Subliminal Structure :: Katharina Grosse

Katharina Grosse: This is Not Dogshit, 2007, acrylic on glass, metal, brick, paving stone, Franchise Foundation, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

Beauty is important to Katharina Grosse. She spacializes rather than localizes visual vocabularies. Paint is her medium of intervention between architecture, color, and political culture. Her mammoth installations are highly controlled pictorial events using encountered structure and objects to define a space where the viewer wafts between the familiar and the foreign; the known and the unknown; reality and illusion: a masterful journey of feeling and affect. In this month's issue of Art Papers , Melissa Ragona describes her work as "...beginning to move off the canvas, onto the wall and out of the gallery...". True enough.

But, what does that mean? I have been thinking about Grosse's aesthetic since reading this interview, trying to sort out exactly why her work seems to resonate so strongly up against my own creative posturings and articulations. For one thing, her work is physically and startlingly prolific. Scale is directly related to context. By placing large elements in relatively small spaces, the scale of the work is contraindicated. She outsizes herself, even, by the sheer volume of cubic feet her installations encompass -- at once opening up and negating the space within walls, within buildings, within streets and towns. It is this relationship to scale and boundary that I am most impacted by.

Katharina Grosse: Pigmenta Para Plantas y Globos, 2008, acrylic on balloons, soil, walls and floor, Artium, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

Above, images of gigantic hue-saturated balloons exist fully and weightlessly against the walls and ceiling of the gallery, and piles of dirt on the floor. I am initially uneasy with this. The proportion of mass to the architecture of space seems 'wrong', foreboding almost. There is something horrendous and beautiful all at once.

Then I notice the drips of paint falling and hanging so sensitively over the surfaces of those looming spheres, onto the dirt, against the walls.  And I feel better.  I look more. This is such a powerful example of Grosse's ability to transcend feeling and emotion through her created artificial structure. The architecture of the gallery space is a rational, understandable given - contrasting with the saturation and drips of paint which represent an emotional link.  Fictitious space, illisionistic space and painterly space become one as she deftly rocks the viewer, including me, between this subliminal concept of chance and structure.

Katharina Grosse: SKROW NO REPAP, 2008, acrylic on paper, floor and walls, , FRAC Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France

At FRAC, above, white paint was sprayed on the walls, ceiling and floors first, then Grosse installed drawings made before hand in her studio to offer yet another dimension of entry into the project space.  This image, and the one at the beginning of my post, are incredibly sensuous and interesting.  I respond emotionally to the tension between the gentleness and purity of the white hue against the grey stability of the architectual surfaces.  The white paint breaks down the boundaries between the walls and floors so that the structure becomes one unified whole, laden with potentially expressive swaths and drips of paint, fluently and simultaneously opening up and negating the space.  Paintings within paintings, within paintings.

Katharina Grosse: Picture Park, 2007, acrylic on,wall, ceiling, soil, balloons and canvases, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia

Grosse considers her work representational in the sense that it 'looks like' psuedo-realistic landscapes, something recognizable, when in fact they are abstract landscapes.  Her projects and installations, which she defies you to describe as monumental, are an elegant analysis of scale, time and mood.

Thanks, Katharina.

Read More:
Katharina Grosse: Lush Irreverence ART Papers, September/October 2008
Text + Interview by Melissa Ragona

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