Grant Recipients Helen Frankenthaler Award for Painting Visual Arts 2020

Kerstin Brätsch

Portrait of Kerstin Brätsch with long wavy strawberry blonde hair, a mauve lipstick and a gray and white sweater.
Photo by OKNOstudio.

The [pandemic] gave me time to reflect and hold space. I practiced solitude…  I had spent decades working with other people, collaborators and artisans, colleagues, and students to investigate the idea of painting in the extended field and suddenly I found myself locked into a tiny cell facing myself with no other art material around than paper and colored pencils. I began to draw, which I had left behind twenty years ago, almost terrified to start and anxious about an uncertainty, insecurity, and emptiness inside.

To my surprise these drawings became extremely intimate and meaningful to me, I developed a relationship with them as if they were my closest friends, my daily mantras.

- Kerstin Brätsch, December 20, 2020

Artist Statement

I define my practice as a migration around painting, oscillating between a conceptual analysis of the medium and a devotion to painterly processes. I am interested in the power of the unknown and interrogating the concept of the occult within painting. I do this by the creation of a third body via collaboration, developing multiple ever-becoming bodies via a collective community, and utilizing traditional craft techniques by manipulating their processes with an awareness of contemporaneity. I return constantly to the relationship between painting and subjectivity—a connection that is softened, destabilized, and sometimes parodied in my work. To question the agency of painting and engage with the expanded field of painting, I invite artisanal practices (such as stained glass, paper marbling, Stucco marmo) and collaborative projects into the equation of painting history. My work does not exist in isolation, but rather as objects of exchange and interaction. This is reflected in my collaborative projects DAS INSTITUT (with Adele Röder since 2007) as well as my on-going collaboration KAYA (with Debo Eilers since 2010).

- December 2019


Kerstin Brätsch lives and works in New York. She is a painter, working autonomously and in collaboration with others, and her practice incorporates installation, sculpture, and performance. Brätsch received MFAs from Columbia University and Berlin University of the Arts. In 2007 she founded DAS INSTITUT with Adele Röder, and since 2010 she has been working with Debo Eilers under the moniker KAYA. Recent solo projects include Fossil Psychics for Christa, The Museum of Modern Art Terrace Café, New York, NY (2019) and Kersten Brätsch_Ruine / KAYA (Kerstin Bratsch & Debo Eilers) _KOVO, Fondazione MEMMO, Rome, Italy (2018).

Neon lights sit under two hanging transparent glasses that abstractly have on them long lean shapes with colors of yellow, orange, and green.
Installation view of DAS INSTITUT, Serpentine Galleries, London, 2016. Photo by Uli Holz.
Abstract paintings supported by wide glass frames. Colors of red, blue and green dominate the theme.
Installation view of Innovation, at Museum Brandhorst, Munich, Germany, 2017. Photo by Uli Holz.
Two paintings side by side depict multilayered shapes that turn into horns at the top. In the center of each shape sit abstract blots of red, blue, green and orange that remind of faces.
Installation view of _Ruine, at Fondazione Memmo, Rome, Italy, 2018. Photo by Daniele Molajoli.
Two abstract glass canvases stand next to each other. The one on the left is a mixture of waves of brown, red and purple colors with two blue gemstones sitting as eyes and a third one as a mouth. The right one with a background of black and yellow consists of various gemoetrically cut glasses forming eyes. a mouth and hands.
Fossil Psychic for Christa, 2018, Stucco Marmo, plaster, pigments, glue, wax and oil on honeycomb, felt, 38.2" x 54.7" x 2." Photo by Daniele Molajoli; detail.
A white gallery room hosts two black cloth material canvases with blurs of purple and blue, small bronze circles align intersectionally. Between the two canvases a door frame to another room showing the half of a transparent green glass on the right and a canvas with trails of black, green and yellow creating leaves.
Installation view of Innovation, at Museum Brandhorst, Munich, Germany, 2017. Photo by Uli Holz.
Perfromers wearing face shields hold each side of a circular glass structure. From the center the glass is a deep green color and it becomes lighter further from the center, the outer edges are blue color that turns into transparent.
Performance still from Maler at Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York, 2017. Performers: DAS INSTITUT, Sergei Tcherepnin, and UNITED BROTHERS. Photo by Oliver Fuerst.
Steel structures support colorful abstract plexiglass with gem rocks glued on them depicting eyes and mouths. The art is illuminated from behind with long neon lights, their cables fallen on the floor in swirls connecting with each other.
Installation view of Full-Fall present Kerstein Brätsch (Poli'ahu's Cure), Gió Marconi Gallery, Milan, Italy, 2016. Photo by Andrea Rosetti.