natural” light, electrically illuminated nightscapes, and fulgid handheld tools. Another Albers subheading comes to mind: “color recollection – visual memory.” Hallberg recalls the light of computerized screens: Netflix left running while we fall to sleep; the last semi-conscious Scruff woofs and Tinder swipes at the true end of the waking day; mindless online shopping. These realms of light and color were unknown to Albers, leaving it to Hallberg to pose both their problems and these paintings as answers. The thick concentric bands of color echo the shape of the panel on which they sit and stand in for the deep shallowness of every iPhone screen; the pairs of waved forms laid over this in both paintings,—contoured by thin, Thiebaudesque contrasts—the luminous and spectral trace of oily finger tips sliding down the surface, continuing invisibly beyond. 


Here is the exorcism, the final extraction of Albers’s ghost, the spectacular remnants of which Hallberg has wrought into paintings. Albers’s instruction invites manipulation over and over again by the student, containing moments like the following when regarding its own color plates: “…turn the book so that the left page with the 2 green grids appears above the study with the 2 small dark rectangles at the center.” But these paintings are not a pause in a workshop where we can pick up and rearrange. They are worked out. Hallberg has considered every orientation and placement of these panels and concluded this is how they are best seen. An excellent student, she already asked the questions, finding resolution in fingerwaves and circles, near-flush panels, and this place on the wall. 

Albers is certainly not the only ghost here. In their mesmerizing way, Hallberg’s paintings coax long, long looking, so you should have plenty of time to seek out the others. 

— Josh T. Franco

[i] Oral history interview with Josef Albers, 1968 June 22-July 5, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution



Charlotte Hallberg lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She received her MFA from Yale University, and her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. She was an Annenberg Visual Arts Fellow from 2010-2012, and has recently shown her work at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Trestle Projects, and the Parlour Bushwick.  This is her first solo exhibition in New York.  

Josh T Franco is the Latino Collections Specialist, Archives of American Art, at the Smithsonian Institution.