Michelle Grabner (b. 1962) has been painting and working with paper for decades using various themes, patterns and materials. Recently, she has expanded her practice to include working with bronze by recycling her source materials to create intricate repeating patterns. For her third exhibition with the gallery, she presents paintings and sculptures that have weight, texture and undercurrents of mathematics, economics, environmental and social concerns.
Patterns are based on mathematical sequences that repeat themselves. Whether created by humans, nature or machines, patterns can be observed in our behavior, woven materials, the environment, music... Our daily routine is a series of patterns: domestic, family and professional responsibilities, education, hobbies, budgets, and everything that comprises our lives. Today’s hobbies of knitting and crocheting originated from the necessity to clothe ourselves and keep warm. The blankets and afghans created were initially bright, taut, comforting and cared for items. They became smoother and looser with use until we outgrew them. Our consumption and style-oriented culture deemed home-made material and pattern change necessary to reflect economical and politics goals as well as the pursuit of fashion. Grabner found another use for well used hand-made knitted items: abstract-based patterns for her paintings and most recently, bronze sculptures which are being exhibited for the first time in Europe.
Abstraction and the ability to transpose and compose have always been strengths of Michelle Grabner. Once used as a stencil for paintings and covered by paint, these blankets are dipped in wax and suspended before being cast in plaster moulds which are eventually cast in bronze using the lost wax technique. The drips and irregular gravity related shapes result from the process and add to the evolving patterns. A recycling economy is created from blanket to painting, sculpture mould to sculpture. Ecological, economical, entrepreneurial as well as artistic expression and communication are her domain.
Mutations are common in a career. Grabner’s is multifaceted and simultaneous as it includes her own art practice, teaching, curating, writing, being a spouse, mother and great friend. None has the upper hand, all are important and thriving in their own cross-fertilizing ways. Seeing the radial symmetry of her metal-point works evolve to burlap based paintings and then to gingham photos and painting, I wonder where her ability to see mathematical and other patterns will take her to next.
Michelle Grabner holds an M.F.A. in Art Theory and Practice as well an M.A. in Art History. She and her husband artist Brad Killam run The Suburban and The Poor Farm in Wisconsin. She has co-curated the 2014 Whitney Biennial, the 2016 Portland Biennial and she and Jens Hoffmann are Co-Artistic Directors of FRONT, an international exhibition in Cleveland, OH that will open in summer 2018. Her paintings and sculptures are in the collections various museums including the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Milwaukee Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Daimler Contemporary, Berlin, MUDAM - Musée d’Art Moderne, Luxemburg, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and private collections in the United States and various European countries. Her writings are regularly published in ArtForum. Michelle Grabner is the Crown Family Professor at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.