Photo of Antonietta Grassi.

Biography

Antonietta Grassi has been committed to the practice of abstract painting for most of her career. Her paintings, which at first appear as hard-edged geometric abstractions, are composed of multi-layered, painted surfaces where the touch of the hand is paramount. Grassi paints layered, intuitively derived forms that are intersected by fine, thread-like lines—creating works where textile, architecture, analog technology and painting’s twentieth century history collide. Through her nuanced and layered palette, she explores color and light to create perceptual spaces that are drawn from memory and imagination. The work is simultaneously mathematical and painterly, reflecting a process-driven approach that belies the organized compositions of the geometric forms prevalent in the works.

Antonietta Grassi’s paintings and works on paper have been featured in solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries in Canada, the United States, and in Europe.  Her work is in public, corporate, and private collections, including the Musée National des Beaux-arts du Québec, Global Affairs Canada, the Archives of Ontario, Museo Civico Di Molise, Groupe Desjardins, the Stewart Hall Museum in Pointe Claire,   the Boston Public Library and  Yamana Gold. Grassi has participated in several residencies such as the Studios at Mass MoCA, the Banff Centre for the Arts and the Vermont Studio Centre. She is the recipient of awards and honours, including grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des Arts et Lettres du Quebec. Grassi holds a BFA from Concordia University and an MFA from the Université du Québec à Montréal. She is represented by the Patrick Mikhail Gallery in Montreal.

 

About the work

The machine and its history are common themes in Grassi’s paintings. But while acknowledging the sad fate of discarded parts, these machines are anything but disheart­ening. They are gloriously bright, autonomous beings that seem to be very much alive. It is not simply their form, but also the inner workings of their operating systems that speak to Grassi. Inspiration comes from women mathematicians and computer scientists like Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper. The Jacquard loom, one of the earliest computer systems, also makes its way into Grassi’s practice. Not only do many of her machines resemble its form, but it also provides a link to her roots. Grassi’s mother and aunts worked in the gar­ment industry, and she herself worked as a textile designer. The recurrent threads in her paintings seem to hold these influences and memories together at the seams.

Antonietta Grassi’s use of colour and the grid speak to the works of women artists from the canon of twentieth­ century modernist abstraction-another coding system  in its own right: Helen Frankenthaler and Agnes Martin can be glimpsed underneath the multicoloured horizontal lines. Like Eva Hesse, she adds her own personal touch to a see­mingly impersonal subject by imbuing the machine with life and feeling. Her approach to painting is both intuitive and intentional, charged with memory, but also mathematically and technically precise. And there is always an expression of hope and connection, despite the age in which we happen to find ourselves .

Amanda Beattie (excerpt from an article on Grassi’s work in Revue Esse , 2021)