Magazine article Artforum International

Michelle Grabner

Magazine article Artforum International

Michelle Grabner

Article excerpt

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART CLEVELAND

During the past sixteen years, Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam have presided over some two hundred ad hoc exhibitions in an eight-by-eight-foot converted shed behind their house in Oak Park, Illinois, known as the Suburban. A full-scale replica of this concrete-block structure anchored "I Work From Home," Grabner's midcareer retrospective: She selected four artists--Michael Smith, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Amanda Ross-Ho, and Karl Haendel--to display work therein, effectively creating a rotation of shows within the show. Grab-ner would appear to be among the most generous artists of her generation: She is keenly interested in what other artists do; she frequently brings people, ideas, and objects together; she writes about other artists' works; she's an educator and mentor. The sum of these activities, together with her own studio work, constitutes a mutually inflective practice in which Grabner's paintings, drawings, and prints mine the interstices of both material and social fabrics.

At sixty-four square feet, the Suburban's original exhibition space is absurdly small. (Since 2003, the venue has also included another, separate room.) And while the format may have been intended as a kind of institutional critique (insofar as this white cube is a noncommercial space in a backyard), for the artists who show work in, around, and atop the structure, the Suburban also stands as a challenge with which to contend--and as an exemplar of the variety of creative activity that strict limitations can foster. Grabner luxuriates in precisely this (modernist) notion in her own work, some of which seems deliberately engaged with Ad Reinhardt and Anni Albers. In a series of paintings titled "metalpoint ginghams," 2010, Grabner uses gold-, silver-, and copper-point styli to draw gingham-patterned grids on rectangular panels covered in black gesso. Like Reinhardt's, her marks are not expressive; the meticulousness of her ruled lines and the formal functioning of the grid together serve to disperse the gaze across the surface, which takes on an iridescent sheen. Despite these paintings' limited color palette, fixed design parameters, and controlled markings, an astonishing variety emerges. …

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