Studio Visit
Markus Linnenbrink, artist

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.

dry pigment 3

This color-coded supply chest is the heart of Linnenbrink’s Bushwick studio. His work over the years has consistently employed a rainbow of dry pigments mixed with epoxy resin, which he then layers inside molds, lets drip from the frames of canvases, or simply pours out onto the floor, allowing gravity to do the work for him.


One of Linnenbrink’s most recent projects is Gestaltkunstwerk, a series of lumpy, layered vases for Artware Editions, a New York gallery that commissions and sells design objects by artists.


“My wife and I just married in January, and we had our wedding party here in the studio with a long table and some lights. I made the vases as table decorations and people were freaking out about them. I knew Jon and Rebecca from Artware from other projects, and I sent them some photos, and they were like, ‘Let’s do this.’”

vase table

To make the vases, Linnenbrink lops off the top of a used plastic bottle, inserts a smaller vessel inside, and pours the resin in layers around it, occasionally throwing in small pieces of Styrofoam to lighten the load. “It’s interesting: What I do to recycle two bottles is I fill the gap with resin, which is an oil product,” Linnenbrink laughs. “That Pom bottle on the right reminds me of Brancusi’s Endless Column. It sort of shows how ideas travel from an art context to an everyday one, and then an artist comes along and pulls it right back into their world.”


Linnenbrink sees his sculptures more as three-dimensional paintings. “I wondered what a painting could be without the support of a wall,” he says. The colors have changed over the years, and Linnenbrink has begun to incorporate found objects into the layers to create more of a narrative.


A sculpture in its nascent stages.


The more freeform sculptures are created in a mold that’s made from a special heavy-duty foil, but Linnenbrink won’t say which one. “My best friend would steal that idea if he knew.” On the wall are the artist’s typical resin-on-wood canvases.


When making a painting, Linnenbrink places these Plexiglas troughs underneath the canvas to catch the resin as it drips. “It’s the color memory of my studio,” he says.


In 2004, he created a work called "Evokenaobject (Blue)," made from the discards of the process. “I like to follow things that happen in the studio and try to create something I haven’t done before,” he says.

color palette

Of his early aversion to color, Linnenbrink says, “Now I feel like I have the ability to work with any color you give me and find a neighborhood for it. That’s the magic of colors. It’s more like a musical tune: You can separate the notes from each other but it won’t make sense.”


Linnenbrink began incorporating photography into his canvases early on, placing smaller photos in a grid and layering paint on top to obscure the images beneath. “The limitation there was that I always had to deal with the grid and somehow make it so the edges where the photos met disappeared.” Blowing them up solved the problem nicely. This large-scale photograph is an old family slide, depicting the artist and his two sisters on holiday with friends in Romania in the 1970s.


An iPhone photo Linnenbrink snapped surreptiously inside MoMA’s exhibition galleries — a Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph of Matisse — will serve as the backdrop for an upcoming work.


Linnenbrink is fascinated by the possibilities of digital photography. “You can take a picture of literally anything and turn it into a painting,” says Linnenbrink, showing me a series of photos he took of celebrity photos hanging on the wall of a Miami diner. (This one is of Charles Bronson and his wife.)


This one, for example, of condensation forming on the window during a gallery opening…


… became this painting now hanging in the studio. “I’m interested in how art communicates with other art,” he says. “I went to a Man Ray show at the Jewish Museum, and there was a piece where he painted on a photograph. That’s like the starting point for Baldessari’s whole career.”


The entertainment area of the studio.


Linnenbrink often incorporates the architecture of a space into site-specific installations. For this exhibition in an old building in Germany, "the only exhibited piece was the floor," he says. "It was nine different rooms, each with a different color atmosphere. The building was old, and the floors were crooked, so when I poured the resin out, gravity finalized the painting. It's about this point where you give up control."


When I noted all the German Festools around the studio, I learned that they, too, were a part of the process. Linnenbrink did a series where he would pour resin in multicolored layers and then router and sand small holes all over the painting to reveal its history.


"I did some initially with a CAD router, but I gave that up. I didn't like the idea of writing a program and then executing it without being able to interact with the finished product."