For much of Grabner’s early career in the 1990s, she made paintings based on gingham patterns sourced from domestic materials such as paper towels, tablecloths, and blankets. She enlarged and abstracted these generic patterns, reducing them to their gridded structures. Alongside these works, she was pushing traditional craft modes into new territory, for instance, with colorful paper weavings that reference children’s crafts as well as the modernist grid underlying abstract, Minimalist, and conceptual art. Since the 1990s, Grabner has continued to exhibit, teach, write, and curate. She and her husband Brad Killam run The Suburban, an artist project space in Oak Park, Chicago, and The Poor Farm, an exhibition facility in the farm fields of northeastern Wisconsin.
Untitled comes from a series of cast bronze sculptures in imitation of worn, knitted and crocheted blankets. It transposes fiber to bronze, plush to hard, droopy to erect, warm to cold, and functional item to display object. Some works in the series stand upright, with their corners seemingly pulled as if by clothespins. The humility of Untitled’s formlessness, however, lends the work an ironic mood. Bronze has been the favored medium for imperial portraiture and notable public sculpture. By appropriating this medium for a subject as sentimental and quotidian as a used blanket, Grabner throws open the tradition of cast-bronze sculpture, raising questions about why we immortalize certain subjects and how we determine which artifacts are disposable. At deCordova, Untitled is featured among trees, shrubs, rocks, and illusionistic sculptures in Alice’s Garden that similarly evoke familiar forms and textures from everyday life.
Grabner earned a BFA and MA in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MFA from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. She is the Crown Family Professor in Painting and Drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago. Grabner has had solo exhibitions at Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland (2014) and Yale University School of Art (2011), among others. Her work is in collections such as the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Grabner co-curated the 2014 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and was the inaugural Artistic Director of FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art in 2018.