Some of us may see things in black and white, but Katharina Grosse lives in a world of vibrant Technicolor. For more than two decades, the Berlin-based artist has created installations that give saturated shades a palpable form through the application of paint on walls, ceilings, sculpted shapes — even piles of dirt.
Having exhibited at the likes of the Drawing Center in New York, LA’s Hammer Museum, MASS MOCA and Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, she is revealing her work to a Dallas audience for the first time June 1, when “Wunderblock” opens at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Grosse says that showing in a venue like the Nasher has been a unique experience for an artist who routinely blends sculpture and painting.
“My work is not fully sculptural, so being in this context was very interesting to me,” Grosse says.
“I talked to Jeremy [Strick, director of the Nasher] about this, and he said a really great thing: He thinks of the Nasher as a lab that explores what sculpture could be. My work is not fully sculptural, so being in this context was very interesting to me,” she says.
“A lot of the sculptures in this collection deal with gravity or material; it’s bronze or marble. In my work you comingle the material, and it has a very different behavior.”
With Untitled, 2013 in the downstairs gallery, viewers can literally immerse themselves in Grosse’s living canvas. A landscape of rainbow-hued painted dirt surrounded by splashed walls and ceiling becomes an interactive experience that is both energizing and soothing for participants.
“You can walk on it and actually be in the painting itself — that’s the one where you’re really part of it,” says Grosse. “The other two pieces I’ve made for the show are sculptural things you walk around.”
With influences that range from frescoes to urban graffiti, Grosse feels her pieces “go back to what the cave people did.” In addition to her own contributions, Grosse collaborated with Nasher curator Jed Morse to select works with the same spirit within the museum’s permanent collection, enhancing the “Wunderblock” concept.
“[In Germany], ‘Wunderblock’ is the word for a toy that I had as a child; it’s a little template you can draw on and erase and draw on again. It makes you think something, and you don’t even need knowledge — it’s something magic,” Grosse says.
“You can make anything in your life a wunderthing — a wunderchair, wundercar. It’s a little bit like a magic stick. It’s not a sculpture, it’s not a painting, it’s something else.”
“Wunderblock” runs through September 1 at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Grosse speaks about the exhibit Sunday, June 2, at noon, as part of the 360 Speaker Series.