Michelle Grabner makes a good point 

If it were possible to rein in a meteor shower and shove the glittering chaos that paints a beautiful night sky into a contained space — say, into a very large jar — it would call to mind the work of abstract artist Michelle Grabner.

The Chicago-based artist currently enjoys her first solo exhibition at San Francisco’s Gallery 16 through April 7.

Chaos and control work with and against each other, in a harmonious way, in Grabner’s show, a beautiful exhibition that is both a study in process art and also an unusually feminine demonstration of abstract art.

Inspired by the intricate and perfect patterns found in spider webs, Grabner seeks to replicate a similar kind of geometric perfection that comes from instinct rather than exact measurements.

Working with both square and round canvases, painted black, the artist begins at the center and slowly edges outward, creating a distinct system of tiny white dots that strive to be tight concentric circles. Akin to the woven pattern found at the bottom of a basket and so very textual in its delivery, these dizzying, unconscious patterns unfold, ironically, like a completely conscious sunburst.

Yet for Grabner, each work is the ultimate example of her failure.

"Abstraction is the best way to represent consistency and order," the full-time teacher and mother of three says.

Although some might look at Grabner’s works and see that creating them would be tedious, punishing work, the artist sees them as an escape from her insanely busy life, and a respite of order and consistency.

Because the pieces in her collection cannot be completed in one day, Grabner’s aim for perfection is foiled by the woes of reality.

The pressure the artist uses on any given day to create her swirling vortex patterns can change on the next, so the paint rarely dries the same way. That means there are changes in thickness or opaqueness.

Rather than give up, Grabner says, "It becomes a metaphor for the process."

Other works in the exhibition include framed pieces of heavy paper that Grabner has punctured with an etching needle to create infinite patterns. She describes these pieces as more emblematic of another process, one that punctures, and thereby becomes more aggressive.

Breaking with most minimalist work and artists, Grabner’s works are distinctively feminine, taking on "women’s work" such as knitting or crotcheting, or weaving a rug.

She says her decision to use black and white in most of her pieces further boils the work down to a reductive vocabulary, eliminating even more variables, and thus striving for an unachievable consistency. Ironically, the works reveal diverse and varied patterns, clearly induced by the artist’s unrealistic goal.

One must truly love it to take so much time to set themselves up for "failure."

While in the end, she estimates that each work takes her a few months to finish, she admits, "If I knew how long it would take, I would never do it."

Michelle Grabner New Work

Where: Gallery 16, 501 Third St. (at Bryant Street), San Francisco

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; closes April 7

Contact: (415) 626-7495 or www.gallery16.com

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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