Of the many artistic experiments carried out in the 1960s, one saw sculptors exploring serial repetition. Judd had his boxes, Flavin his fluorescent lights, and Chamberlain his crumpled cars. For Françoise Grossen, a Swiss-born, UCLA-trained sculptor, the medium was knotted rope. Though she has pieces in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the State Hermitage Museum, her work long remained on the margins of art history, often misunderstood as craft.
A new exhibition at Blum & Poe gallery in New York marks Grossen's first survey in the United States, and reinforces the designation of her work as sculpture. The show includes 11 pieces from 1967 to 1991, providing an unprecedented look at her oeuvre. They are arrayed - some hang, some rest on podiums - in different rooms of the townhouse gallery.
'The sculptural quality of her work comes from the impact of gravity,' explains Jenelle Porter, a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA). It was at the Porter's 'Fiber: Sculpture 1960-Present' show at the ICA that Blum & Poe senior director Matt Bangser first saw Grossen's piece 'Inchworm I' and set to work on putting together his gallery's current show. '
For Grossen, the designation as sculpture is critical. She says, 'For me, it is absolutely important that it be understood as sculpture.' The fact that she uses ropes and knots is secondary. As she put it, 'I do all the work with the rope so that all that remains is shape.'