Surface Complex
Ellen Grossman

Ellen Grossman’s drawings are a series of sequential contour lines that are defined by small spontaneous decisions, forming a topography of impulses.

The folds, the ripples and the crosscurrents build up, suggesting that which is common to water currents, geologic change and the wind made visible. Time also flows. Grossman originally recorded, on the bottom edge of every drawing, each date that she worked on it, calling attention to the process and evolution of the image. This prompted questions about which section was drawn which day, usually accompanied by a laugh. In 2005, taking up the challenge, she started to record date and time at the start of each line and again at line’s end. This provoked questions about how many hours the drawings took to make. Pushing absurdity, the notations evolved to include running subtotals and totals up to each day. This can be daunting and that is part of the point: written numbers build up, forcing the lines to fan out, reading at first glance as texture, radically affecting how the drawings evolve. As in science recording observations can alter results.

In 2012, Grossman started drawing into vigorously splashed paint, superimposing precisely inscribed topography over agitated surfaces. The topographic passages float over and periodically respond and bond with the undercurrents.

In 2008, Grossman built the first in a continuing series of scale models using small scale mesh to simulate chain link enclosures. The vertically demarcated space in the chain link sculpture confine and/or protect the tenderly contoured shapes within. Chain link signifies both confinement and exclusion. Grossman’s sculptures are contemplations on whether to interpret circumstances as oppressive engulfment or as supportive structure. These are made by sewing aluminum screening. Three dimensional forms are then embedded in undulating surfaces (and sometimes spray painted). Extending this technique, Grossman built a series of translucent folding screens with lodged elements that get squashed down when folded, but pop back up intact when the screens are opened. These figure/ground relationships are strongly metaphoric: whether you see the surrounded elements as suppressed or supported is a matter of how you look at them

About Ellen Grossman
After receiving a BFA from Cooper Union in 1974, Ellen Grossman focused on three-dimensional work with emphasis on how surfaces interface with supportive or resistant forces. This remains an important metaphor for the world in Grossman’s work. This broadly encompasses human interactions with the physical universe, societal norms, and personal relationships.

Grossman’s work on paper originated as exercises in support of her development as a sculptor. They capture how structures build up through slight disturbances that get amplified by subsequent reactive lines.

In 2011 and again in 2017, Grossman was awarded Fellowships by The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) for these drawings.

This work has been shown extensively in galleries mostly in the New York City area and also in France and Italy.

There are numerous articles and videos about Ellen’s life and her work. Most notable is a 2017 article by Eileen Townsend, which appeared in the Village Voice and may be found online here. A selection of video interviews include WarpedFold (a 46 second quick look), Warped Departure, Subsequent Hills, and Vert/Vurt.

For further information about Ellen, please visit her website at

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