Katharina Grosse Studio Paintings, 1988–2022: Returns, Revisions, Inventions

September 23, 2022 - January 23, 2023

Katharina Grosse is internationally celebrated for her large-scale, on-site works that she paints across built and natural environments. To date, less focus has been placed on her studio-based paintings. This exhibition explores that part of Grosse’s oeuvre, from her earliest paintings in the 1990s to her most recent. It highlights these important canvases and the role they have played throughout the artist’s career in her experiments with color and paint—their physical and optical properties, aesthetic potentials, qualities of independence, and ability to create motion.

Large and powerful to behold, Grosse’s paintings create heightened sensorial perceptions through their emphatic material presence. They disrupt the conventional relations of background and foreground, surface and subsurface, canvas and border to open up new imaginary worlds within and beyond the work of art. Blotches, streaks, swaths, and mists of color; complex layers of paint; sweeping expansive movements; and fluid, abstract forms convey a multiplicity that is simultaneous, mobilizing perceptions that are both intuitive and subliminal. The act of painting, conceived by Grosse as a prototype of human activity, and the ways she challenges subjectivity and selfhood—long intrinsically associated with the medium of painting—may be understood as a means for reckoning with the world beyond the canvas.

The structure of the exhibition is modeled after Grosse’s organized yet open-ended painterly method. While the artworks are drawn from all three decades of her career, they are presented in relation to one another rather than chronologically, offering a close look at her fluid and evolving painting practice as a whole. As conceived by the exhibition curator Sabine Eckmann, PhD, William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, it is divided into two interrelated sections: “Returns/Revisions/Inventions” and “Fissures/Ruptures.”

“Returns/Revisions/Inventions,” comprising a broad range of paintings executed since the early 1990s, highlights Grosse’s cyclical approach in which colors, paint, and shapes appear in flux as they emerge, then return on different canvases, only to transform yet again as new images. Through this process-based method Grosse entangles past, present, and future so that distinct notions of narrated, lived, and envisioned time are inseparable in an instantaneous perceptual experience.

“Fissures/Ruptures” continues this exploration by concentrating on the various ways Grosse ruptures the medium of painting (or what is left of it) to question its autonomy, especially the long-standing connection between painter and painted mark, to ultimately make space for the everyday. This involves the use of stencils, which create voids on the canvas that inhabit a terrain of their own; the inclusion of elemental materials such as earth and tree branches; a collage-like approach through which the artist creates paintings within paintings; and the use of slashed canvases—all of which emphasize fragmentation and disorientation rather than unifying and contained structures.

With 37 paintings selected in collaboration with the artist, this is the first exhibition in the United States to explore the full range of Grosse’s studio paintings. It is her second collaboration with the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. In 2016 the Museum commissioned a wall-sized, on-site painting by Grosse for the athletic complex at Washington University as part of its Art on Campus program. After its showing in St. Louis the exhibition will travel to the Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland, and Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany. It is accompanied by an international, bilingual scholarly publication featuring color reproductions of more than 150 paintings, serving as the first reference book on the artist’s career-long practice of studio painting.

View the Q&A with Katharina Grosse >>

Learn more about opening weekend events >>

Read the press release >>

Also on view

The Video Gallery will feature the 2021 documentary Katharina Grosse: On the Edge of Something Else, produced by Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark. Learn more >>


The exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum was made possible by the leadership support of the William T. Kemper Foundation.

All exhibitions are supported by members of the Director's Circle, with major annual support provided by Emily and Teddy Greenspan and additional generous annual support from Michael Forman and Jennifer Rice, Julie Kemper Foyer, Joanne Gold and Andrew Stern, Ron and Pamela Mass, and Kim and Bruce Olson.

Further support is provided by Gagosian; Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Vienna; public funds from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Hortense Lewin Art Fund; the Ken and Nancy Kranzberg Fund; and members of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

The exhibition is curated by Sabine Eckmann, William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator.

About the artist

Born in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, in 1961, Katharina Grosse has held professorships at Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin (2000–2009) and Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (2010–18). Grosse lives and works in Berlin and New Zealand.

Her recent exhibitions and on-site paintings include Chill Seeping from the Walls Gets between Us at Helsinki Art Museum (2021); Shutter Splinter at Helsinki Biennial (2021); Is It You? at Baltimore Museum of Art (2020); It Wasn’t Us at Hamburger Bahnhof–Museum für Gegenwart–Berlin (2020); the two-person show Mural: Jackson Pollock | Katharina Grosse at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2019); The Horse Trotted Another Couple of Meters, Then It Stopped at Carriageworks, Sydney (2018); Wunderbild at National Gallery Prague (2018); Mumbling Mud at chi K11 art museum, Shanghai (2018), and at chi K11 art space, Guangzhou, China (2019); Asphalt Air and Hair at ARoS Triennial, Aarhus, Denmark (2017); This Drove My Mother Up the Wall at South London Gallery (2017); Katharina Grosse at Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany (2016); Rockaway for MoMA PS1’s Rockaway! program, Fort Tilden, New York (2016); yes no why later at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2015); Seven Hours, Eight Rooms, Three Trees at Museum Wiesbaden, Germany (2015); Untitled Trumpet for the 56th Venice Biennale (2015); and psychylustro for Mural Arts Program Philadelphia (2014).

Museum collections include Albertina, Vienna; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; ARKEN Museum for Moderne Kunst, Copenhagen; Baltimore Museum of Art; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Istanbul Modern; K21–Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Kunsthaus Zürich; Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland; Kunstmuseum Bonn; Lenbachhaus, Munich; Magasin III, Stockholm; MARe–Muzeul de Artă Recentă, Bucharest; MAXXI–Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome; Milwaukee Art Museum; Museum Azman, Jakarta; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; Pérez Art Museum Miami; Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal; and Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; as well as the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis.

Among the honors she has received are the Oskar Schlemmer Prize (2014); the Fred Thieler Prize for Painting (2003); the Schmidt-Rottluff Scholarship (1993); and the Villa Romana Fellowship, Florence (1992). She has been selected by the German federal government as a jury member for the 2020–23 fellowships at Villa Massimo, Rome; Casa Baldi, Olevano Romano, Italy; and Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris. Since October 2021 she has been the chairwoman of the board of KUNST-WERKE BERLIN e. V.


To request a tour of the exhibition for your class or group, please email kempereducation@wustl.edu.

Image credits

Installation view of Katharina Grosse Studio Paintings, 1988–2022: Returns, Revisions, Inventions, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, 2022. Photo by Virginia Harold Photography; Katharina Grosse (German, b. 1961), Untitled, 2008. Acrylic and soil on canvas, 114 3/16 × 79 1/8 in. (290 × 201 cm). Photo by Olaf Bergmann; Untitled, 2015. Acrylic on canvas, 108 1/4 × 79 1/8 in. (275 × 201 cm). The Komal Shah and Gaurav Garg Collection. Photo by Jens Ziehe. © Katharina Grosse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.