Urban storyteller

People The Arts

January 2, 2020

Susan Grossman’s abstract city landscapes will be on view at Jerald Melberg Gallery from Jan. 25 – March 7.

by Grace Cote

There is a space that is neither blurred nor sharp, moving nor still, grayscale nor technicolor. It touches the extremes but lands somewhere between them. This is where Susan Grossman’s drawings live. 

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based artist most often draws her environs: the urban streets of New York and its boroughs. Her work has a cinematic quality, like film stills, in which movement is suspended but not complete. 

“She can draw like a dream,” Charlotte gallery owner Jerald Melberg is fond of saying. Melberg has been Grossman’s art dealer for the last 10 years. He recalls his first meeting with Grossman at Art Miami. 

“It was the day after the show opened, and I was walking around the aisles. I stepped into a booth and I went, ‘Wow.’ Literally, like that. [Her works] stopped me in my tracks,” Melberg says. “We met and chatted, and before the weekend was out, I was representing her.” His Cotswold gallery will open its sixth Susan Grossman solo exhibition on Jan. 25. The last one was in 2017 and featured work based on scenes from Charlotte.

Since teaming with Melberg, Grossman’s work has been mostly grayscale, but recently she has made significantly bolder color choices. 

“This all happened as a real choice,” Grossman says. “It was incredibly challenging and exciting to take it and let it unfold.” Two 2019 drawings, Afar and Gleaming, show the product of her experimentation. To begin a drawing, Grossman starts with a walk through the city, where she photographs scenes on the street. She captures images of everything from lively children to parked cars. Then, she returns to her studio to sift through the printed images, pulling parts from each to create her compositions. No scene that she portrays ever actually existed in its entirety. 

As the process begins, she keeps these photographs nearby for reference. 

“I love using my hand, which has all the quirks to it, and being very physical with the work, and the only way I can do that is to pin the photographs to the paper,” says Grossman, who has a bachelor’s degree from Bennington College in Vermont and an MFA from Brooklyn College.


The pinholes left behind are a signature in her work. They’re also a reminder that the drawings are not too precious, which is the entire reason she prefers working with paper and charcoal. “You can keep redoing, you can wipe off, you can throw away,” she says. 

But why would an artist ever let go of any of their creations? It has to do with capturing the right essence of his or her subject. There is a feeling Grossman wishes to convey in her work, not just a scene. It is about conjuring that calm moment after a deluge, the action of the city after dusk, the specific gait of a child trailing behind their mother. 

The anonymity of the figures populating her work is a product of this drive to capture these moments. 

“I like the all-overness of looking at my work … taking it all in from corner to corner to center, in the way one looks at a more abstract, conceptual work.” When looking at a work of art, “if I find if a face is described on it, I tend to go right there,” Grossman says. That’s why her subjects are anonymous.

Grossman has carved a unique place for herself that doesn’t easily fit into any preconceived ideas of what a landscape artist should be. Perhaps, because of this, it’s inevitable that viewers will often be, as Melberg was, stopped in their tracks.  SP

Want to go? Susan Grossman’s exhibition of new charcoal and pastel drawings will be on view at Jerald Melberg Gallery from Jan. 25 – March 7. 625 S. Sharon Amity Rd., jeraldmelberg.com

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