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Antonietta Grassi has been committed to the practice of abstract painting for most of her career. Her paintings, which often resemble weavings or textiles, are composed of multi-layered painted surfaces that are intuitively derived at. Forms that resemble machine parts are intersected by fine, thread-like lines—creating works where textile, architecture, analog technology and the history of abstract painting collide.
Antonietta Grassi’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries in Canada, the United States, and in Europe. She holds a BFA from Concordia University and an MFA from the Université du Québec à Montréal. Her work is in public, corporate, and private collections, including the Musée National des Beaux-arts du Québec, Museée d’arts Contemporains de Baie Saint Paul, Groupe Desjardins, BLG, Global Affairs Canada, the Canadian Embassies in Dubai and in Tunisia, the Conseil des Arts et lettres du Québec, the Archives of Ontario, the Stewart Hall Museum in Pointe Claire, Capital One, the Boston Public Library, Museo Civico Di Molise in Italy and Yamana Gold. Grassi has participated in several residencies such as the Studios at Mass MoCA, the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Centre and the Ragdale Foundation (IL, USA) and the International Studio and Curatorial Program in Brooklyn, New York (upcoming). 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. She is represented by the Patrick Mikhail Gallery in Montreal.
Photo: Portrait of Antonietta Grassi by Emma Hason
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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 .
Text by Amanda Beattie (excerpt from an article on Grassi’s work in Revue Esse , 2021)