17 November 2023
Anna Berlin explores dualities
of ancestry and place
by Kate Mothes
When Anna Berlin moved to Berlin, Germany, as a recipient of a 2021 Fulbright Research and Study Scholarship, she was inundated with paperwork. Familiar to anyone who has had to navigate visas, tax forms, and checklists for a major move, the process presented both a challenge and a loadstar for new work. “The visual-verbal governmental speech was sometimes fraught with confusion, as I shared my last name with the city, creating reverberations in my imagination of past and present, person and place, self and family, family history and cultural history,” she says.
Berlin’s solo exhibition Sisters, on view currently at Olympia in New York City, explores memories and stories the artist grew up hearing about her family, along with research she conducted into her German-Jewish ancestry. Comparisons and contrasts between her home in New Jersey and Germany manifest in an eclectic series exploring layered meanings, geographies, and time periods.
“The paintings are of a grayscale world, where documentation, legal papers, and everyday ephemera become part of the language of storytelling,” she says. Place names and family names blend together in Berlin’s text references to Wasser, Berlin, New York, and New Jersey. “In exploring my new home, I accessed a deeper connection to my family’s past in Germany, especially the role of documents and documentation—how they affected their status, imperiling and saving their lives—as they fled their homes in the 1930s and 1940s to escape the Second World War.”
Header image: After Stettheimer: Heat 2, 2023. Flashe, oil, acrylic, and epoxy on panel, 8 x 6 x 1.25 inches
All work © Anna Berlin. Photos courtesy of Olympia