In Michelle Grabner’s third solo show with James Cohan, questions of domesticity, developed over three decades as a teacher, critic, and mother, are at the fore. Across quiet, process- and repetition-driven works, formal and philosophical questions of difference are explored: how much can be incorporated without breaking a composition? How can we unify disparity?
A series of untitled white paintings mimic the warp of tapestry, printed with the patterns of sweaters and complete with the ripples, folds, and stretching of cloth in household use. Other wood-panel-based works are littered with the detritus of domesticity—such as Bonne Maman and Smuckers jam jar lids [example pictured]—like the surface of a picnic table. These questions culminate in the large-scale, site-specific Untitled (2021); though made of ceramic squares and brass plates, it seems more like weaving than sculpture.
Grabner’s works posit a philosophy that knowledge and beauty can be gained through the repetition of chores—not necessarily “elevating” domesticity to high art, but perhaps suggesting the inextricability of the two in a good life.
Michelle Grabner, Untitled, 2021. Bronze and found jam jar lids in relief on solid Spalted Elm wood panel, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 3 inches. © Michelle Grabner 2021. Images courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York.