Air today, gone tomorrow


According to the exhibition notes that accompany the Renaissance Society’s current show, “Katharina Grosse’s site specific paintings/installations are a phoenix from the ashes of late modernism. Since 1998 Grosse has been using a compressed-air spray gun to apply garish swaths and splashes of undulating color directly to gallery walls with sublimely spectacular results.”

Atoms Inside Balloons—a work the artist describes as “acrylic on wall, floor, and latex balloons”—lives up to its “spectacular” billing. Looking like gigantic bunches of tie-dyed grapes (or a flotilla of oversize beach balls), the clusters of spray-painted balloons seem to cast colorful reflections across the Gothic room’s white walls and light-gray floor, though the surfaces are actually painted. It’s like being at a birthday party.

And like birthday-party balloons, Grosse’s globes of air are subject to the laws of physics. Since the show opened April 29, several balloons have popped—with, Ren staffers report, rather loud bangs. At first the artist planned to let nature run its course, but now Grosse (back in her native Berlin) has asked the gallery staff to fill in the more easily reached gaps with unpainted balloons.

The exhibition, which runs through June 10, features a series of related events, including a May 12 concert, a June 3 lecture on Grosse’s work, and a June 10 lecture on modern color and architecture.


Photos: Katharina Grosse’s Renaissance Society installation piece, Atoms Inside Balloons (top), behaves as atoms inside balloons generally behave, shifting shapes and occasionally going bust (bottom).

Photos by Amy Braverman Puma

May 11, 2007