Robert Grosvenor
January 6–March 2, 2024
Opening reception: Saturday, January 6, 6–8 pm

Karma, New York
22 East 2nd Street
New York, New York

Karma presents an exhibition of two new works by Robert Grosvenor, on view from January 6 to March 2 at 22 East 2nd Street, New York.

Horizontality defines much of Grosvenor’s enigmatic, five-decade-long oeuvre. At Karma, two materially distinct artworks, united in their horizontal orientation, share one gallery. A twelve-foot-long board, screwed laterally into the west wall at eye level, is obscured by a cloud of black spray paint. A low-slung, modified readymade occupies the center of the space. Together, they provoke a consideration of the relationship between the upright human body and these recumbent forms that nonetheless float above the ground.

Coated in deep-purple automobile paint, the central sculpture reflects its viewers in its gleaming surface. Where one expects a windshield, there is only open space. The hubcaps and headlights, like the wall sculpture, have been spray-painted matte black. A pair of vintage driving goggles are slung over the steering wheel, and a key decorated with a rabbit’s foot keychain dangles from in the ignition. These details push the otherwise objective sculpture to the edge of a narrative realm, implying the presence of a now-absent driver.

The second work presented here reprises a formal idiom Grosvenor last employed in 1970. A long, thin wooden beam hangs horizontally, activating the gallery’s architecture through linear extension. Its treatment with black paint, sprayed directly onto the wall, highlights the texture of the wood, creating a strong contrast with the pristine, industrial surface of the other work. From a distance, the board’s linear outline disappears into a diffuse cloud; up close, it reappears. As Hal Foster wrote of Grosvenor’s work in 1981, “its effect is one of sheer materialism, of a work of art absolutely given.”

Over years of consideration, Grosvenor discerns and executes subtle adjustments that transform objects into artworks. Augmenting readymades is a means of maximizing their formal appeal, a way to, in his words, “make things better.” His lifelong fascination with vehicles has recently developed into a sculptural practice: a modified speedboat, stripped of motor and steering wheel and treated with turquoise oil paint; a red scooter sited inside of a steel shipping container, the structure’s interior painted gold. By stripping away functionality, the artist places the emphasis entirely on formal relations of scale, material, line, and volume. In contrast with other recent vehicular artworks, this exhibition’s central sculpture is operational, much like his 1969 works Three Wheel Car, the earliest example in his practice of explicitly automotive forms. In each context, the interaction in space between viewer, artwork, and architecture is crucial. This is Karma’s fifth solo exhibition with the artist.