Katharina Grosse Studio Paintings, 1988–2022: Returns, Revisions, Inventions

Katharina Grosse Studio Paintings, 1988–2022: Returns, Revisions, Inventions

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis

September 12, 2022
Katharina Grosse Studio Paintings, 1988–2022: Returns, Revisions, Inventions
September 23, 2022–January 23, 2023
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis
1 Brookings Dr
St. Louis, MO 63130
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In her studio practice and celebrated in situ works, Katharina Grosse explores and expands the material presence, optical effects, and aesthetic potentials of color and paint. Every canvas is both rigorously experimental and an organic fragment of something more expansive. Katharina Grosse Studio Paintings, 1988–2022: Returns, Revisions, Inventions opens at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum September 23, 2022, and remains on view through January 23, 2023. The first major survey to focus on Grosse’s studio-based paintings, the exhibition will investigate the important role large-scale canvases have played throughout her career, from the late 1980s to the present day.

“Katharina Grosse is one of the most stimulating, creative and thoughtful painters working today,” said Sabine Eckmann, the William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator at the Kemper Art Museum, who organized the exhibition in collaboration with the artist. “Her practice stretches the boundaries of painting in all directions. Yet, to date, her works on canvas have been relatively understudied. We are extremely honored to shine a light on this foundational aspect of her oeuvre, and to explore the visual formations through which she creates simultaneously structural openness, relentless mutability and the self-empowerment of painting through color.”

At the Kemper Art Museum, 37 large-scale canvases will be presented, organized into two thematic sections, each inspired by key elements of Grosse’s painterly method, as conceptualized by Eckmann. The opening section, “Returns/Revisions/Inventions,” highlights the artist’s intuitive, process-based artistic practice. Colors, textures, and shapes appear in flux as they emerge, then return on different canvases, only to transform yet again as new images. One early work from 1991, for example, features a wide band of pale pink-onto-orange that slashes across equivalently scaled layers of red, blue and yellow. In 2004, Grosse employed a similar composition, yet with movements more fluid, colors more modulated, and the interplay between painting and underpainting more complex.

Meanwhile, at a time when international gestural painting was largely dominated by male painters, Grosse’s use of spraying techniques, beginning in the late 1990s, contested the importance of direct connections to the artist’s hand — and thus the long-cherished link between painting and artistic subjectivity. At the same time, her approach to layering rather than mixing paint opened new chromatic possibilities and destabilized conventional hierarchies of figure and ground, above and below.

The second section, “Fissures/Ruptures,” emphasizes the various means through which Grosse interrogates the alleged autonomy of painting, stretching its boundaries and physical properties to connect with external spaces and social contexts. Since the early 2010s, Grosse has combined sprayers and stencils to produce spatial voids or gaps that paradoxically become active players on the visual field, testing the interplay between chance and control. Other works from the mid-2010s have expanded this process to create collagelike images of almost geological density. Compressed, fractured and destabilized, these paintings-within-paintings defy all sense of chronological order.

More recently, Grosse has displaced the stencil with slashed canvases, thereby assimilating the actual wall of the museum into the work. At the same time, she has upended analogies between art and nature by adhering tree branches to the canvas and spray-painting over them. In some cases, the branches remain part of the final work; in others, Grosse removes the branches, leaving behind a visualization of their absence.

The exhibition also presents three new fabric pieces, which, echoing the performative nature of Grosse’s studio practice, feature digitally manipulated photographs that offer enlarged reproductions of unfinished paintings as well as of Grosse’s workspace and painting process. Printed on thin sheets of silk, these pieces will be hung in vertical layers from the 25-foot ceilings of the Kemper Art Museum’s Saligman Family Atrium, creating narrow pathways through which viewers can walk and experience both the assertive presence and environmental scale of Grosse’s work.

The exhibition will travel to the Kunstmuseum Bern, opening in spring 2023, and to the Kunstmuseum Bonn, where it will open in spring 2024. It is accompanied by an international, bilingual scholarly publication featuring color reproductions of more than 150 paintings, serving as the first reference book on the artist’s career-long practice of studio painting.

Exhibition support
Katharina Grosse Studio Paintings, 1988–2022: Returns, Revisions, Inventions at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum was made possible by the leadership support of the William T. Kemper Foundation. All exhibitions are supported by members of the Director’s Circle, with major annual support provided by Emily and Teddy Greenspan and additional generous annual support from Michael Forman and Jennifer Rice, Julie Kemper Foyer, Joanne Gold and Andrew Stern, Ron and Pamela Mass, and Kim and Bruce Olson. Further support is provided by Gagosian; Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Vienna; public funds from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Hortense Lewin Art Fund; the Ken and Nancy Kranzberg Fund; and members of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

The exhibition is curated by Sabine Eckmann, William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator.

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September 12, 2022

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