Michelle Grabner, Untitled, 2015. Bronze, 27 1/4 x 14 x 8 inches (69.2 x 45.7 x 20.3 cm). Acquired through the generosity of James and Audrey Foster. © Michelle Grabner
Michelle Grabner’s work unfolds across multiple platforms and in various media, united by a feminist politics that often focuses on domestic items as a means of generating new models of abstraction. A committed teacher, curator, and writer, as an artist she is well-known for her painted abstractions based on such everyday textiles as tablecloths, bed linens, and baby blankets.
Since 2015, she has developed a new body of bronze sculptures based on casts of the hand-crocheted and knitted blankets that she uses as templates for her abstract paintings. To create these works, Grabner makes wax positives of the blankets, and then pours molten bronze into the molds, burning out both the fabric and wax, thereby sacrificing the original textile. Untitled features a small, square blanket that drapes elegantly between two points, recalling the textile’s original soft, pliable form, which is here remade to stand freely. Its scale relates to the human body, and by extension to the original comfort, warmth, and care provided by the blanket. The play between hard and soft, metal and textile, practical handicraft and art object, all point to how subtly Grabner inflects her work with feminist politics, locating the heroic within the quotidian. In their sophisticated layering of meanings, Grabner’s works invite a different kind of attention to traditional and craft-based artistic practices, themselves often passed down within families.
This work joins other sculptures in the ICA’s collection by artists such as Nari Ward, Mark Dion, and Mona Hatoum, which employ found objects and domestic items. It also speaks to the ICA’s collection of textile-based sculpture by artists such as Josh Faught, Sheila Hicks, and Faith Wilding.