Fiber Art Off The Wall

Excerpt from Modern Magazine


3 Installation view of ‘Françoise Grossen Selects’, 2016. Photo by Butcher Walsh. Courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design.

Installation view of Françoise Grossen Selects, 2016. Photograph by Butcher Walsh; courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design.


Françoise Grossen Selects: Fiber Art that is Truly Off the Wall

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Fifty years ago, Grossen, who trained in textile art and weaving, began to work with off-loom techniques, knotting and plaiting wool and sisal. As she experimented—her hands constantly in touch with the threads—basketry patterns began to appear on her surfaces, loops and openings broke through, and her tapestries developed ridges and whorls-like dense skins. She then suspended her finished pieces further from the wall and they became three dimensional, casting shadows that moved and changed and might be seen from all directions. Breaking from the confines of traditional rectangular frames, some of her work began to bear semblance to totemic figures or shields with their abrasions, threads, and braids as they magically floated through space.

Grossen is best known for her meticulous knots and braids, her Havana twists (sometimes the thickness and weight of gym climbing rope), and cables with fringed ends. In the 1970s and early 1980s, these pieces were commissioned to decorate spare, concrete Brutalist architecture. Contact III, a massive hanging piece made from manila rope with looped together triangular sections, extends across an entire interior wall of the current exhibition. An earlier version, as she puts it, “with seven elements holding hands,” was once hung from a string stretching across a narrow street in Tribeca. With a bridge in the background, the piece became interactive, almost mirroring the urban landscape. While Contact III brings to mind the repeated geometry in indigenous art—you might even see the rope forms as a band of connected figures—its radiant mandarin color pops out around contrasting balls of tufted fiber, a joyous visual joke.