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Michelle Grabner, Then & Now

August 5 - October 17, 2021

Collector talk with Ken Marx, Sept. 9, 5:45pm. 

Artist talk with Michelle Grabner, Sept. 9, 6:00pm.


More than thirty-five years separate the early and current artwork of Michelle Grabner in this exhibition. Collector Ken Marx contributes a selection of paintings from the artist’s student days at UW-M, and the artist provides six new oil paintings that reflect her ongoing interpretations of vernacular patterns from domestic environments. In her current work, Grabner foregrounds abstract languages culled from patterns of everyday material. See early experimentation with representation and abstraction in Grabner's paintings from the 1980s. 

Michelle Grabner is an artist, writer, and a curator based in Wisconsin. She is the Crown Family Professor of Art and the Senior Chair of the Painting and Drawing Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she has taught since 1996.  Grabner’s work is represented by James Cohan in New York City and the Green Gallery in Milwaukee, among other galleries. Her writing is regularly published in X-tra and Artforum.  Grabner has co-curated the 2014 Whitney Biennial and the 2016 Portland Biennial. She was the Artistic Director for the inaugural 2018 exhibition, FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art. In 2021 Grabner and Theaster Gates co-curated Sculpture Milwaukee.

Untitled, c.1983-84, gouache on paper, 15x11 inches, courtesy of Ken Marx, Milwaukee

Grabner is also the founder and co-director with her husband, artist Brad Killam, of several non-profit art spaces in Wisconsin.  After 16 years in the Chicago vicinity, The Suburban is in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point and Riverwest neighborhoods, and The Poor Farm is an exhibition space and artist residency in rural Waupaca County, Wisconsin.


In 2021, Grabner is the recipient of a Fine Arts Guggenheim Fellowship and an artist-in-residency in Um bria, Italy.  The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI recently commissioned Grabner to create an artist-built environment for their new Art Preserve building which opens in June 2021.

Ken Marx is a long-time collector of Wisconsin art and is based in Milwaukee.  He contributed numerous artworks to Cedarburg Art Museum’s 2018 exhibition Wisconsin Modernists: Rebels from Regionalism. In addition, artwork of Lois Ireland from Marx’s collection has been shown at Museum of Wisconsin Art (2007) and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (2015). Six pieces of Carl Holty from Marx’s collection were in a recent retrospective exhibition of the artist at the Georgia Museum of Art, August 2020 – January 2021.  His collection of Michelle Grabner artwork from the 1980s was acquired at least twenty years ago.


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Untitled, 2021, oil on canvas, 14x11 inches, courtesy of the Green Gallery, Milwaukee

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