It is as if I could dip my hand down
into time and scoop up
blue and green lozenges of April heat
a year ago in another country.
- Anne Carson
Michelle Grabner is dedicated to rigorous, process-based abstraction. Since the early nineties, the artist has examined patterns and repetition. By probing the myths and fantasies of originality, Michelle Grabner’s project shares sensibilities with art historical antecedents. However, her work goes beyond this inheritance, cutting across the mere act of reproduction and toppling the cult of sameness. Her handmade gestures insist on the subtle differences between objects, images and other things. Consequently, the experience of a series of her works is like spiraling into a prism of mirrored lenses, bouncing off of her images’ reflections and shadows, as they gradually unhinge.
Michelle Grabner pursues an unstable Similitude—the quality of similarity—pointing toward the unique experience of two things that share similar properties. It’s like how a recurring daily routine might look the same, but in actuality, every day feels completely distinct. Her commitment to grid-like compositions is grounded in meditation on behavioral patterns and societal conditions, including feminist inquiries into the history of weaving and traditions of pattern-making.
“I believe that all forms are political,” says Michelle Grabner, “I have committed myself and thirty years of painting to re-articulating vernacular patterns in order to shift the unobserved into critical sight.” In her studio, the artist turns her decades-long research into fundamentally disarming, serene and complicated objects that carve out parallel constellations alongside their originals.
In 2021, Michelle Grabner (b. 1962 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin) was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and her work is held in numerous public collections. She is the Crown Family Professor of Art and Drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago where she has taught for two decades. Similitude coincides with her solo exhibition at the Alice Austen Museum in Staten Island. She lives and works in Milwaukee, USA.
Solo institutional exhibitions include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; Indianapolis Museum of Art; INOVA, The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Ulrich Museum, Wichita; and University Galleries, Illinois State University. She has been included in major group exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Akron Art Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Tate St. Ives, UK; and Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland.