Galerie Richard

Rainer GROSS - Contact Paintings

Press release

Galerie Richard is pleased to represent Rainer Gross in New York and Paris and to present “Contact Paintings,” his first show in the New York gallery, from September 4 to October 26, 2019. Galerie Richard previously exhibited Rainer Gross’ work in Paris in 1990 and 1997. The artist’s “Twin Paintings” and “Contact Paintings” are a definitive achievement in the history of painting. As their name implies, the compositions encompass two painted surfaces that the artist presents as a diptych, each panel imprinting on and mirroring the other. With the modesty of a philosopher, Gross admits that he controls the general composition of these unique pieces but insists that nature makes the details.

Gross’ process is alchemic. He first paints six or seven layers of different-colored pigments suspended in water on one canvas. These are neither a solid color nor a pattern, but each layer covers the last completely. Next, he applies an approximately 1/8-inch-thick layer of paint on another canvas of equal size, pressing the two canvases together by hand and leaving them to “cure.” Gross then pulls the canvases apart, revealing the parts of the surface that have adhered to the other. This idiosyncratic technique produces a consciously unpredictable crackled impasto landscape that a viewer can connect to other materials or textures that are altered by time. Gross hangs the double painting upside down, confusing the viewer by escaping obvious symmetries.

A deeper understanding of Gross’ paintings asks the viewer to consider the challenges entailed in becoming a painter in 1970s Cologne, when the ideology of “The End of Painting” professed by Joseph Beuys and Associates at the Kunst Akademie Düsseldorf became dominant among the art world’s “elite.” Being a painter meant thinking about the specificities of the medium and new ways to push it forward. From figuration to abstraction, Gross’ series share one common trait: they reveal every layer of paint and texture. From sticking kitsch canvases on his paintings and superimposing geometrical lines on figurative subjects, to the “Twin Paintings” and the “Contact Paintings,” his work has always been a play of visible superimpositions using various layers of paint.

In the new paintings, the importance of the process is both striking and fascinating. The artist controls the original first painting; after that, the piece is altered by the pressure of the additional canvas which unpredictably partially removes the pigments. For the artist, it must be a wonderfully surprising feeling to create a work which in many ways does not depend solely on him. The unexpected parts of the process bring a sense of infinity. In this aspect, it is interesting to think about Gross’ work in context with contemporary Asian artists such as Kiyoshi Nakagami, who never claims to have total control of the creative process and is happy to discover how natural processes interact in the final result.

Rainer Gross was born in Köln, Germany in 1951. He has lived and worked in New York City for 45 years. In 2017, Gross was included in the Beijing Biennale as a representative of Germany. In 2012, the Museum Ludwig (Koblenz, Germany) held a four-decade survey of his paintings. Other notable national and international exhibits include the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts (Lausanne, Switzerland), Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion (Champaign, Illinois), Kunsthalle Emden (Emden, Germany). Gross’ paintings are housed in numerous public collections, including the AT&T Corporate Art Collection, the Cohen Family Collection, the Hirschhorn Collection, the UBS Union Bank of Switzerland, and the Lowe Art Museum. His work has been reviewed by the New York Times, Art in America, ArtNews, The Brooklyn Rail, The Boston Globe, and others.



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