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Michelle Grabner (born 1962 in Oshkosh, Wisconsinmarker) is an Americanmarker painter.


Grabner received her MFA from Northwestern Universitymarker, Department of Theory and Practice in 1990. At NU she worked with the painters Ed Paschke and William Conger. She received a MA in Art History (1987) and a BFA (1984) from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukeemarker. She is a Professor and Chair of the Painting and Drawing Department at The School of the Art Institute of Chicagomarker where she has been teaching since 1996. From 1997 through 2003 she was on faculty at the University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker, Department of Art.


Her abstract work consists of repetitious vocabulary and simple mathematical ordering. Critic Barry Schwabsky writes that, “Her paintings refer to the traditionally feminine realm of the domestic by way of the metaphorically loaded imagery of fabrics and textiles--not only blankets and curtains but rugs, clothing, and so on. They might therefore be seen as a Pop rereading of the abstractionists' grid, in the tradition of the Dutch artist Daan van Golden's work of the '60s, or as continuing the recovery and reevaluation, in the feminist-inspired Pattern & Decoration art of the '70s, of the "secret language" and "covert imagery" (as Miriam Schapiro and Melissa Meyer put it in 1978) of women's domestic productivity."

Maika Pollack writes, “Grabner’s gesso and Flashe on canvas tondo paintings address repetition in their internal structure (optical and dot-based) and sheer profusion (there are over fifty). They are circular, from eight to eighty inches in diameter, and hung around the gallery like so much punctuation without a text. Are they aphasic? Her work evokes the history of abstraction as well as the feminine-gendered domestic patterning of washcloths, crocheted blankets and patterned paper towels. Perhaps they are about learning language, our first haphazard and repeated phonemes. Grabner invokes Gertrude Stein’s work on composition for this installation; of its arbitrariness she writes “I am not opposed to [the tondo paintings] even being illustrations of Stein’s periods.”

Grabner is represented by Shane Campbell Gallery in Chicago and Rocket in London. One-person exhibitions also include PS, Amsterdam: Southfirst, Brooklyn; Gallery 16, San Francisco; Green Gallery East, Milwaukee; Allston Skirt Gallery, Boston; Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica; The Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hillsmarker, MI; Insitu Gallery, Aalstmarker, Belgium; Niagara Galleries, Melbourne; Ten in One Gallery, New York; ICA, Portland, ME; INOVA, Milwaukee, WI; Ulrich Museum, Wichita, KS; Hermetic Gallery, Milwaukee, WI, University Galleries, Illinois State, Normal, IL. Her work has been reviewed in Artforum, Art in America, Frieze, Contemporary, New Art Examiner, Art Issues. Her work is in the collection of The Milwaukee Art Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; DaimlerChrysler Collection, Berlin; Musee d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg Mudam Museum, Luxembourg.

A book on her work published by University Galleries of Illinois State Universitymarker titled “Remain in Light” ISBN 9780945558385 with essays by Lane Relyea and Michelle Grabner was published in 2008. In 2009 "Michelle Grabner's Black Circle Paintings, Metalpoint Drawings and Monoprints" was published by Poor Farm Press ISBN 978-0-578-00400-6. This book includes an essay by art historian Annika Marie titled "On Not Being Spectacular: Michelle Grabner's Black Circle Paintings."


Essays and reviews by Grabner have been published in "Artforum," "X-tra," "Frieze," and "Modern Painters" among other periodicals and catalogues. "The Studio Reader" edited by Mary Jane Jacob and Michelle Grabner published by The University of Chicago Press ISBN 978-0-226-38961-5 will be released in spring 2010.

The Suburban and The Poor Farm

Grabner and her husband Brad Killam run the artist project space called The Suburban in Oak Park. Since January 1999 they have worked with over one hundred and twenty artists. These artists include Vasco Araujo, Mike Banicki, BANK, Stephen Berens, Cindy Bernard, Dike Blair, Andrea Bowers, Yvette Brackman, Troy Brauntuch, Alex Brown, Elizabeth Bryant, Elijah Burgher, Michael Byron, Lisa Caccioppoli, Gary Cannone, Todd Chilton, David Coyle, Paul Druecke, Meg Duguid, Jeanne Dunning, Sam Durant, Tim Ebner, Mari Eastman, Sharon Englestein, Karl Erickson, Marcos Ramirez ERRE, Peter Fagundo, Andrew Falkowski, Rochelle Feinstein, Tony Feher, Joel Feldman, Ceal Floyer, Gabe Fowler, Gaylen Gerber, Matthew Girson, Jacob Goudreault, Terri Griffith & Serena Worthington, Joseph Grigely, Katharina Grosse, Wade Guyton, Karl Haendel, Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg, Terence Hannum, Paula Hayes, Julie Hechtman, Adriane Herman, Alex Herzog, Matthew Higgs, Richard Holland, Steven Husby, Jessica Hutchins, Mitchell Kane, Clinton King, Jakob Kolding, Olga Koumoundouros, Thomas Lawson, Duncan MacKenzie, Corey McCorkle, Rodney McMillan, Dave Muller, N55, Peter Newman, Jamisen Ogg, Olof Olsson, Aaron Parazette, Amy Park, Martin Parr, Claire Pentecost, Joe Pfieger, Jan Van der Ploeg, Elizabeth Pulsinelli, Autumn Ramsey, David Reed, Scott Reeder, Tyson Reeder, Matthew Rich, David Robbins, Kay Rosen, Susie Rosmarin, Sherman Sam, Loul Samater, Stan Shellabarger & Dutes Miller, Joe Smith, Michael Smith, Chris Sperandio, Kirsten Stoltmann, Ricky Swallow, Neil Taylor, Mungo Thomson, Padraig Timoney, Nevin Tomlinson, Brad Tucker, Gavin Turk , Luc Tuymans, Lesley Vance, Philip Vanderhyden, Chris Vassel, Michael Velliquette, Amy Vogel, Dan Walsh, Rebecca Walz, Curtis Whaley, Kelly Williams, Kevin Wolff, Lars Wolter, B. Wurtz.

In 2008 Grabner and Killam purchased the Waupaca County Poor Farm in the Township of Little Wolf in Central Wisconsin. The building's 8000 square feet is dedicated to year long exhibitions. The Poor Farm, a non-profit art space and residency also hosts a dormitory building for artists and writers. During the summer of 2009 the Waupaca County Poor Farm was the site of The Great Poor Farm Experiment, a series of artworks installed and presented in and around the Poor Farm during the renovation of the main exhibition building.


  1. Bio : Michelle Grabner
  2. Artforum, October 2006
  3. The Suburban

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