Rachel Gross: Panels and Works on Paper at Hooloon Art
By Tina Plokarz
In her recent solo exhibition in Philadelphia, printmaker Rachel Gross presented a sensitively colored, poetic collection of prints, reliefs and collages with geometric clarity. The subtle quality of the works and the balanced installation of Rachel Gross: Panels and Works on Paper, curated by Jennifer Zarro at Hooloon Art, were remarkable in their beautiful simplicity. On the gallery walls her varied works alternated in a well-composed rhythm. Rachel Gross’s central idea was both evident and striking: how to construct an illusion of space.
In the two prints Pink Box and Lambent Rim, Rachel Gross printed multiple shaped plates on paper, evoking spatial illusion while allowing the plates’ peculiar wooden structure to be visible. Playing with different transparencies of silver color, she overlapped forms and partly illuminated edges with fluorescent color in pink and orange. As the artist suggests: “The illusion of space and volume can be made by juxtaposing shapes, colors, and textures.“ And indeed, using geometrical forms, chatoyant facets of colors and varying densities, Gross creates an illusion that pulls the viewer in the depths of connected and unconnected shapes and lines of perspective. A contradiction of geometric order and disorientation deliberately occupies the space in her prints, reminiscent of Giovanni B. Piranesi’s labyrinths.
Like multifaceted forms, Rachel Gross’s wooden plates generate a double application, becoming the templates for her prints and objects by themselves. As shaped panels the forms develop into independent reliefs, in which Gross assembles wooden surfaces and paints overtop. Arranged in abstract configurations on the wall, Gross’s creations might remind the visitor of the ambiguous quality of Hans Arp inventions. However, the real challenge of Gross’s work is the oscillation between the limits of printmaking, painting and sculpture. The material quality of the panels designates the reliefs as sculptural objects, whereas the colored shapes and painted forms become the pictorial medium of her work. In reference to an ongoing dialogue about pictorial sculpture and the objecthood of painting, the panel reliefs seem to develop into paintings with both a delicate sculptural quality and a tangible illusion of space.
Rachel Gross’s collages also reflect this quality of being ‘in-between’ painting and sculpture. On wood panels as well as on paper, she has interconnected images of architecture and design, forming slightly three-dimensional collages. In the paper composition Gone the Rainbow, for example, Gross combined shapes with colorized forms in green, brown and black, embedding within the design a fifties-style magazine cut-out. Through the illustration of a living room arrangement (couch and artwork) interacting with the geometrical forms, Gross has merged a two-dimensional design with an architectural sense of space.
For those who are curious, the simple beauty and exceptional intensity of Rachel Gross’s work are currently on view at the Aidron Duckworth Museum in Meriden, NH.
Tina Plokarz is an art historian interested in performative practices and theories in modern and contemporary art. She received a Master’s degree in art history and theater science from the Free University Berlin and worked as a curatorial and project assistant for a variety of cultural institutions in Germany. She currently resides in Philadelphia.