new-york

Chris Hammerlein

Derek Eller Gallery

In George Eliot’s Middlemarch, the character Edward Casaubon famously devotes his life to deducing “the key to all mythologies”—a sort of ur-fable underlying and explaining all others—only to realize that there is no such thing. He dies a beaten man, leaving behind a mountain of disorganized notes. Brooklyn-based artist Chris Hammerlein seems to have something in common with Casaubon: For the past eight years, he has been making drawings that delve into the mythic iconography of various locales and epochs, including that of modern pop culture. But instead of evincing a desire to unify the field, his work embraces the irrational nature of cultural forms and illustrates their tendency to burgeon according to the tenets of chaos theory rather than organize themselves according to the principles of logic.

Over the course of his career—first mostly in small, spare drawings daubed with watercolor

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