majority of the nearly 40 works here—assemblages on canvas in a variety of mediums along with small ink drawings, all from the 1960s—had never been shown before. In fact, most came from Nancy Grossman’s studio, where they had been wrapped for decades. The mystery is why Grossman, who has consistently produced works of intensity, originality, and vision, has had only an intermittent public presence.
The constructions here were created from earthy, rusty, and recycled materials including rubber piping, straps, chains, belts, hides, fur, shoe brushes, sleeves, and saddles. Grossman’s alchemical creations manage, with their folds and rugged protrusions, to appear at once male and female. Though apparently abstract, near-portraits of saints and animals sometimes emerge. Nails dot the Frankenstein-like assemblages made of animal skins on which topographical ridges appear as brows or limbs. The rugged reliefs are heavy and warlike but orderly and inviting.
In Hitchcock (1965) buckles, leather, rubber tubing, and baby-carriage wheels are mashed up to become a monstrous trophy in which brown leather sleeves reach for the edges of the canvas. Mummy (1965) is an artful vertical pile of definitively decomposed metals on canvas, wearing its compelling entrails as a proud map of its own creation.
A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 101.