In a seminal essay titled ‘Grids’ (1978), the American art theorist Rosalind Krauss argued that, as a structure, the grid was emblematic of modernist ambition, encapsulating modernism’s streamlining project through the expunging of forms and conventions extraneous to it. The grid embodied a kind of will to silence, as well as an obvious antipathy to figuration and narrative in its pure rectilinearity and abstract form. Modernist artists like Piet Mondrian, Josef Albers, and Ad Reinhardt dedicated their careers to ever-refining interrogations of the grid; an undertaking that led towards a sober realm of pure non-objectivity (Reinhardt’s Abstract Painting ), or conversely to a dazzling buoyancy (Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie ). Later postwar Minimalist and Conceptual artists such as Sol LeWitt would re-inflect these investigations of the grid, imbuing it with a critical edge.
British-born Australian artist Hilarie Mais has also oriented her art practice to the exploration of the grid. Her rectilinear objects – part-painting, part-sculpture – situate themselves firmly in this lineage, drawing deeply from the vein of modernist geometric abstraction. In many ways, her varied objects span the spectrum marked out by the afore-mentioned artists, demonstrating the vanguard grid’s capacity for rigour and restraint as well as its more irrepressibly vibrant tendencies.