Psychedelic Styrofoam: Katharina Grosse’s contemporary installation at Mass MoCA

All photos by Ashley Klann.

Take every hue of spray paint you can imagine, add some Styrofoam icebergs large enough to sink the Titanic, and place it on the surface of the moon. That’s as close as you’ll get to Katharina Grosse’s installation, one floor up more highly. The exhibit is currently on display at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams.

Grosse’s work is a trip into another world. At the base of the electric, painted masses of faux-rock is a layer of equally colorful dirt, spread around the giant structures. This attention to detail only heightens the realism and potential of the artist’s synthetic landscape. Splatters of paint are also on the edges of the area – on walls and windows. Clearly the artist was not afraid to make one floor up more highly exactly how she wanted.

A wooden bench sits partially covered by some of the painted dirt, giving a sense that this colorful land mass has swallowed up a civilization in its trickle across the cement floor. Random painted and tattered pieces of clothing are also strewn about the area, hidden in the Styrofoam nooks. These artifacts in one floor up more highly evoke thoughts of space travel and new worlds, or perhaps an old world with no survivors.

The only difficulty with one floor up more highly is fighting the urge to leap into the enticing world in front of you.

Amidst the rocky landscape and towering peaks of white Styrofoam is a giant concave wave of glass fiber-reinforced plastic covered in drips of fluorescent acrylic paint. The potential motion of the curved piece is illustrated through the paint, making it look like it was created while in motion, rocking back and forth.

The museum provides a unique atmosphere for this equally unique work. The museum is located in a rehabilitated factory building, meaning wide, open floor space, high ceilings, and little distraction. Windows fill the walls on both sides of the installation, allowing natural light to flood the enormous room.

Grosse’s work also benefits from the space’s three different vantage points, allowing the viewer to get a better understanding of this enormous display. From the two balconies on the upper floor, the crags of foam and dizzying multicolored patterns can be seen in their entirety.

Toward the back of the long main room is the staircase to the rest of the installation.

The stairway leads to a room covered floor to ceiling with more electric spray paint designs. The only white space that remains are vertical doorway-sized patterns across one wall, giving the feeling that perhaps the space continues beyond what we can see. More tattered, painted clothing is left on the floor. Gleaming rays of paint lead into the next room where the lower floor is visible.

Farther from the edge of the upstairs is another board of brightly colored fiberglass, this time lying convex on the hardwood floor. The piece resembles a wing and juts out from another flamboyant pile of painted rocks and Styrofoam boulders. This mass runs into the edge of the overlook, continuing into the formation on the other side, giving the entire installation a sense of growth and motion to the upper floor. One floor up more highly is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Grosse’s other work is just as explosive and colorful, exploring unconventional mediums and testing combinations.

For more information on the artist, check out her equally contemporary website,

one floor up more highly will be at Mass. MoCA until October 31, 2011.


About Ashley Klann

Clark masters student. Local reporter. Photographer. View all posts by Ashley Klann

5 responses to “Psychedelic Styrofoam: Katharina Grosse’s contemporary installation at Mass MoCA

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