A house ablaze with red and white paint rises from the sand dunes of New York’s Fort Tilden beach, its colours spilling out onto the surrounding ground. Rockaway!, the German artist Katharina Grosse’s latest installation, features her signature spray-paint technique on a condemned building.
It took seven days to complete the project, with Grosse layering three different red paints on top of a white base coat – allowing the white to reflect the sky and bounce back light while the red confronts the viewer. ‘I wanted a very artificial colour in relationship to the nature, the water and the sand,’ says Grosse. ‘Red felt the most visual and hostile, even.’
Rockaway! is part of MoMA PS1’s programming in Rockaway, New York, which aids the ongoing recovery of the area after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1 and chief curator-at-large at the MoMA, commissioned Grosse for this summer’s program after seeing her work for Prospect.1 in New Orleans, where she had painted an abandoned house in the Ninth Ward.
Unlike Grosse’s New Orleans house – where she only painted the exterior – Rockaway! is fully immersive. ‘In here, I am inside and I am outside and I am relating it far more to its components like the sky and the sea and this open setting,’ she says.
In order to achieve this continuity, Grosse had to completely change her original plan. She had made two models of the site in her Berlin studio to map out her approach. However, when she began painting, she stepped back and realised it wouldn’t work at all. 'It only related to the house itself, it didn’t pick up the things outside it, so I had to completely invent a new process, which was fascinating.’