When he was an art student in the ’80s — in Kassel first, and then Berlin — Markus Linnenbrink worked primarily with grays and blacks. “I had no idea what to do with color,” he admits. “And honestly, I was a little afraid of it.” Which is ironic, considering that for more than a decade, the German-born, Brooklyn-based artist has built a body of work that centers around thick streaks of color — painted in stripes on gallery walls, poured in puddles on the floors of art-fair booths and installations, and dripped in lines down the face of his canvases. “Somehow a field trip to Italy where we spent three weeks painting outside got me into the idea of color, but I had a long period where I would mix, like, red and green. I feel like I had to walk through a lot of dirt and mud to get to the brightness.”
There was a brief flirtation with oil painting, but Linnenbrink began to work years ago almost exclusively with a mix of dry pigment and resin after getting hooked up with a resin producer in a small town in Germany. For one summer, Linnenbrink went to its laboratory twice a week to perform odd material experiments, eventually producing what would become a recurring installation — a floor covered first with a false surface and then with different hues of resin, poured one by one so that they ooze in patterns across the building’s floor. “I was curious about materials and I also wanted to experiment with something not everyone was using. There are other painters who work with resin, but people mostly use it to add to a shiny surface. I like the shininess, too, but I feel like I’m able to really use its possibilities.”
These days, Linnenbrink can be found in his sunny studio in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, in a historic building that’s since been turned into artist’s spaces. His is set up in stations, which lets him easily switch between projects if he gets too bored; when I visited, there were at least four different works in progress, including a series of vases, a sculpture layered with resin and found objects, a study for a corporate commission, and a massive painting where he was experimenting working with beeswax as a binding agent rather than resin. The space is both a visual document of his process and a personal archive of his work. Linnenbrink took a few moments, after a particularly triumphant German World Cup match, to show me around.
Linnenbrink’s show No Matter Where You Go There You Are is on view until July 30 at the Number 35 gallery on New York’s Lower East Side.