Alisa Margolis: Painting Exploded


Upon first encountering Alisa Margolis’ paintings online I was unsure whether I was looking at paint. The American artist's work ranges from technically rendered explosions and carefully constructed rubble to the Baroque meets deep space and the Athenians at a rock concert.



“There’s something primal about painting, the materiality, the color- it produces endorphins,” I caught up with Margolis outside the Spati in Mitte, her home for the last ten years. When asked to explain her own work she shrugs, ever the nonchalant New Yorker, “It’s between technical formalism and ‘let it fly’”.









Throughout Margolis’ career, beginning in New York at Columbia University for her BA, then attending de Ateliers in Amsterdam and finally settling in Berlin, she has created spaces for art traditions, ranging from the Baroque to Dutch 17th century flower painting to american pop culture, to interact. Typically beginning in a dark space, layers of oil and resin produce milky color plumes; a wonder of technical skill and a clear joy in the process of painting. Flowers, abstract designs and body parts dissolve and perforate- the lights go up onstage and Axl Rose melts.


Margolis, I'm Your Boyfriend Now, 2018. Oil and Resin on Canvas.

Margolis most recently exhibited in a group show at Galerie Judin in Berlin, which she also organized. This exhibition was an opportunity for Margolis to add classical figures to her abstract landscapes. The saturated, colorful spaces were rendered in pastel sunset hues rather than her usual dark cosmic fields and the figures, spilling, twisting, and appearing in smoke and in satin, belonged to antiquity. Easily recognized as figures between gods and men, Margolis' formalism and “gooey feel” technique is on dactylic display. Her abstract expressionist foundation entangles the measured lines of the classical figures, the ancient icons, their roman brows and laurel wreaths severed from chiseled abs hidden in a bubbling pink enamel veil.

Margolis, Eleven Times with Hercules, 2018. Oil Alkyd resin and India Ink on canvas. Galerie Judin, Berlin

Margolis, Fieldwork, 2018. Oil and Alkyd resin on canvas. Galerie Judin, Berlin

In Margolis’ highly anticipated Berlin Drawing Room Workshop, students will focus on learning strategies for figuration and creating space. Exploring gestures which happen between the formal and impulse, flatness and depth. The workshop is an opportunity to learn from a master of marrying extreme opposites. Margolis’ interest in “using paint the wrong way” encourages a freedom to explore material, sources and color over the short course for students of every technical skill level. Review of color theory and a viewing of Dario Argento’s Suspiria is recommended before the first class.


Margolis, Galan, 2014. Oil and Resin on canvas. Galerie Judin Berlin

Results from Hybrid Paper-Making Workshop

details from artwork by instructor Loren Britton

Paper-Making Workshop

Get your hands wet in paper pulp while exploring the process of papermaking! This workshop takes a fresh look at the everyday material of paper, using an approach that is tactile, colorful and playful. Take your paper scraps and transform them into a new ‘drawing’, ‘painting’ or hybrid sculpture.
Pulling from histories of collective making we will explore the materiality of paper together. Learning from artist, Loren Britton, who uses this process in their own work, we will process, pulp, practice, and produce pulp works that embed bits of our own and collective history into a new object.
October 4, 6, 7, 2018


by Hadass Gilboa

by Hadass Gilboa

by Hadass Gilboa

by Ronnie Hofmann


Collaboration with Natural History Museum Berlin





I am excited to officially announce a new collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Berlin; something that has been in the 'planning and development' phase for over a year now. In my pursuit to embody the spirit of the Naturalist, the Natural History Museum seemed like a perfect partner. When I reached out they were very enthusiastic about the workshop format I had already established with the Prinzessinengarten and they wanted to participate in this interdisciplinary dialogue grounded in the overlap between the natural sciences and drawing from observation.

Whereas the workshops held in collaboration with the Prinzessinnengarten and Plant-Expert Matthias Wilkens have been botanical in their focus, the workshops at the Natural History Museum will look through the lens of a Wunderkammer, or Cabinet of Curiosity. The Wunderkammer is the predecessor to modern museums. Instead of following a scientific ordering principle, they were often organized by aesthetic principles, leading to curious combinations and surprising inclusions. 

During the workshop Wunderkammer Drawing we will explore the world renowned collections of the Museum, both on display and behind the scenes. We will have the unique opportunity to meet some of the researchers and learn directly from them about the their work within the museum.

Are some of these researchers modern day Naturalists? Or has the process of specialization progressed so far that there is no longer a place for interdisciplinary work within an institution? Let's find out together! 




Wunderkammer Drawing

with Mira O'Brien (BDR Founding Director) in collaboration with the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (Natural History Museum)
Imagine you are seeing a scaly Pangolin or an iridescent Morpho didius butterfly for the first time. Is the timid Pangolin a pinecone come to life? Is the shimmering butterfly more than a mirage? It is this sense of wonder at the natural world that we will seek to reconnect with through the act of drawing.
As we explore the collections of the Natural History Museum, we will assume the role of the Naturalist who was both artist and scientist. Through the act of close observation, we will gain unique perceptual insights into our specimens.
During the first four weekly sessions we will focus on drawing techniques. During the following four weekly sessions we will focus on watercolor techniques. While our studies will be more closely aligned with field work than polished studio work, they will contain the vibrancy of wonder.
LocationMuseum für Naturkunde Berlin, Invalidenstr. 43 · 10115 Berlin
January 11 - March 1, 2019
Fridays 10:30am-1:30pm
Drawing: January 11, 18, 25, February 1
Watercolor: February 8, 15, 22, March 1
Cost: 124€ per 4 week module. 224€ for both modules.
(includes museum admission)