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Experiences become Edith Hillinger's art

Edith Hillinger's collages are informed by Bauhaus, India ink and her peripatetic life.

June 28, 2013|By Kirk Silsbee | By Kirk Silsbee
  • "Mittsu," a collage on canvas, is among the works by Edith Hillinger now on view at the Offramp Gallery in Pasadena.
"Mittsu," a collage on canvas, is among the… (Courtesy of Edith…)

Artists often divulge and explore personal histories in their work: sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly. A theme, a process, a recurring motif, a fetish object — even a color scheme — can be used to wrestle with issues and/or celebrate something about themselves. It's rare, though, when artists are able imply whole cultural histories through expression that is utterly personal. That's what's going on at the Offramp Gallery's new show of Edith Hillinger collages: "Fusion: A Collision of Cultures," through July 26.

Though a veteran artist, Hillinger is no household name, even in art circles. Perhaps this is due, in part, to her peripatetic life. At three, her family fled the Nazis in Hillinger's native Germany and settled in Istanbul. Hillinger's father was a Jewish Bauhaus-trained architect who studied under Bruno Taut —known for his large municipal housing complexes in Berlin. The refugee family moved to New York in 1948 and Edith studied at Cooper Union and New York University. For some time now, she has been a Berkeley resident.

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Another factor in Hillinger's obscurity may be the eclectic nature of her work. The collages use ink drawing/painting and collaged fragments with cutout shapes on black-painted backgrounds. Or are they foreground pieces that sit on the crème-colored shapes?

The largest elements in Hillinger's pasted canvases are simplified combinations of angles and contours. They suspend on the picture planes like templates, prototypes or parts in a workshop. The flat forms contrast to the congested networks of ink markings and patterns on crème papers, which always seem to conform to an obscure, individual logic.

Sitting in the sunlit book annex of the Offramp Gallery, the petite Hillinger recently spoke about her work and its origins. "My father was a big influence on me," she says. "He always drew in India ink and I did that too, from an early age. So in my pieces you can see the Bauhaus minimalism that I grew up with. I've found something that my father didn't have, though. In Japan I've found cartridges that fit into a pen/brush. They allow me to draw and draw, with no interruption of the line."

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