In this discussion, MAD’s Windgate Research and Collections Curator Elissa Auther will consider Françoise Grossen's work in a historical context, chronicling the advance of thread, rope, string, felt, and fabric from the "low" world of craft to the "high" world of art in the 1960s and '70s, as well as the prominence of fiber in art today. This unconventional history of the American art world will address provocative questions of material, process, and intention that bridge the art/craft divide.
In the 1960s, Françoise Grossen rejected the rectilinear loom that constrained contemporary weaving for an intuitive approach to fiber that resulted in the creation of large-scale, suspended rope forms constructed of knots, loops, braids, and twists. At the time, fiber was still associated with utility or ornament rather than fine art, and Grossen's freehand, three-dimensional handling of the medium was considered a revolutionary gesture that upset the traditional hierarchy subordinating craft to art. A number of other artists in the 1960s and '70s, including Eva Hesse, Sheila Hicks, and Magdalena Abakanowicz, also began working with fiber in innovative ways, and they shared Grossen's interest in the process of making and the desire for unmediated contact with everyday materials such as rope, string, cord, and twine.
Auther’s talk will be preceded in the day by an Encounter with contemporary artist Jesse Harrod, including a macramé demonstration led by Harrod at 1 pm, and a tour of the Françoise Grossen Selects exhibition co-led by Auther and Harrod at 2 pm.
Elissa Auther is a curator and scholar of modern and contemporary art, as well as the founder and co-director of the public program Feminism & Co: Art, Sex, Politics. She is Windgate Research and Collections Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design and a Visiting Associate Professor at the Bard Graduate Center.