Rainer GROSS - Twins Paintings
Galerie Richard presents Rainer Gross’ third solo exhibition in Paris. The artist’s “Contact Paintings – Twins” 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. The artist sometimes selects one of the two panels and brings his personal touch by adding one or two brushstrokes. Recently Rainer Gross has created quadriptychs with the same process.
Gross’s creation process is alchemic. He superimposes between six and ten 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” for two hours. Gross then pulls the canvases apart, revealing the parts of the surface that have adhered to the other. If the artist can conceive the general composition, the revealed details are completely unpredictable. Gross hangs one of the two paintings upside down, confusing the viewer by escaping obvious symmetries.
A deeper understanding of Gross’ paintings requires 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 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.
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 artists such as Kiyoshi Nakagami and Jeremy Thomas, who never claim 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, USA), and 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.