Tabula rasa

Long after the “atomic" balloons popped or slowly deflated, red, yellow, blue, and every hue between colored the Renaissance Society gallery from floor to 30-foot ceiling. A team of workers arrived June 21 to remove the paint used in Katharina Grosse’s spring installation Atoms Inside Balloons, which closed June 10, and to erase the many signs of age that had developed since the gallery's last renovation in 1979.

Grosse's graffiti-inspired work "covers an entire space like a fresco,” said Renaissance Society marketing director Mia Ruyter. Her installations are also site–specific, incorporating elements of a gallery’s space into her works: in this case, extra paint dripped about the northwest ceiling to emphasize acute water damage. The spring installation gave the Rennaisance Society, located on Cobb Hall's top floor, time to clean over the summer. Erasing the evidence of 28 years of aging and four days of a spray-gun–wielding artist is no easy task. The wall and ceiling paint must be scraped by hand, requiring scaffolding. The entire gallery will then be repainted. Two layers of wax kept the paint from damaging the floor; workers will remove the wax and any remaining paint before repolishing.

Gallery managers expect the renovation to be completed by August 2, enough time to begin installation for a film by British artist Steve McQueen, which opens September 16.

Ethan Frenchman, ’08

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Photos (left to right): A gallery patron observes Grosse's installation before its April 29 opening; a painter scrapes paint off the gallery's walls; scaffolding lifts a worker to the 30-foot ceilings.

Left photo courtesy the Renaissance Society; center and right photos by E.F.

July 6, 2007