Françoise Grossen was born in Neuchatel, Switzerland in 1943. She studied architecture for a year at the Polytechnical University, Lausanne, Switzerland (1962–63) before becoming a textile major at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel, Switzerland (1963–1967). In 1963 Grossen spent six months as a French instructor in a professional school in the Democratic Republic of Congo and lived in Gabon for two years, an experience that would influence her later career.
Upon her return from Gabon in 1967, Grossen received her degree in Textile Design from Kunstgewerbeschule. In 1968 she moved to the United States to study with Professor Bernard Kester at UCLA, where she received an M.A. in 1969. Shortly after graduating from UCLA, Grossen moved to New York City to work for Jack Lenor Larsen Inc. It was Larsen who gave Grossen her first show in his showroom on east 59th Street. As her own work and commissions began to take off, Grossen left Larsen Inc. to establish her own studio practice, and to teach workshops at venues around the world. The artist received her American citizenship in 1983, and from 1980 to 2002 Grossen worked and lived in a studio near Almería in southern Spain. In 2002 Grossen returned to New York City where she continues to live and work.
In her third solo presentation with the gallery, Grossen showcases three segments of her practice—hanging sculpture, floor works, and a series of maquettes that preceded her expansive installations of the 1970s.
Represented in this selection are a variety of Grossen’s interests and influences as a young fiber sculptor, one who eventually became a leader of her field and more broadly helped define the archetypes of 1960s and ’70s aesthetics. The earth tones, natural fibers, and found materials she employs capture her generation’s desire to return to nature and reject consumerism, while her use of geometric shapes and repetitive patterns exemplify the clean, minimalist line of the era’s design.
As with her hanging sculptures, which negate the convention of presenting fiber works two-dimensionally as tapestries, Grossen’s floor series draws the viewer’s focus from the wall, this time to the ground. For these, Grossen was partially inspired by the contemporaneous avant-garde dance of downtown New York that did away with the stage and instead explored movements made for the floor. With Grossen’s large-scale installations, we see the open floor plan at work—one of the staples of the period’s architecture, which Grossen studied in Lausanne, Switzerland—this concept challenged and inspired her to create the monumental works we are led to imagine here via their miniature predecessors. These maquettes are accompanied by vintage photography of their sprawling counterparts, the delicate nature of the models contrasted by the sheer magnitude of the works they preluded. Mermaid I, Embryo and several of the maquettes on view, were thought to be long lost—unearthed only recently from Grossen’s studio archives as she prepared for her 2016 solo exhibition at the Museum of Art and Design in New York.
Finally, on view for the first time, Grossen presents the ultimate iterations of her suspended rope work series: Alpha, Beta, Gamma (Signe II), and Delta. Completed between 1991-93, these four serve as the denouement to a thirty-year practice in fiber.
Grossen’s work pursues universal themes that emerged across disciplines during these decades, breaking ground via the medium of fiber sculpture. As curator and writer Jenelle Porter explains it: “Grossen pushes beyond this initial rupture with the rectangle and the wall to explore the weight of her material and its response to gravity, an investigation that aligns her art with broader artistic debates taking place in New York and elsewhere.” Or more simply put, in Grossen’s words: “First we broke with the rectangle, then we broke with the wall.”