Françoise Grossen

Saturday, Mar 5 – Apr 23, 2022

1709 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

Volume Gallery is delighted to announce a solo exhibition of work from the 1970s and 80s by celebrated fiber artist Françoise Grossen opening March 5, 2022. The Swiss-American artist is considered one of the most innovative textile artists of her generation. 

Best known for her momentous hanging works of knotted rope, Grossen’s experimental use of uncomplicated braiding and plaiting techniques broke with many conventions. Part of a movement elevating craft in 1960s and 70s New York, Grossen moved away from the rectangle, the loom, the wall, and fine materials by knotting her monumental forms by hand with commonplace rope and suspending them from the ceiling.

"From the beginning, I was looking for alternatives to the rectangular shape historically carried down from rugs (floor pieces) and medieval tapestries (wall decoration). The problem with rope was where and when to cut the seemingly unending material… Choices could be made at every moment… It’s like writing in another, perhaps secret, alphabet, creating another language. A dialogue takes place between my idea and the material.”

Her rebellious use of material rose from an eclectic training—Grossen studied architecture and textiles in Europe, received her MFA in California, and spent extensive time in West Africa observing craft techniques. She was inspired throughout her travels by local utilitarian use of rope and knots including suspension bridges, Incan quipus (knotted record keepers), and ship mooring lines.  

Grossen was also inspired by natural forms like the exoskeletons of insects. Almost six feet tall, Metamorphosis IV 6 and 7 (both 1987-90) hang from the ceiling. Manila rope coated in waxy red, blue, and orange is woven in some sections, wrapped, tightly braided, strung like a harp, or left to hang in others. Also made from manila rope—widely used across industries due to its durability, strength, and ability to hold knots—Apodid (formerly ALAR), 1986, is named for an order of deep-sea creatures. Just over five feet long, the tightly bound gray cords form one long loop lying prostrate across the floor. Smaller and more delicately braided works in linen and cotton include maquettes for large-scale installations. Taupe and terracotta-colored, the banner-like maquettes are made up of fishtail braids and twill-like woven patterns. 

The first notable appearance of Grossen’s dramatic weavings was in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1969 Wall Hangings exhibition, where her large-scale fiber sculptures were shown alongside contemporaries also experimenting with textile construction.

The exhibition will be on view at Volume Gallery through April 23, 2022

All images © Françoise Grossen, Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo