By David Brickman
I finally got myself back to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams this week after a too-long absence, and it was well worth the trip. As my museum-going companion succinctly pointed out, MASS MoCA made its bones by taking risks, and they always seem to pay off – even when something there doesn’t work, you have to admire the effort.
At the very least, you have to be impressed by the scale of things at this gargantuan former factory complex, and you can count on the vastly abundant industrial forms that make up the physical plant to be esthetically pleasing and fascinating in themselves, sometimes even more than the art. One reason I made the trip now was to catch the tail end of an important installation by the German painter/sculptor Katharina Grosse, which opened many months ago and will close on Oct. 31.
Ungrammatically and, to me, annoyingly titled one floor up more highly, the piece combines elegantly sandblasted, pure-white forms in styrofoam with garishly spray-painted mounds of rocks and dirt that also contain a few recognizable objects, such as a massive wooden bench and articles of clothing. Also in this group is a floor-mounted, curved planar polygon that is either a painting or a sculpture, depending on your definition of those media, and through a door at the end of the gargantuan space containing these works are two levels of spray-painted rooms, one of which features a framed abstract painting hung on the wall.