Katharina Grosse was born in Freiberg im Breisgau, Germany in 1961. Grosse began painting at an early age, always attuned to the ways that color and light merged with thought itself. In her works on canvas from the 1990s, she juxtaposed colors of various densities and temperatures, repeating vertical, transparent brushstrokes. These led to related works painted directly onto the wall, where she lined hallways and staircases in sublime fields of artificial color. Introducing the spray gun as a painting tool, she began to paint across architectural interiors and exteriors. She produced her first work, a monochrome, using this technique at the Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland, in 1998, spray painting the upper corner of a gallery in a deep green that spread partially down two adjacent walls and onto the ceiling. In 2000 Grosse became a professor at the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weissensee; and she taught the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf from 2010–2018.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Grosse combined the intersecting streaks of previous works with the cloud-like forms and mists made possible by the spray gun. The in situ paintings expanded in scale as she explored the liquidity and vast reach of the medium. In 2004, at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, she sprayed the gallery interior along with clothing, papers, eggs, and coins scattered across the floor; and in 2005, at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, she hung two huge canvases on the wall: one already painted, and one blank. She painted the latter on site, as well as the wall on which it hung. She then took down the painted canvas and leaned it against the wall on the floor, leaving a blank white rectangle.
For Grosse, there are no distinctions between painting, sculpture, and architecture. In addition to painting on canvases and over found materials like buildings and trees she also creates large polyurethane, Styrofoam, and cast-metal sculptures that act as abstract armatures for her paintings. Her in situ painting Untitled Trumpet was included in the Biennale di Venezia, in 2015, and Museum Wiesbaden, Germany, presented a major survey of her works on paper that same year. In 2016, adding to a sequence of significant public commissions in the US, she created a work for MoMA PS1’s Rockaway! series at Fort Tilden in the Rockaways, New York, transforming a derelict aquatics center with sprays of red, white, and magenta. The following year, Gagosian presented Grosse’s first solo exhibition in New York, featuring major works from several interconnected suites of paintings, and one cast-metal sculpture. In these canvases, monadic forms migrate from one painting to another, appearing in new layers or fusing into clusters that advance and retreat. The paintings record Grosse’s ongoing reflections on color, density, and velocity, as well as her use of stencils applied directly to the surface throughout the painting process.
In her most recent site-responsive paintings, Grosse has incorporated lengths of painted fabric, draped from the ceiling and spilling onto the floor, thus adding even more dimensionality to her immersive paintings. In Wunderbild(2018), for the National Gallery in Prague, Grosse produced an imposing enfilade of paintings on loose cloth, draped from the walls on two sides. Painted on the floor of her Berlin studio, Wunderbild creates a bridge between Grosse’s studio canvases and in situ paintings, and its aqueous fields of color are punctuated by white palimpsests of negative space. This development continued in Prototypes of Imagination, Gagosian Britannia Street (2018), in which an entire wall of the gallery was covered by a sheet of painted fabric, asserting new spatial and temporal transformations.