Michael Gross: Abstraction
June 13 – July 26, 2015
American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center
Michael Gross: The Man and His Passion
When the intention to create art is coupled with passion, intuition and improvisation, the result is an almost indescribable beauty; and such is the work of Michael Gross. As a Bethesda, Maryland-based painter and printmaker for more than three decades, Gross has strived to, and succeeded in, establishing his own art idiom. His works are influenced by the masters of Abstract Expressionism: Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn and Jackson Pollock. However, Gross does not seek to mimic, but rather pay homage to those whose styles he admires.
In his solo exhibition, Michael Gross: Abstraction, the artist takes us on a visual journey with dramatic, emotion-filled canvases from his Colors series (2013-2015); and then diverts us down an insouciant path where we discover whimsical and richly layered monoprints.
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Gross (b. 1944), showed artistic promise from a young age. His talents would not only be influenced and nurtured by his artist mother, with whom he would travel to the Art Institute of Chicago where they took classes; and his father, an advertising executive who took Gross to his office on weekends, where he would set him up at a drafting table with crayons and paper, allowing him to draw for hours; but also recognized and rewarded monetarily, as the fledgling artist, at the age of ten, won an art competition and received a $500 savings bond.
Gross would go on to earn a Juris Doctor degree from New York University School of Law, becoming a corporate attorney, and in the 80s, a real estate developer. But art-making always remained an integral part of his life, as he continued to take classes at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C. and develop his techniques under the watchful eye of friend and mentor, artist William Christenberry.
Writer, Shelley Singer, Gross’s wife, admits that she fell in love with him because he has the “mind of a businessman and the soul of an artist”. It is this dual existence, and complex nature of the man that reveals itself in the artwork. Gross creates art as “a means of grappling with the impulses and struggles that make up the way I see my place in the world.”
Michael Gross invites us into his world and it is easy to succumb to the magnetism of his acrylic paintings. His rhythmic brushstrokes, punctuated with mark-making and intentionally laid drippings of paint are hypnotic. Through spatial separation and planes of color, Gross achieves a dynamism and lyricism in the work that is enticing.
Each painting beckons for a macro and micro examination. In viewing the work from a distance, it is easy to become engulfed by the magnitude of the paintings and kaleidoscope of colors. A micro perspective, offers an intimate experience which reveals Gross’s intentionality in creating structure and balance.
In exploring Gross’s monoprints, a more playful, but no less serious side of the artist is revealed. The execution of each piece was carried out with the same tenacious effort as that of the paintings. For Gross is resolute in creating beauty.
Gross’s layering of cut-up photographs and repurposed older prints, fashioned in various shapes are enhanced by stenciling and the artist’s hand; the result is richly surfaced prints, each with its own unique stylized impression. Under the guidance of master printmaker Susan Goldman, the ink and materials were carefully laid with the intent to achieve equilibrium in both composition and form.
As painter and printmaker, Gross’s work is devoid of social or political commentary, and ideological reference; it offers instead an intellectual dialogue on the beauty of abstraction. His vernacular is steeped in a spectrum of color and intensely focused compositions. Gross’s profound works are imbued with his passion to create art.