Linden Gropiusku

Spatial relationships are focus of ‘Concentrations' at Studios Inc.

Special to the Star
Posted on Wed, Oct. 05, 2011

In her show "Concentrations," Marcie Miller Gross works almost exclusively with heavy gray felt.

If patience is a virtue, then Marcie Miller Gross and her audience should be handsomely rewarded.

Gross' work is a study in stamina and the subtle delight that a tidy, orderly world manifests.

In this show at Studios Inc.'s exhibition space, where she's been a resident artist for several years, Gross' industrial gray felt installation is a fitting companion to the gallery.

The gray floors, walls, and ceilings in this voluminous space are oppressive, and here Gross' immaculate fiber work actually seems to lift the space, to suggest its rightness as a gallery.

While working almost exclusively in gray felt for this exhibition, Gross does include several minimalist drawings and some works incorporating lush, creamy-white felt and white military blankets.

In "Working Parts (wedges, blocks, slabs)," we are led through a field of felt and wood objects displayed on a long table. These components embody Gross' ongoing interest in opposites: mass/void, large/small, soft/hard and absence/presence.

In her larger wall pieces, the dominant gray felt squares, rectangles and other hard right angles shape our experience of the gallery and the relationship of each work to the other.

Heavy gray felt inevitably suggests German artist Joseph Beuys' work. Beuys prized the material for its ordinariness, the warmth that felt provides, its flexibility and its personal mythology.

Gross, on the other hand, revels in the material as a measure of spatial relationships rather than for its more liquid effects, configuring it into grids and patterns. The pieces are methodical, balanced and severe in their restraint and reliance on relational proportions.

She cuts the felt on a variety of band saw blades, causing tufts in the fiber that she exploits for their surprisingly mammalian effects.

Gross works these tufts into furry ridges that suggest human hair or animal fur. The tufted gray felt adds a gentle humanity to Gross' sedate and overtly formal explorations of space and geometry and softens the edges of "Sheared #2 (shift)" and "Sheared #1 (alternating)."

"Untitled (blankets)" is the most animate and anomalous of Gross' quiet work in this exhibition. Stacked four deep and softly draped over the edge of a shelf, the blankets suggest comfort and presence, or at least the presence of absence.

The blankets offer a sensual and sensory moment in an otherwise rigid exhibition defined by tight organization, right angles and measured spaces.

While Gross' work, in some aspects, may remind us of Ohio artist Ann Hamilton's monumentally expansive installations and fiber's vast possibilities, Gross' work is, instead, an accumulation of smaller moments, movements and relationships.

But just when you think that Gross' work is too austere, she smartly produces subtle touches in the pieces that bring us back to our physical selves and our infinite and essential relationship to fiber.