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Katharina Grosse

October 27, 2006 through May 06, 2007

Katharina Grosse

artist(s)Katharina Grosse

Katharina Grosse is a German artist based in Berlin and Dusseldorf whose vibrant, sprayed paintings transform gallery and museum settings into visually arresting environments saturated with color. For the Contemporary Arts Center, Grosse converts Kaplan Hall into a multi-dimensional image that defies convention. Her site-specific design engages the lobby's architectural features and uses every available surface, including the floor and windows. In this installation, Grosse places eight cubic meters of coarse dirt and fine top soil over Styrofoam to form a large hill, which she sprays with white acrylic before coating it in a Technicolor mist. Drawing from art historical traditions—from mural, fresco, and painting to landscape Abstract Expressionism—Grosse’s combination of painting with architecture and sculpture produces an immersive experience, in which her work physically encompasses us rather than solely hanging on a wall. Her introduction of natural materials into the museum also suggests the influence of the Earth Art movement of the 1960s when artists such as Robert Smithson (1938-1973) brought rock, soil, and algae into the gallery, as well as employed actual landscapes as sites for enormous works of art. By transplanting a heaping mound of earth from a local field to the museum, Grosse, too, brings a “dirty” substance within the museum’s pristine white walls. By including such a raw exterior element in the realm of high art, Grosse’s work reminds us of the natural ground upon which the cultural institution is able to stand. Exploiting paint’s ability to disguise material, the artist asserts that her use of acrylics makes the dirt look like real mounds of pigment. Showering the originally dull, brown heap with a brilliant color palette, she creates a kind of garish, faux finished painting that ironically disguises its own coarse ingredients. She achieves intense, visceral color arrangements through careful blending and application of primary and secondary colors. Grosse states, “[a] particular red, when it meets up with blue doesn’t become purple but rather brown. I like this ambivalence that makes colors surrender their identity and yet still show signs of their origins.” Placing jarring and harmonious hues, “fine art” and “real world” materials together, Katharina Grosse utilizes the museum as a site to muddle distinctions between pure and impure, pretty and ugly, inside and outside.

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