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Selected Works

Untitled, 2019

sheet metal, auto body filler, spray paint
104 x 152.5 x 71 cm.; 41 x 50 x 28 in.
Photo: Claire Dorn

Untitled, 2015–2017

plywood and fiberglass
237 x 145 x 21 cm.; 93 1/4 x 57 1/8 x 8 1/4 in.
Photo: def image

‘Unlike main Minimalism, Robert Grosvenor's sculptures dispense with the earnestness and the intellectual gravity of the period. His objects are playful, capricious, or mischievously thoughtful. Unlike the structuralists who approached the multiplicity of meanings with scientific meticulousness […] Grosvenor’s structuralist attitude consists of a purely sensuous immediacy. He seems more concerned with what the Japanese linguist Toshihiko Izutsu once called ‘fundamental magic of meaning’: embedding a glimpse of magic, the pleasant surprise of the unknown, into the very semantic construction of high objects, recognising that the objects of our daily life are vague, unanalysed, and blurred in meaning, often surrounded by an aura of impressions, emotions and expectations.’

K. Ottmann, ‘Robert Grosvenor as an American’, in Robert Grosvenor, exh. cat., Porto: Museu Serralves, 2005, p. 14

Untitled, 2014–2017

painted steel, fibreglass, aluminium
345.4 x 502.9 x 142.2 cm.; 136 x 198 x 56 in.

‘Grosvenor’s appreciation for materials, bound up in his way of looking at things, is integral to his artistic practice. But it is not limited to just his work; it informs an entire worldview, marked by a particular and sustained mode of attention […] this can be seen in his modification of vehicles, a sideline to his artistic practice in which he hunts down vintage models, paints them, and adds and removes various parts. For many years, these vehicles have been in his studio in proximity to his art-making. But the work is not so different, really: in both his sculpture and his vehicle revisions, he is always arranging and rearranging elements so as to create new wholes to enjoy. These modified vehicles aren’t destined for an auto show, nor are they initially created to stand alone in the art gallery; for Grosvenor, they exist for purposes that are harder to articulate.’

S. Øvstebø, ‘Something to Look at’, in Robert Grosvenor, exh. cat., Chicago: The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 2017 p. 26

Untitled, 2014

wood, fibreglass, aluminium, acrylic. Motor - 2000, aluminium, steel
overall: 61 x 495.3 x 152.4 cm.; 24 x 195 x 60 in.
Installation view: Robert Grosvenor, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, 2014
Photo: def image

Untitled, 2009

fibreglass, flocking, aluminium, in two parts
red part: 121.9 x 121.9 x 487.7 cm.; 48 x 48 x 192 in.
aluminium part: 121.9 x 792.5 x 1.3 cm.; 48 x 312 x 1/2 in.
Installation view: Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 25 February – 30 May 2010
Photo: Sheldan C. Collins

‘Grosvenor’s work is his relentless pursuit of contradictions and paradoxes. While his early sculptures dealt with gravity and tension within given architectural structures, his newer installations, assimilating influences from art history, everyday life, and commercial design, bring his work closer to the Las Vegas-influenced Postmodernism of Robert Venturi. A certain material giddiness is still evident in Grosvenor’s recent sculptural installations, combined now with a felicitously rogue wit that performs its semantic magic in the artist’s characteristically hushed-up fashion. In addition, each of Grosvenor’s sculptural installations done since the 1990s is in itself an autonomous creation, making little or no reference to his previous work. This precludes considering his production in terms of a body of work.’  

K. Ottmann, ‘Robert Grosvenor as an American’, in Robert Grosvenor, exh. cat., Porto: Museu Serralves, 2005, p. 16

Albatrun, 2002

aluminium, wood, paint, steel
steel: 255.3 x 160 x 39 cm.; 100 1/2 x 63 x 15 3/8 in.
aluminium on base: 194.3 x 185.4 x 16 cm.; 76 1/2 x 73 x 6 1/4 in.
base: 22.2 x 487 x 243.8 cm.; 8 3/4 x 191 3/4 x 96 in.
Installation view: Albatrun, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, 2005

‘Albatrun (2002) […] is derived from fleeting images of other sculptures: Grosvenor has cited as sources a badly printed black-and-white guidebook photograph of a public sculpture in a small Swiss town and an exhibition catalogue’s cover illustration, perhaps showing an artwork and a viewer. The evocative title harks back to his earliest pieces like Niaruna (1965), Pylunamid (1965) and Transoxiana (1965), titles suggestive of exotic places or foreign words that one might come across in old copies of National Geographic.
Empty space plays a crucial role in the piece, where two completely unrelated vertical elements stand apart from each other, yet are inseparable. […]
Seen frontally, the shape vaguely evokes a cartoonish face. (But it could be taken for a simplified image of a fruit or an enlarged mechanical part.) It claims the platform for its territory […] The sculpture’s second vertical element stands on the floor. […] It could almost be a stick figure or two of them tangoing together.
The sculpture creates a sense of expectation, but no component is more, or less, charged than the others, and none betrays tension. […] Emptiness is active within each of the two units, and we become conscious of the gap between them. Though they have been placed at different distances apart in successive installations, the separated elements remain locked across space in a slow dance of intimacy and estrangement.’

A. Rochelle and W. Saunder, ‘Plain Seeing’, in Art in America, October 2005, pp. 140-141


ca. 2000–2013
10.2 x 15.2 cm.; 4 x 6 in.
33 x 36,8 cm.; 13 x 14 1/2 in. (framed)
edition 1 of 2, plus 1 AP

‘Many of Grosvenor’s photographs, which, it should be noted, he does not regard as works of art, reveal a unique formal sense and an eye for absurd juxtapositions of shapes and colours, that, like his sculptures, are oddly familiar yet nonsensical: a stone planter containing ordinary houseplants that has been painted blue, which gives the appearance of a classic Chinese landscape painting; a futuristically-shaped race car parked on a large sheet of plastic in the middle of an immense salt lake; a rubber rat ‘surfing’ the ocean on a bright-red inflated life belt.’

K. Ottmann, ‘Robert Grosvenor as an American’, in Robert Grosvenor, exh. cat., Porto: Museu Serralves, 2005, p. 20

Untitled, 1992

fibreglass, concrete blocks, sheet metal, paint, plastic
127 x 540 x 540 cm.; 50 x 212 5/8 x 212 5/8 in.
Collection: Fundação de Serralves - Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto, Portugal. Acquisition 2006
Photo: Rita Burmester

‘Grosvenor’s works are strange not only, and perhaps not even primarily, because of the forms and materials that they use. They are strange because of the structure of inversion that informs them. This structure closes the works in upon themselves, and bends all references (strange or not) back on the sculpture itself. Thus, for everything that can be recognized, the relevant (original) contextual meanings are suspended. That is what makes Grosvenor’s works ‘inaccessible.’ One stands in front of the sculpture - the ‘eccentric’ work of 1992 contains a ring that screens off the central element - one walks around it, enters its space, sees everything, recognizes everything, and is still not in a position to make it match up with what these things usually are. Or else, if one does attempt to make such an identification, the works lose everything that makes them aesthetically satisfying. There is nothing but to accept the sculpture and its individual elements as what they are under the conditions of this sculpture. It protects the sculpture and its elements against all kinds of consumption.’

U. Loock, ‘Perfect Ambiguity’, in Robert Grosvenor, exh. cat., Porto: Museu Serralves, 2005, p. 41

Untitled, 1991

steel, concrete blocks, fibreglass, plastic
221 x 108 x 218.4 cm.; 87 x 42 1/2 x 86 in.
Photo: def image

‘In his later sculptures [Grosvenor] juxtaposes three or more elements of differing natures and divergent qualities. Grosvenor proceeds as an optical, poetically inclined chemist, combining his visual and emotional agents in differing manners and proportions until he gets a complex reaction he sees as worthwhile, however obscure its mechanism. Although there are echoes of early modernism in his method, Grosvenor’s three-dimensional mix of collage, montage and association is neither literary, in a Surrealist way, nor formal, in a Constructivist manner. He starts from, and ends with, heterogeneity.’

A. Rochelle and W. Saunder, ‘Plain Seeing’, in Art in America, October 2005, pp. 143-144

‘In his installations, Grosvenor creates a space that is in-between, neither recognizable, nor unknown, neither familiar nor strange, not unlike the ever-sprawling suburban space between cities and the country-side. His sculptures at first view seem strangely familiar, or strange in a familiar manner […]’

K. Ottmann, ‘Robert Grosvenor as an American’, in Robert Grosvenor, exh. cat., Porto: Museu Serralves, 2005, p. 18

Untitled, 1989–1990

‘Untitled, 1989-1990, is neither a seamless fabrication nor an assemblage made from detritus, which is just one of the ways Grosvenor has distinguished his work from that of his peers. It is a construction. His title does not offer any direction on how to experience the work and its lack of obvious aesthetic markers (fabrication, for example) as well as its use of commonplace construction materials, pushes it against the border separating art from life. […]
Looking at Untitled, 1989-1990, you are apt to start pondering the porous border between use and uselessness. Even if Grosvenor did not mean it to be used for something, might not someone find a use for it? […]
Surely, in dissolving this border (between art and life, non-use and use), Grosvenor is thinking about the purpose of art. Is sculpture just something that you back into when you look at a painting, as Ad Reinhardt famously quipped? Or is there some other reason for its being? In his essay ‘Entropy and the New Monuments’ (1966), Robert Smithson, thinking about the work of Flavin and others, wrote: ‘They are not built for the ages, but rather against the ages.’ Untitled, 1989-1990, is neither built for nor against the ages. It has another kind of relationship to time, which is what distinguishes it from other sculptures or installations. This is the paradox that Grosvenor presents us. It neither resists time nor embraces its passing.’

J. Yau, ‘A Constellation of Thoughts about Robert Grosvenor’s Untitled, 1989-1990’, in Robert Grosvenor, exh. cat., Chicago: The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 2017, pp. 52-53

Untitled, 1987–1989

steel, plastic, paint
190 x 244 x 622 cm.; 74 3/4 x 96 x 244 7/8 in.
Installation view: Fundação de Serralves - Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto,
Photo: Rita Burmester
© Fundação de Serralves, Porto

‘If the cantilevered objects form a space between sculpture and the real architecture of the exhibition space, the space of the works since the eighties is in a number of cases the space of sculpture formed on the model of an architectural construct. Grosvenor thus solves the problem of the cantilever works, that the in-between space that interests him stands in a disproportionate relationship with the extremely demanding object - in these works, the question of whether the sculpture is concerned with the object or the in-between-space is finally left unanswered: the relationship between the two remains unclear. In the more recent works, however, it is clear: the covered, encompassed, protected space is part of the work. It is created by the object, and gives it its meaning. The space is part of the work, and not a separated, partitioned space like that formed by any apartment or garden wall.’

U. Loock, ‘Perfect Ambiguity’, in Robert Grosvenor, exh. cat., Porto: Museu Serralves, 2005, p. 39

Untitled, 1986–1987

steel, fibreglass, plastic sheet and concrete
152.4 × 274.3 × 243.8 cm.; 60 × 108 × 96 in.
Collection: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of an anonymous donor 2012.137a-e
Installation view: Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, 2010

‘These works conjure thoughts of everyday things like tubs, toys, walls, wings, shelters, furniture, cars, boats and buildings, so you feel oddly at home around them. And this provides an unexpected, if unconscious way into the work. You traverse the luscious surfaces of this late work the way you would someone’s skin – you linger over the little details, the change in surfaces, the alternating colours, the movement flat to vertical to horizontal to rough to smooth. They’re really complex for such simple, if primary structures.’

J. Saltz, ‘Grace under pressure’, 1992

Untitled, 1975

Installation view: Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, 2015
Photo: Steven Probert

‘In Untitled, 1975 […] he took a heavy wood beam, which […] was ‘fractured using precise and repeated force from heavy machinery.’ Grosvenor patinated Untitled, 1975, in creosote and grease so that it became a black, damaged object resting on the gallery floor.
Although Untitled, 1975, rested on the floor of an immaculate white cube, it didn’t accept its aesthetic seclusion as a boundary. The violence done to it reverberates across a host of associations, while the creosote and grease coating imbue the form with a light-drinking blackness that pulls the viewer closer, inviting scrutiny. In contrast to Donald Judd’s ‘stacks’ or Dan Flavin’s arrangements of fluorescent light fixtures, Grosvenor’s Untitled is not pristine, but marked by what has been done to it. The splintered ends remind us that art cannot exist out of time, that rupture and disintegration are inescapable. Instead of trying to neutralize time’s constant pressure, Grosvenor utilizes a process that accelerates it. Untitled, 1975, signaled a change in the artist’s thinking, as well as differentiated him from the Minimalists with whom he had been associated.’

J. Yau, ‘A Constellation of Thoughts about Robert Grosvenor’s Untitled, 1989-1990’, in Robert Grosvenor, exh. cat., Chicago: The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 2017, p. 50

Untitled, 1970

952.5 cm.; 375 in., diameter: 8.3 cm.; 3 1/4 in.
Installation view: Fundação de Serralves - Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto
Photo: Rita Burmester

‘The earliest piece shown at the Serralves was an untitled work from 1970. The 375-inch-long sculpture is fabricated of 3 1/4 inch-diameter aluminum tubing and is suspended from the ceiling by two light wires. The sculpture was reconstructed for Porto, the first version, made of 4-inch-diameter sandblasted aluminum tubing, having disappeared some time ago. (Almost half of the more than 40 sculptures that Grosvenor made between 1965 and 1975 no longer exist.) The tube zips horizontally across space at eye-height and then jags slightly upward starting at its midpoint, with the two welded-together segments forming about a 170-degree angle. It was installed in the museum’s anteroom with the end of its horizontal run butted against a tall window which overlooks some white birches.
Despite being only a long, thin cylinder slightly bent, the work has a complex visual presence. The sandblasted aluminum’s silvery silhouette hovered in front of our eyes and was extended outward by its reflection. The sculpture created a horizon line where we expected none, only to gently bend it and test our sense of stability. The end of the piece placed against the window escaped our scrutiny, while the other end seemed to come at us with uncanny speed when we passed before it. This is Grosvenor’s last work not to touch the ground, and it has a factual grace stemming from both the simplicity it means—a barely bent pipe, two wires, a room with a view—and from the precision of its proportions and placement.’

A. Rochelle and W. Saunder, ‘Plain Seeing’, in Art in America, October 2005, pp. 140-141

Untitled, 1968–70

steel and plywood painted white
Installation view: Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, 2019
Photo: Adam Fratus

‘Robert Grosvenor speaks of his sculptures as means or tools to produce an in-between-space, he conceptually de-objectifies the objects in favour of a concrete but immaterial effect. So he seems not, or not so much, or not only concerned with the object qualities of these sculptures, despite their size, despite the technical challenges that they address to construction. The works appear as sculptural signs, with which a particular and different space (neither a sculptural nor an architectural space, to be experienced rather than demonstrated) is inscribed within the architectural space.’

U. Loock, ‘Perfect Ambiguity’, in Robert Grosvenor, exh. cat., Porto: Museu Serralves, 2005, pp. 34-35

Untitled (yellow), 1966–2016

aluminium and epoxy paint
398.7 x 844.6 x 252.1 cm.; 157 x 332 1/2 x 99 1/4 in.
Collection: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Robert H. Halff Endowment Fund, Modern Art Acquisition Fund, Suzanne Deal Booth, and Robert Kotick, and partial gift of the artist and anonymous donors (M.2017.294)

‘I don’t want my work to be thought of as "large sculpture", they are ideas that operate in the space between floor and ceiling. They bridge the gap.’

R. Grosvenor, in Primary Structures, New York: Jewish Museum, 1966, n.p.

Tenerife, 1966

fibreglass, plywood, steel and acrylic lacquer
160.7 × 702.3 × 114.6 cm.; 63 1/4 × 276 1/2 × 45 1/8 in.
Collection: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation, Inc. 67.51a-b

‘Robert Grosvenor’s spectacular sculptures of the time are fixed to the ceiling - they penetrate the space from above. The familiar situation of a sculpture placed on a plinth or on the floor is thus reversed. Most of Grosvenor’s early sculptures – and this makes them stand out from the contemporary context – do not only use the given space as the support for a self-contained work, or a space within which the work forms a place, but are connected with this concrete space in a way that calls the very concept of sculpture into question. […] As an addition to the given space, or rather its continuation, the sculptures have an architectural character, while the material and color removes them from architecture and assigns them to a category of their own. Grosvenor’s sculptures are not only fixed to the ceiling, but also constructed as cantilevers. This construction has been seen repeatedly as a "challenge to gravity," or even an "overcoming of gravity." Clearly, the regularly employed diagonal is an outstanding element of opposition against the usual orthogonal orientation of architecture. Seen from this point of view, Grosvenor’s works do not "reveal" the given exhibition space "as an actual space," as in Meyer’s definition of Minimalism, but create a completely new, an-architectural experience.’

U. Loock, ‘Perfect Ambiguity’, in Robert Grosvenor, exh. cat., Porto: Museu Serralves, 2005, pp. 28-29

Transoxiana, 1965

Installation view: Jewish Museum, New York, 1966
Photo: Rudolph Burckhardt

‘Transoxiana (1965) descends from the ceiling, attached at only one point which we would expect to be attached, and terminates before it reaches the floor. Transoxiana gives the viewer the impression of being under water and of perceiving a portion of an object extending beneath the surface. Perception of the ceiling as an architectural enclosure is diminished and it is felt more as a semi-transparent plane which extends beyond the confines of the room, much like looking up at the surface of a body of water in which one is submerged. The keel-like shape of the work increases this impression (we see the keel shape under the horizon in a later work). Transoxiana relates to an aqueous horizon more than a solid one, evidencing Grosvenor’s life-long interest in sailing and his expressed attraction to the horizon of the sea. The extra-architectural horizon to which Grosvenor’s work consistently relates implies space beyond the context in which the work is seen, unlike most minimal sculpture of the mid 1960s.’ 

B. Kurtz, ‘Robert Grosvenor’s Sculpture 1965-1975’, 1975, as reprinted in Robert Grosvenor, exh. cat., Porto: Museu Serralves, 2005, p. 129 (originally published in Arts Magazine, October 1975, pp. 70-72)

Topanga, 1965

model, painted wood

All works: © Robert Grosvenor
Image Courtesies:
Topanga, 1965; Untitled, 1975; and Untitled, 1986-1987: Paula Cooper Gallery, New York