they had taken things along to eat together

katharina grosse at johann könig

In keeping with the magnificent installation shots of the show, Katharina Grosse’s exhibition, “They Had Taken Things Along To Eat Together,” 2012, at Johann König, Berlin is an exploration into spatio-temporal gestures. Inviting the viewer to engage with a rich environment of texture and colour. By visually, but not physically, extending the built environment within the gallery rooms, Grosse allows for both her paintings and sculptures to become extensions of the space itself.

Finding its way onto a variety of surfaces, coloured paint encapsulates the gallery, in flux from one wall to another, flowing over the two large sculptures. Protruding from the wall, the massive Styrofoam shapes, akin to oversized tree trunks, laminated with glass fiber and resin, rest willfully on one another. Swathed in the colours that have been transferred from the walls, the sculptures are positioned on an enormous carpet—it too glazed in continuous color. The paint attributes to the volume, rescaling the entire space and redefining the relationship between sculpture and painting, between the architecture of the gallery and the viewer. Including furniture, a Knoll sofa, into the installation, Grosse encourages the observer to do more than just observe. We are invited to take a seat, and although it does not seem to be direct participation, the viewer is permitted to “enter” the installation, creating a unique concurrence within the confinement of the artworks. Initially a witness, the viewer is almost culled from the installation. Despite their original position, a person quickly becomes fused into Grosse’s work. Dealing so directly with the architecture of the space, the sculptures, along with furniture and carpet create an open system of reference, where the norms of an area can easily be altered. Challenging its occupancy, Grosse continues; canvas paintings further envelope the visual journey of the exhibition, as the paint crawls up the walls and off the carpet onto the cement floor. On the walls, the artist has allowed for defined white space to enter between sprays of color, almost creating imaginary doors or gateways beyond that of the material space.

Grosse does not use one standpoint to instruct her painting process, instead she guides the visitor through the exhibition with several artistic gestures. With each turn of a corner a new process reveals itself. Our outlook is constantly changed as we encounter the possibility the works allow us to see. The prospect to retrace our own steps, as well as that of the piece, become evident as the corner is turned and the work’s examined from a new angle. Being met with the pictorial as well as the diffuse, Grosse’s works carries more vigor into our everyday lives than mere aesthetics. Challenging conventional structures, “They Had Taken Things Along To Eat Together,” 2012 laments for nothing, but instead encourages the future.

by Saskia Neuman

[Image: Installation view, They Had Taken Things Along To Eat Together, courtesy Johann König Gallery and the artist]