Katharina Grosse: Mumbling Mud

chi K11 art museum
Shanghai, China
5 November 2018 – 24 February 2019


K11 Art Foundation (KAF) and chi K11 art museum are delighted to announce Mumbling Mud, an impressive 1,500 sqm exhibition by internationally acclaimed German artist Katharina Grosse, featuring five site-related, immersive installations.

“A painting can land anywhere: on an egg, in the crook of the arm, along a train platform, in snow and ice, or on the beach.” — Katharina Grosse

Katharina Grosse is known for her use of the spray gun as her primary painting tool to create vast site-related paintings. She has passed strongly coloured swaths of paint across the walls of exhibition rooms, her own bed, a public billboard, an entire house and its surroundings, and different kinds of arranged objects such as piles of soil and tree trunks. Using the spray gun, she has been able to liberate the application of paint from its immediate connection to both the painter’s body and any predetermined surface. With colour she traverses the established borders of objects and architectural settings and creates a dissensual order of reality. Ultimately, Grosse’s painting practice not only reworks the divisions that cut across the visible world and are responsible for its familiar shape, but also the fundamental division between the visible and the invisible. Disregarding established functions, attributions, and hierarchies, her works function as prototypes that prefigure options to organise our lives in novel ways.

Mumbling Mud offers the Chinese audience new interpretations of Grosse’s iconic artistic practice.

Mumbling: an intermediate state between speaking and silence
Mud: an intermediate state between the solid and the liquid.

The Labyrinthine Journey: Underground – Ghost – Silk Studio – Stomach – Showroom

Subdivided into five zones in the 1,500 sqm museum, each occupied by a large-scale installation produced almost completely on site, Mumbling Mud leads the audience through an immersive, labyrinthine passage that evokes an uncanny spectrality. The amorphous, multicoloured forms and shapes sprayed across varying structures and draping cloths installed at the five zones may create an experience of wandering on the peripheries of the familiar, inviting rumination into the quintessential strangeness of a metropolis that is ever-changing and impossible to be delineated in simple contours.

Walking past the retail shops with extravagant displays in the K11 Art Mall, visitors will encounter a vastly different world composed of five zones upon entering chi K11 art museum:

Underground is the first zone of the exhibition visitors encounter. Its title is reminiscent of the fact that chi K11 art museum is next to a subway station and beneath the ground. A phantasmatic landscape consisting of piles of soil and building materials found in Shanghai’s local markets is covered with colourful paint. It evokes a primordial chaos or a post-apocalyptic environment, but painterly precipitation imbues the dystopian reality of a wasteland with affirming coherence and beauty.

Carved out of Styrofoam by Grosse, Ghost is an intricately shaped sculpture that lies on the floor like a large scholar’s rock. An abundance of details and shapes, a back-and-forth of openings and solid parts projecting into space create an overwhelming though not oppressive presence. Ghost’s scale and complexity prevents visitors from grasping its entirety; it demands physical involvement and movement of the visitors and thus can be read as an allegory of Grosse’s concept of painting.

Silk Studio
Further on, visitors encounter large curtains of silk printed with photographs of Grosse’s studios in Berlin – panorama views of work spaces where the painting takes place. The cinematographic staccato of images exposes traces of painting in another place and in a past time. It introduces a situation of memory and recollection, a time gap in the continuum of the exhibition.

Stomach is a labyrinthine structure of folds formed by hundreds of meters of heavy, coarse fabric draping from the ceiling of the museum. It launches a massive attack on the visitor’s perceptual sensitivity – denying him or her the ability to withdraw from being completely embraced by painting.

Showroom, the final zone of the exhibition, is a luxurious living room that has been painted over by Grosse. Amidst the exclusive design furniture, the visitor may feel reconnected to the shopping mall in which the exhibition spaces are located. The unresolved clash between the world of painting and the world of lifestyle objects poses urgent questions about the position of art in everyday life.

Katharina Grosse’s exchanges with Chinese artists relating to Mumbling Mud
In July 2018, Grosse travelled to China to meet Chinese artists whom K11 Art Foundation has previously worked with, including young artists Li Ming and Cui Jie, as well as prominent artist Zheng Guogu, who is known for his ongoing art project Liao Garden (formerly The Age of the Empire). The trip enabled Grosse and her Chinese counterparts to have in-depth discussions about art making and themes related to Mumbling Mud. “We are delighted to have Katharina Grosse’s debut in China and her generous sharing with the Chinese artists and audience, which accentuates K11 Art Foundation’s mission in fostering cultural exchange between the Greater China Region and the rest of the world,” says Adrian Cheng, Founder and Honorary Chairman of KAF. The conversations will be reproduced in the catalogue to be published as a form of documentation of the exhibition.

The show was unveiled at chi K11 art museum, at the basement level of the K11 Art Mall in Shanghai, on 5 November 2018, running through the winter till 24 February 2019. Subsequently it will tour through the chi K11 art spaces in other major cities in the country, including Guangzhou and Wuhan.

Installation view Katharina Grosse Mumbling Mud at chi K11 art museum, Shanghai, 2018, Photo JJYPHOTO, Courtesy K11 Art Foundation and Galerie Nächst St. Stephan, copyright Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn