Gagosian: Katharina Grosse 'Prototypes of Imagination' (until 27th July 2018)

With galleries around the world in some stunning [Western] locations, (Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Paris, Rome, Geneva, Hong Kong and several in London and New York) Larry Gagosian is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in contemporary art. His spaces, wherever they are on the planet, are your standard white cube environments, which are often criticised for being void of character and typical of big-money curation, but in cases such as the solo show of German artist Katharina Grosse, bold bright palettes are boosted by plain white walls and vast open spaces.

Katharina Grosse: Prototypes of Imagination, installation view at Gagosian Britannia Street, London. Artworks © Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Photo: Lucy Dawkins


The exhibition is 'Prototypes of Imagination', and comes with a wonderfully in-depth, analytical press release which reads more like an independent critique than a standard, matter-of-fact release. Medium is incredibly important in the show, as of course the works are paintings but the first room with Grosse's 540cm x 2,090cm x 265cm work draped from the ceiling and falling across the floor gives the sensation of installation. Cut-out effects through emphasis on negative space also provide a sculptural impression to the work; there is much room to manoeuvre the viewer's ideas about what we are actually seeing, whether this is bodies, nature symbolism or pure design. 

Aside from the 'blockbuster' painting, there are a collection of smaller works in the adjoining room, and at around 265cm x 193cm each, they feel like small excerpts of Grosse's gigantic, odyssey piece. Despite the artist's unique and recognisable style, in this second room the works, all 'Untitled' and made in 2018, are different and have their own little qualities, such as different textures manifested through paint or a great lack of negative space infiltrated by dripping paint, which incidentally was my least favourite trope. The former is incredibly slick, and the press release describing some aesthetics as resembling the windows and tabs of a desktop browser is a great touch. Its claim that Grosse's use of the spray paint gun distances the artist's hand from the artwork seems rather tenuous but the range of techniques is an interesting point to consider in 'Prototypes of Imagination'. 

Katharina Grosse: Prototypes of Imagination, installation view at Gagosian Britannia Street, London. Artworks © Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Photo: Lucy Dawkins

The exhibition's title makes me think of contemporary art in the virtual realm, and soon enough I was drifting off into my own head thinking about how incredible Grosse's paintings would look in virtual or augmented reality; as headsets are the way most galleries are heading, I would not be surprised to see it soon. These paintings, for me, are abstraction for the Instagram generation; they are beautiful, striking and don't have a set meaning, hence the deeply analytical press release, and although they are acrylic paint, there is a real sense of play from computer programs such as Microsoft Paint and Photoshop. Using traditional materials to create images resonating with the next generation is a fantastic way to engage with younger and more diverse audiences, although let's hope they're not put off too much by the intimidating security presence in Gagosian's galleries.

Katharina Grosse, Untitled, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 104 5/16 × 68 7/8 inches (265 × 175 cm) © Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2018. Photo: Jens Ziehe

Most Talked About Art...