Grzymala is a Polish-born artist who’s lived in Germany for many years, primarily in Hamburg and now Berlin. She makes installations that might be described as a kind of three-dimensional drawing, and her signature material is tape, tape of all colors and kinds: packing, masking, adhesive, upholstery, etc.
Grzymala studied art at several universities in Germany. During her time in school, she mostly made sculpture. When a professor suggested that her interest seemed to be in the relationship between objects, not in the objects themselves, the nature of her work changed. She stopped making sculpture and focused on drawing, exploring the basics of line and mark. Eventually, to borrow Paul Klee’s phrase, Grzymala’s line went out for a walk–her drawings moved off the page and into space. She started using tape to draw in–draw on–a room. Walls, floors, ceilings, and the space between them became her canvas or page.
Grzymala has made her tape installations at many different venues in Europe and the U.S. Each work is site-specific–created in response to the conditions and configuration of a given space. In Transition, a work created for the 2005 group show Freeing the Line at Marian Goodman in New York, black tape seemed to hurtle laterally across the gallery walls, turn corners, then leap off the wall to wrap around a pillar. In 2006, for a piece at the Center for Experimental Art in Islip, New York, Grzymala suspended furniture and the remains of a previous exhibition in a dense web of transparent packing tape.
Sometimes the artist will use paint instead of tape. In 2000, for example, she created a giant painting on the surface of a skating rink in Hamburg. Skaters skated on the painting for one night, then the freezer unit was turned off and the painting slowly melted. In 2001-02, Grzymala was invited by a retirement-insurance company to create a permanent installation for an office building in Hamburg. The resulting work, Medulla Spinalis, treated the building’s elevator shaft as though it were a spinal cord of sorts: skeins of acrylic paint, thicker and darker at ground level, lighter and thinner on higher floors, radiated out from the central shaft and circulated through the building.
For her show at the Locker Plant, Grzymala used tape, paint, and an assortment of dead trees she collected around Marfa. The trees, leafless and stark, reminded the artist of drawings; incorporating them into a show allowed her to expand her method of drawing in space. The trees were broken up and placed in a kind of semi-circle occupying most of in the Locker Plant’s front room. At the back of the room, unpainted tree fragments were lashed densely together with brownish or “tree-colored” tape. To the east, they were painted a range of pale greys, browns, and silvers, and assembled more loosely with similarly-colored tape. Starting in the room’s center and moving to the west, the branches became more and more brightly hued. This room-wide movement through color reached a crescendo with the branches rearing up against the front window to the west: here, on both tree limbs and tape, was a range of super-saturated yellows, oranges, pinks, purples, blues, and greens.
Scattered on the floor were small scraps of colored paper–Grzymala’s “leaves.” Their color trajectory generally corresponded to the one visible in the trees, but the palette was more mixed, and visitor movements and random breezes caused the colors to keep on mixing. This gave the installation a sense of transitoriness, of flux. Though built of dead trees, Grzymala’s arboretum changed on a daily basis.
Monika Grzymala was born in Zabrze, Poland in 1970. She moved to Germany with her family in 1980. She studied stone sculpture and restoration in Kaiserlautern from 1990 to 1994 and in 2001 earned a degree in fine art from the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg. She is currently working on a permanent installation for the Dian Woodner collection in New York, and in 2008-09 will create new site-specific works for the Hayward Gallery, the Drawing Room, and other venues in the United Kingdom.
The Chinati Foundation's Artist in Residence program is generously supported by the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation and the Chinati Contemporary Council. Chinati is grateful for the generous financial support of our members and the support and in-kind contributions of the people of Marfa.