Artists' Artists - Nancy Grossman

Artists write about a work of art that has influenced them

K.R.H. Sonderborg, Komposition ‘26.9.1958’, O.J. (Composition ‘26.9.1958’, O.J.), 1958

K.R.H. Sonderborg, Komposition ‘26.9.1958’, O.J. (Composition ‘26.9.1958’, O.J.), 1958, egg tempera on paper, 108 × 99 cm. Courtesy: bpk, Bildagentur fuer Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Berlin

K.R.H. Sonderborg, Komposition ‘26.9.1958’, O.J. (Composition ‘26.9.1958’, O.J.), 1958, egg tempera on paper, 108 × 99 cm. Courtesy: bpk, Bildagentur fuer Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Berlin

It was in the early 1960s, in Art International magazine, that I first saw the reproductions of three black and white, very graphic paintings by the abstract artist K.R.H. Sonderborg. I had an immediate, stunning and profound identification with his form language, an imagery that spins and whirls and buzzes and clanks as it speeds forward or downward with accelerating velocity. What I recognized and admired was Sonderborg’s mastery of the unseen — but personally familiar — machinery of the universe. I had made my observations and figurings of the universe alone, as a small child in rural upstate New York, before I even had words for my discoveries, but they formed the solid, sub-basement floor upon which all of my subsequent learning and knowledge, both physical and metaphysical, accumulated. I formed my secret observations on my elbows, on tufted grass, inches from a fence post and halfway beneath the barbed wire, lying flat on the ground, unobserved by any human cohort, the grazing teams of horses within inches of my face, unthreatened and mildly curious, pulling up the grass with their lips and teeth, masticating and continuing. The outcroppings of shale revealed the petrified remains of hundreds of undersea creatures, shelled and unshelled. It was probably perceived through my chemistry, my microbiome, my heretofore acknowledgement of the great unseen, like God and his angels, the visiting clouds, day changing to night changing to day. We’re caught between a vast, layered, inchoate knowledge and a thinner layer of language — communicable, shared knowledge, mutually agreed upon reality apprehended, comprehended. The hidden mechanics of the underground, the mysterious movement of earth and water are clear to me but invisible to others. And POW! there it was in Sonderborg’s work.

 

Nancy Grossman lives in New York, USA. She has been exhibiting her work for over 50 years. In 2014, ‘Nancy Grossman: The Edge of Always, Constructions from the 1960s’ at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, was awarded Best Show in a Commercial Space in New York by the International Art Critics Association of America.

Issue 5

First published in Issue 5

October 2016

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