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frances trombly at leonard tachmes

Post #507 • March 31, 2005, 8:39 AM • 57 Comments

Art has no automatic virtues, but craftsmanship comes pretty close. Art is work, as the title of Milton Glaser's 2000 monograph correctly declares, and barring all else it's easy to get behind art that seems to have a lot of labor invested into it. Such art appears to take us seriously as viewers, which inspires this viewer, at least, to feel more inclined to take it seriously as art.

But one of the cruelties of art is that there is no firm link between success and labor. Dashed-off things look fabulous, sometimes, while labored objects speak only of the labor that went into them, as Robert Henri once put it. I thought of all this while looking over Frances Trombly's latest efforts at Leonard Tachmes Gallery. The show is pleasant, but it's good for the artist that one can't fairly divide aesthetic compensation by the man-hours that went into its production, for the ratio in this case would come out to a tiny decimal.

Trombly sewed, wove, and crocheted replicas of party decorations with stunning verisimilitude and installed them sparsely throughout the space. A crocheted balloon hangs from the ceiling, hand-woven and hand-deyed streamers festoon one wall, a "congratulations" sign, embroidered with metallic thread, adorns another. A woven roll of wrapping paper leans up against a corner. This is Trombly's Ode to Joy, made bittersweet and evocative by the subjects' removal from the festivities from which they must have derived. The party's over, as it were, and the objects seem a bit forlorn for it.

I thought of the work of Liza Lou, whose maniacal beading has more authority and completeness than this installation, but rendering a whole environment in thread doesn't seem like the way to advance this work. The pleasantness of sewing and the pleasantness of party decorations may be too alike to create frisson, as indicated by the most touching part of show - a little pile of deflated balloons and trash in the corner, again, all lovingly stiched. Trombly seems at her best when she's yanking our visual chain on a small scale, tackling subjects that provide more opportunity for transformation. (The crocheted balloons are more exciting than the woven present bows, the latter of which basically turn ribbon into ribbon.) In the meantime, she appears to be on a fruitful track, and it will be interesting to see where she goes with it. We will have the opportunity to do so, as she is slated for an exhibition at MoCA in the upcoming season.

Images courtesy Leonard Tachmes Gallery.



that guy in the second to last row

March 31, 2005, 5:25 PM

Looks like lego-land in yarn, yawn. This is a joke right.



March 31, 2005, 5:25 PM

as she is slated for an exhibition at MoCA in the upcoming season

This exhibition is good, but I do not feel that it merits a Moca slot. Then again Moca did show those glass beads.



March 31, 2005, 6:22 PM

You people are a bunch of morons! Yes, I come on this site every once in a while just to see if anything worth while has been posted, but usually there is nothing. According to this blog, the only good gallery in Miami is the Dorsch Gallery, and the only interesting work is that done with paint on a canvas etc. That’s kind of sad. By the way, do you all realize that the entire collective contemporary art world in Miami and elsewhere laugh at most of the comments posted on this site? Does that not make you think? Is there really a contemporary theoretical exchange here? As far as the Trombly’s show, I thought it was great. I won’t really go into specifics because this site does not really merit any. Have a great day.



March 31, 2005, 6:28 PM


You write:

"do you all realize that the entire collective contemporary art world in Miami and elsewhere laugh at most of the comments posted on this site"

It's good to hear from someone who knows what the entire collective art world is doing. and it is wonderful to hear that we are able to provide such widespread amusement.

Judging from the figures Franklin has posted about the very large number of people who tune in here, there is probably some truth to what you say.

Thanks for the comment.



March 31, 2005, 6:31 PM

You really are an old pro. Try getting out an talking to some people in the art community.



March 31, 2005, 6:47 PM

Caravaggio, I try in vain to find the passage where I say this work is uninteresting. Please point that out to me if you can. And say hi to the entire collective contemporary art world in Miami and elsewhere for me.



March 31, 2005, 7:00 PM

I have noticed that there is a clear, observable division in current art and this show is an excellent example.

The division is absurdly simple: visual and non-visual. There is art that depends for its effect on entirely visual phenomena and vice versa, and just about everything we see in galleries and museum rests somewhere on this sliding scale.

I first saw Trombly's work in pictures, and it was not evident from the pictures that the objects were knitted. it looked like yet another "lay a bunch of ordinary things around a gallery" show - on the scale, about 50% visual and 50% "commentary on our culture" type thing.

When I learned they were knitted, and saw comments elaborating on the "meaning" of this. Immediately my scale shifed to, say, 25% visual and 75% non visual, because the fact that they were knitted, not the visual effect but the fact, became a much larger part of any comprehension of the work.

I had a similar experience years ago when I first saw Andres Serrano's work. I was visiting the gallery where I showed, and saw these very slick, beautifully framed but bland, indistinct, vapid sepia photos. It may have been his first show; I had no idea who did them. I asked the dealer why she was selling such ordinary-loking things and she said "read the label". The label said "Piss Christ". Of course I immediately understood. The pictures went from 100% visual, where they registered as weak, inert photographs, to 90% non-visual, where they became, well, whatever they became. The rest is history, as they say.

This specific estimation seems to instantly apply to everything I look at, in fact, I can't get it out of my head. It correlates well with what I find I like, which of course, as you might guess, is the more visual work. It is not "perfect", but, like any good rule of thumb, it is consistent and easy to use. I though it mught be interesting to readers here.



March 31, 2005, 7:31 PM

i've been checking this site the last week or so and franklin, i think your writing is phenomenal. not that i agree with everything you have to say but i thought i'd pass that along.

i think that guy in the second row's dismissive comments are indicative of the cynical stance much of the gallery going public takes when viewing contemporary work: that is, yawn. whatever. this is real shit.

these comments usually come from people who haven't even tried to engage with what's showing.

it's a disservice to everyone involved. the viewer has a responsibility to the work. if you're going out to a gallery unwilling to work emotionally and intellectually you may as well stay home and watch television with the rest of em.

as for old pro's sliding scale for what's good, and the whole percentage thing he was describing when looking at work... uh, what? there is no rule of thumb for viewing work. things grab you visually, conceptually, emotionally or whatever. or not. if you're interested in the purely (whatever that means) visual experience, i suggest you look at color field paintings or post painterly abstraction so that you never have to worry about context or history or politics ever again.



March 31, 2005, 7:43 PM

Franklin, either my monitor is having seizures or threre's a problem with your photos. Some are very blurry, others are way off in terms of color.

I saw this show when the gallery was empty and quiet, which was no doubt the best way to see it. The Tachmes space and presentation were much more congenial to this sort of work than I expect MOCA's will be. It was certainly pleasant, even sweet, with a soft, wistful quality--but I was responding primarily to the craft element, the bright primary colors and the homey, familiar subject matter.

It was like comfort food, and as such certainly preferable to the kitschy Othoniel glass doo-dads, which were merely silly, overblown trinkets (which he did not make himself). I personally prefer the quietness of Trombly's work to the gaudy, over-the-top and more obsessive or "maniacal" quality of Liza Lou's stuff, because Trombly's is more subtle and more personal (and it doesn't remind me of Warhol, which is always something).

Still, for me, this is more craft than art. I can appreciate the sensibility behind it, but the work itself, the actual objects, leave me wanting more.



March 31, 2005, 7:51 PM if "craft" and art are so cleanly divided, you old-school high/low fundamentalist!


that guy in the second to last row

March 31, 2005, 8:01 PM

I think this artist and moca are a perfect fit. They deserve each other, no they were made for each other. Maybe one of their patrons is having a birthday party for their kids. Or they will rent the space out to families to encourage memberships. Museums come up with little membership schemes like this all the time. Helps their bottom line.



March 31, 2005, 8:03 PM

"The show is pleasant, but it's good for the artist that one can't fairly divide aesthetic compensation by the man-hours that went into its production, for the ratio in this case would come out to a tiny decimal." A tiny decimal of aesthetic compensation sounds to me like a synonym for "uninteresting." By the way, Franklin, can you define "aesthetic compensation"? Oh, of course, you can't for you admit, "one can't fairly divide aesthetic compensation by the man-hours that went into its production." I don't think Trombly cared much about any of this crap though.



March 31, 2005, 8:24 PM

Try to read more carefully and not jump to conclusions, Craig. That facilitates discussion of real differnces of opinion and prevents wasting time with explanations such as this.

if you read what I said, or anything I have ever said on this blog, you will see that I would never have such a thing as a "sliding scale for quality". It was a sliding scale for visual/non-visual.

I tend to prefer the visual end, but all I was trying to do here is indicate that there was a kind of "either/or" going on that seemed to work as a general tool for categorizing not only current work but the changes in art that have taken place in the last generation. It is an obsrrvation, that's all. Take it or leave it.



March 31, 2005, 8:43 PM

Tea: I don't thing "esthetic compenasation" is hard to understand. it's what you get out of a work, that's all.

Bibi: The craft/art question is an interesting one. There was a story in the Times (I think it was the Times) about how all the museums that had "craft" in their titles eliminated the word because they had studies done and the word had such negative connotations, bringing to mind macrame hot pan holders and the like.

I call this, with apolgies to Freud, "Art Envy". The derogation of craft in favor ot "art" (and I use the quotes advisedly) plagues the entire world of hand-made objects of every kind. "Crafts", such as pottery and glass, have left their origins of basic utilitarian beauty and gotten the "art" disease., sprouting all kinds of cutesy, funky, "meamingful" arty excrescenses of the worst sort, straining to be "art", that is, what these desperate artists think may amount to art.

Craft has a bad reputation among the sophisticated folks.. It is too down home, too ordinary, too unsophisticated. Too basic and honest.

Too bad.



March 31, 2005, 8:46 PM

I'd like to have a conversation here, so if we could cool it on the trash-talking coming from both sides, I'd appreciate it. Also, if Caravaggio/Modigliani and bibi/teaXtwo would stick to one handle, that would facilitate the discussion. Thank you.

Oldpro - use that scale if it suits you, but it strains my experience to break it down so cleanly. "Non-visual" is just too much stuff for me to see it opposite "visual."

Craigfrancis - thank you. You may be right that those people won't engage with the work, but the opposite may be true as well. Caryn Coleman quoted Mark Vallen saying this gem: "It is a thoroughly elitist and bourgeois world view that sees people as 'too stupid' to enjoy the arts. The people have not abandoned art because they are stupid. they have abandoned it because art has become stupid." It's worth considering.

Jack - the photos are jaggy and contrasty. I apologize, but that's what came from the gallery. I did fix the levels. I think you're right that she has more potential to do something good in MoCA than Othoniel and wonder along with you how she's going to work the space. Maybe she'll get the smaller room out in front.

bibi/teaXtwo - Jack's statement that he sees them more as craft than art does not imply, and may even support, the fact that they can't be cleanly divided. Please address the writing, not the writer. Please also have another look at the decimal comment: it's saying that the aesthetic quality of the show is pleasant and the labor is enormous, and that it wouldn't be fair to divide the former by the latter.



March 31, 2005, 8:50 PM

That should be "does not contradict," not "does not imply."



March 31, 2005, 9:00 PM

I enjoy this blog and comments of the host are interesting and to the point. If we talk about art and involved people in art we need some diplomatic language Mr Caravaggio. Exchange of ideas is more effective without throwing "moron" adjectives at people and you didn't even show any ideas in your writings. I guess your brain, Mr Caravaggio is empty of art theories because otherwise you would throw at us, misguided art bunch, some of them and prove how uneducated we are. Are you able to present opinion without cursing, or cursing is your greatest intellectual achievment?
As of presented peace of art I didn't like it. It rather reminds me Christmas decorations than art, in my understanding of fine art. But I fully respects opinions of those who enjoy it and found value in it.



March 31, 2005, 9:11 PM

That's fine, Franklin. Just let me point out that "non-visual" cannot be "too much stuff to...see" when you are looking at a singular work of art. it is merely a characteristic of a work and should be quickly evident. Maybe you didn't understand me, or I you.



March 31, 2005, 10:07 PM

I doubt this will change anything, but,

To Whom It May Apply:

My views and opinions on art, and my approach thereto, are not the province of anyone but myself. I have no obligation to please, agree, or play along with any person or agenda. I have no interest in being PC, fashionable, "with-it" or what have you, only in being me, and calling it as I see it. If that bothers you, it's too bad, but that's your issue and not my concern.



March 31, 2005, 10:08 PM

Hey... OLDpro... just so you know, all visual art... is visual.



March 31, 2005, 10:14 PM

Hey... Pablo.

It is visual nominally, because it is visual art.

But a lot of what we see now depends on non-visual ideas. This is not news.



March 31, 2005, 10:47 PM

old pro: firstly, and at the risk of making you waste time by repeating yourself, i would like to know what you mean by "visual" and "non-visual" ideas. this seems to make no sense. art that has no referant to anything outside of itself i find to be masturbatory and elitist, and, to grossly oversimplify, led many to become so alienated from Greenberg's theories. not that Pop or what has followed has been anything close to speaking truly about the tragedy of what it is to be human, but you get my point (i hope). you can complain all you want, but art is never going back to a preoccupation with the purely visual that purports to be independant from the world.

on previous comments pages i noticed that you claim people often misread your comments, which would lead one to suspect that your writing needs some help. please don't be offended, i only mean you need to be a little more considered and clear with what you're saying. i totally respect your opinion and am not trying to be a hard ass or whatever.

franklin: point taken, but i want to say that while i don't think much of the public tries hard enough in galleries, the bigger problem is indeed with the artists and art. i did not mean to insinuate that the onus rested solely with the public.



March 31, 2005, 11:11 PM

Craig I have no problem with explaining, and I do try to be as clear as possible, but I am sure i could do better.

I really did not think this visual/non-visual idea was that difficult. I gave two very explicit examples just to be sure. I guess that was not sufficiuient.

First, I did not say visual and non-visual "ideas", I said visual and non-visual "art". perhaps this created some confusion, as Picasso pointed out, because of course all visual art is nominally visual.

I then gave the example of my first encounter with the work of Andres Serrano. My reaction to the work was that it was very slick and fashionable looking but quite uninteresting visually. Then I was instructed to look at the label, which said "Piss Christ". Knowing trends in art I immediately saw what he was up to and what he was promoting. Without the knowledge (the "idea") that this was a crucifix in a vat of piss (or, in another photo I saw at the same time, squirting semen) these pictures woud remain blurry unclear yellowish photographs (the "visual").

I talked about this with some people (including the gallery owner and her associate) and they quite readily agreed that the "idea" was what would put the work over, and, as we know, she was right.

Please understand that this is only an observation. I am not trying to get into "mastturbatory" or "elitist" or "the tragedy it is to be human" or involve Greenberg.

I hope this helps.



March 31, 2005, 11:14 PM

old pro: oh, and what's more: the craft work you see in galleries that blurs the line between craft and art hasn't caught art disease, whatever that means. it is a strategy used by artisans and artists alike to reveal the elitism and hypocrisy of the so called "fine" art world. it shows that craft objects and the skill and labour involved in their making is equal to the works of supposed genius painters, sculptors or whatever.



March 31, 2005, 11:17 PM

old pro: gotcha. now i know what you mean. sorry.



March 31, 2005, 11:31 PM

Don't be sorry, Craigfrancis. Instead, let me thank you for demonstrating the correct response when you see something on the blog that doesn't click with you.


mon ami miami

April 1, 2005, 12:39 AM

This blog gets more boring by the day.


that guy in the second to last row

April 1, 2005, 12:45 AM

Mon Ami Miami, You must be talking about the art above and not the lively discussion right?



April 1, 2005, 12:59 AM

I think dorch gallery is cheesy


mon ami miami

April 1, 2005, 1:06 AM

that guy in the second to last row: I'm talking about the topics, content, comments, everything....



April 1, 2005, 1:10 AM

I think Dorsch Gallery is spelled differently.



April 1, 2005, 1:36 AM

I'm sure mon ami miami is brimming with specific criticisms and suggestions. He's just waiting for us to ask him or her about it, or something...



April 1, 2005, 2:05 AM

yeah, mon ami. Liven us up a little, fella. Moaning and groaning doesn't help.

I agree with Franklin, Craig. Thanks for the excahnge.

I am not worried about "line blurring" between craft and art, I am worried about the loss of craft in both because of the general disparagement so-called "craft" suffers being "not art". Whether something is art or craft by name matters less than how it stands up when you ask it fo function as either.

And I don't think many artists are making art with the primary purpose of exposing the "elitism and hypocricy of the fine art world". Most of them are just trying to make the best art they can, get shows and sell something



April 1, 2005, 2:21 AM

YES..."art is work"....



April 1, 2005, 4:20 AM

This is slightly off topic for the thread but I spent the day, with a friend who is also a painter, wandering through the galleries Chelsea.

The big surprise was an absolutely stunning show of paintings by the late French Canadian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle at the Robert Miller Gallery
I was generally familiar with the series of knife paintings he is known for (the period between 1952 and 1956) Perspectives, 1956, at Tate Gallery is an example I had always felt that the "signature" works, like "Muscles Pierreux" (RM#3) the paint tended to coagulate on the surface as a chokehold field. I can see how these works were considered important at the time, Jackson Pollock had broken the ground just years earlier. However, the works I was unfamiliar with, like "L'Autriche" (RM#2) and "Vol Des Chutes" were a wonderful surprise. Complex open fields, great color and drawing, all in all masterful performances, the best show of the day.
FWIW, Riopelle googles ok for other pics.



April 1, 2005, 4:23 AM

Has anyone here considered the connection of Frances Trombly's works and Louise Bourgeois?
I think Bourgeois has explored 'craft' and its connotations(especially, feminity) in her works.
Trombly's explorations are conceptually rich and closer examination of her objects proves to be more than mudane.

Trombly: +17



April 1, 2005, 4:54 AM

George, many thanks for the Riopelle info. There were a number of pictures there I had never seen and other that were not what we usually see. Nice reference.

We all need to post more things like this, myself included, but I don't know how to make a hyperlink on the blog.

I have a good friend In Naples - Hollis Jeffcoat - who lived with Riopelle for years after he broke up with Joan Mitchell. She is an excellent painter who reflects elements of both of them in her work.



April 1, 2005, 5:16 AM

Continuing in Chelsea.
In a more geometric vein, The Stephen Haller Gallery was showing the veteran geometric abstractionist Larry Zox. The work covered the period from 1962 to 1993 (?). It is an interesting sampling and worth seeing as an example of how one artist persued a fairly simple motif throughout a career.
Stephen Haller Gallery

At Von Lintel Gallery, Valerie Jaudon was also showing geometric abstract paintings. The paintings are strongly patterned with a moorish influence. The new works seemed visually more open and have absolutely beautiful brushed surfaces (which don't reproduce in print or pixel) It's an interesting case of how a simple motif properly handled can be quite beautiful.
Von Lintel Gallery

Finally, rounding out the slightly 60ish selection here, was a show of paintings by John Tremblay at Paula Cooper. The works had a nice optical presence.
Art Net for Paula Cooper



April 1, 2005, 5:57 AM

George - You have a good eye (and an enviable pass-time). I wasn't familiar with Riopelle, but I liked some of the works quite a bit, especially L'Autriche. I liked the Larry Zox works too. The Jaudon works I wasn't a fan of, but I can respect. The Tremblay show looked uneven, some works better than others. You seem to have a taste for intense or vivid colors.



April 1, 2005, 6:03 AM

Gnu, do you really find these conceptually rich? She's working the craft angle and the high/low angle, and there's a subtly suggested narrative, but that's it as far as I can tell. As such I find them conceptually sufficient, to be sure, but not especially dense.

I wouldn't want to lump these together with Bourgeois, as if one could just do that with anyone sewing sculptures, though there's definitely common territory.



April 1, 2005, 6:19 AM

oldpro~ i have been trying to figure out the linking thing for months. now i've got it. here it is once and for all. take this(NOTE: you have to add a "less then sign" before tha "a" and a "greater-then sign" after the "/a" i can't put them in because the computer hides all that stuff; that's what it's suppsed to do!!):

a href="" Franklin Einspruch/a

(i have it pasted into a text document i use often). Now replace " with whatever you want to link TO; and replace "Franklin Einspruch" with the text you want the reader to see. Viola!

FWIW (boy i love the acronyms!!), I think the visual/non-visual distinction is clear as day; though, for me, knowing that Trombly's work is knitted does not really make it more non-visual. I think actually that it's extremely visually interesting; just that that interest happens on close-examination, so you can't see it in the Jpegs (probably in no reproduction). But in person it gives the work a very powerful presence (for me, anyhow; YMMV). I haven't seen the show but have seen other work of hers.

I'm puzzled by the Serrano story. I heard pretty much the same thing from other people. When I actually saw the piece, i thought it was VISUALLY arresting, conceptually trite. Go figure!

I also wanted to say, briefly, that I sympathize with the frustration in Caravaggio's original comment. I frequently share in the same frustration, which is difficult to express constructively. The real problem is that, for whatever reason, the "other side" (which it's not, really), has no alternative forum. Whatever; you guys deal with it pretty well.



April 1, 2005, 6:36 AM

Link explanation:

This text is linked to

At the top of your browser you have a pulldown menu under View. Pull it down. Select View Source.

You'll see a bunch of computer stuff. That's HTML. Everything between a less-than sign and a greater-than sign is called a tag. Now look for "This text is linked to"

That's the structure. "A" stands for anchor; "href" is short for hypertext reference. The address you link to goes between the quotes. Very important - that /a tag at the end. You need that or text will link forevermore. Good luck. Please preview the shit out of your attempts so I don't have to clean up mistakes.



April 1, 2005, 6:56 AM

Hovig, I was plesently suprised by the Riopelle show.

I'm not that big a fan of Larry Zox and Jaudon's paintings are a lot better than they appear in any illustration. Along with John Tremblay I failed to mention Wayne Gonzales who was showing at the othe Paula Cooper Gallery. I mentioned them as a group because it felt like a bit of recycling being done on the 60's Op, Pop and Geometric abstractions.

Yeh, I like color, it's a Latin thing.



April 1, 2005, 7:28 AM

they aren't meager. sufficient is fine, but i wonder if the mundaneness of the objects is keeping you from finding brilliance within them. I must admit that i said 'conceptually rich', but i really thinking about the body of her works not just this show. I think the 'craft angle' isn't trombly angle but attributed to her by artblog. the 'high/low angle' is too easy--how about consumption, industrial production, fair wage, labor, value inherent in an object, homedepot/ikea/walmart factor on consumption to middle class. If one subscribe to Sol Lewitt thoughts on conceptual art--that an artist is not the authority on his/her works, then one can accept the premise that artworks can communicate thoughts/ideas beyong the intention of the artist.



April 1, 2005, 7:45 AM

Thanks for the instruction, guys. It is 11:30 and i am not too swift when it comes to computer instruction, so I will download the info and study it tomorrow.

Alesh, The knittedness certainly would add to the visual effect but it powerfully adds to the conceptual effect because of the jarring irony of the tremendous work that is going onto making a simulation of a common rather valueless trivial object. This is a major part of the content of the work and as such it is non-visual.

This visual/non-visual thing is not an idea I have worked out intricately, just something that, once it occurred to me, seemes to intrude every time I look at anything. This, in turn, makes me feel there is something to it.

I know just what you mean about the Serrano. I did not mean to imply that it was anything but painfully trite (excrement + relgious icon - I'm shocked!) just that it was evident that was going to be what got the big press and all the rest. I can also see that the photos themselves could be taken to be "visually arresting" - they are large, dour, "mysterious", puzzling, and so forth - if you like that kind of thing. They just did nothing for me visually at all.

I can see a link between the two, Gnu, but I am not comfortable with it because i think Bourgeois is absolutely untalented and utterly overrated, whereas Trombly at least has a worked-out idea, dull as it seems to me. (BTW "explore" is another "forbidden" word in my writing class. I tell them if they are "exploring" they better be somewhere like Antarctica).



April 1, 2005, 1:58 PM

Gnu, you're contradicting yourself up there - the craft angle was attributed to her by the commenters, but that artworks can communicate thoughts/ideas beyond the intention of the artist. If the latter is okay then the former is okay.

One can wax poetic over anything, including a blade of grass, and load it up with associations and meanings. Part of connoiseurship is coming up with a sound, self-contained interpretation that puts facts about the art object in a higher place than the viewer's ability to load associations - lest one cause a disaster of art writing like Derrida's Truth in Painting. Your list of associations suggest to me that you, yourself, are conceptually rich, but I don't see the work supporting them.



April 1, 2005, 2:28 PM

I meant to add that the mundaneness of the subject matter is obviously part of the charm. I don't see the brilliance in them because not all of the objects function equally well, and because brilliant's a superlative that I don't pass out like candy. Her work is smart, but in my book, smart just gets you out on the playing field. I require smart.



April 1, 2005, 10:12 PM

just testing this hyperlink stuff testing with yahoo bla bla bla bla bla



April 2, 2005, 1:33 AM

I'm not sure, but I'm mostly sure that nothing in Frances' show is knitted. I think that most of the works are crocheted and woven. The distinction is similar to how both litho and intaglio are prints and use both ink and paper, but the rest of the process is vastly different and has implications for what the work itself can do.

I think that Frances' show is strong, and that she has a consistent, conceptually strong body of work.

I like the idea of thinking about Frances and Bourgeois (more interesting also because of the geographic proximity of the two shows), but I like the idea of comparing anybody to anybody, so that's not especially telling.

What is intriguing is to consider the differences in their use of textiles. Bourgeois is using items which are very obviously emotionally charged; doll-figures and womens' clothing (nightdresses, I think), while Frances is using items which, though associated with an emotional event, are curiously devoid of emotion themselves (not just her replicas, but the actual party decor as well). The seed of Bourgeois' work seems to be the trauma of her father's relationship with her nanny, and her works reflect the confusing emotional legacy of that event. Frances' body of work, as consistent as Bourgeois' (though obviously not as long-lived), has more similarity to the work of Oldenberg's soft sculptures.

Since Frances is not shifting the scale of her replicas, however, it does seem that how they are made is a crucial factor in interpretation of her works. Neither Bourgeois nor Oldenburg actually wove the fabrics that they used themselves; they used pre-existing fabrics which they either purchased or repurposed. Instead of just weaving a bolt of fabric to use in some sewn item, Frances is depending on the means of production to inform the sculpture itself. The wrapping paper is woven, the ribbons are woven, the streamers are woven, the balloons are crocheted, as might be the confetti. Weaving allows her to make long, continuous rolls of cloth, and crocheting allows her to make circular (spiraling), flexible forms The relationship is very tight, very considered.

This show moves away from her previous works in that she has begun to investigate something more emotional and narrative, though I suspect that that may only SEEM to be the case because (I think) it is her first solo show. It is her first opportunity to control the entire environment in which her works are located, so I think we can see more of the narrative which lies behind them.

What I have noticed is that everything which she has produced replicas of are items which you can purchase at the grocery store. Others have mentioned the mundane aspects of the subjects of her replicas, but I suspect that there is more feminism involved than just the high-low dichotomy which others have proposed.

In a society in which women do the majority of the grocery shopping, that makes women most likely the majority purchasers of toilet paper, party decorations, extension cords, ruled notebook paper--all items which she has reproduced in textiles (including both types of electric cords, the orange "industrial" and the white "home-use" type). I know that Frances studied textiles, so I am sure that she is quite knowledgeable about the history of textiles, which is strongly associated with women's history, and the history of society in general (think slavery and cotton). The shift from home production to factory production had amazing ramifications for the role of women in society, as well as labor laws and consumption.

The party decor in Tachmes' space is the type of party decor a Mom, Aunt or Grandmother would put up in order to host a party in the home. These decorations are normally very inexpensive (thanks to production advances, cheap labor and a bounty-or not, clearcutting, anyone?--of resources). The party is a "congratulations" party, but what sort of congrats?? Not a wedding, certainly; the colors are wrong (except for that one white bow). Not a baby-shower--ditto. So what type of congratulations is it, and to whom? It's not a birthday party either, so it seems to be a type of party which celebrates something external--something which has happened outside of the familial, domestic realm.

Now back to the fact that Frances does all of this labor intensive work herself, by hand, without help. We normally equate the hand-made with precious, with love and concern, with uniqueness. It has already been stated that her labor process stands in contradiction to the mundane aspect of that which she replicates. Partially, I think a lot of us assume that the works are precious because of what she has invested. What I think is coloring Franklin's appreciation of--or minimal appreciation of--this show is that the subject of the replicas themselves is too mundane to be overcome; they cannot be made precious, not even by hours of handicraft. Do not think that I am suggesting that Frances has somehow failed, for I do not think that she has. I think that the point of her labor is not to make them precious, but to make them in spite of the fact that these items, ultimately, are waste.

Her labor serves to point out not that the replicas are special, but that the real items are not. The effort and resources which go toward making the real items dwarf Frances' efforts by far, yet they are absolute throwaways. Not only are they absolute throwaways, but what the heck kind of event are those items helping us celebrate? How special can that be? The celebration itself is called into question.

Because it is a party scene, devoid of celebrants, it does lend itself to an evocative narrative. The most "touching part of the show", to quote Franklin--and it is indeed so--is the little pile of deflated balloons and stray confetti found in one of the front corners of the gallery. It is the culmination of the installation, not just because of the inevitable let-down after a celebration ends, but because it is the literal waste, the remains of what we have consumed. The truth of this little pile is what makes the "congratulations" ring so hollow.



April 2, 2005, 3:19 AM

But really, Kathleen, so what?



April 3, 2005, 1:42 AM

flippant dismissals of intelligent, on-point analysis of the topic at hand are one of my pet peeves regarding Artblog.

I humbly submit, for consideration to be added to the Guidelines, under "Assume Community," or maybe "Advance the Conversation," the following:

"Once in awhile, allow the idea of saying nothing to pass through your thick head for at least a split second before commenting."



April 3, 2005, 2:38 AM

Alesh, chill.

Kathleen, I applaud the labor that went into your thorough analysis.

I didn't try to imagine a single event from which all these objects derive, and I don't see how the work would justify one's doing so. They are of different scales and types. Hence your attempt to analyze what kind of party this was comes off as strained. The ambiguity on this point isn't evocative for me at all - it's just a reminder that we're in an art gallery looking at art. I can deal.

Regarding What I think is coloring Franklin's appreciation of--or minimal appreciation of--this show is that the subject of the replicas themselves is too mundane to be overcome; they cannot be made precious, not even by hours of handicraft. This totally contradicts what I said in #47. Furthermore, I disagree that they cannot be made precious. The replicas are extremely precious. That, I believe, was the whole point of hand-crafting them. If she had just put real streamers on the wall and actual balloons on the floor, there would have been no invitation to examine them in a contemplative way. It just would have been crap lying around.

As such, I think your interpretation is off-base. Even though the subject is consumer detritus, her labor inspires one to feel the childlike enjoyment of party decoration with all of its bright colors and joyful associations, and her arrangement of the objects in the space are disjointed enough to bring in a sense of melancholy. The congratulations sign doesn't ring hollow at all to my ear - it has been re-presented apart from its context as an independent symbol of generosity and goodwill.

And, all that said, this work somehow needs to be pushed more.



April 3, 2005, 3:10 AM

Im sorry if what I said seemes flippant. I guess it was, come to think of it. It makes me look like a bad guy, I know. And I did think twce about it.

But in the end, after that long. tiresome, heartwarming, sentimental, pointless how-many-angels-can-dance-on-the--head-of-a-pin exegesis of a bunch of crocheted balloons, which puts in a big fat nutshell everything that is wrong with art criticism and the art world, i just couldn't think of anything else to say except:

"so what?"



April 4, 2005, 9:03 PM

i just couldn't think of anything else to say except:

well may i suggest this:




April 4, 2005, 11:12 PM

OP: a lovely non-apology! I'm glad to be appraised of the fact that you are not sorry for being flippant, contrary to seeming to be flippant, for which you were apparently regretful. It is true, better that we all know you are without a doubt flippant, not merely one of those fellows who appears to be so!

Additionally, I am flattered that you have included me in the "what is wrong with art criticism" category, as I was attempting an investigation of work rather than art criticism, which is less interesting to me. I certainly wouldn't call myself an art critic; I'm a lover, not a hater!

Glib interpretations of "criticism" aside, however, I do favor the discussion of what work does over what it does not. Anyway, did I merit this inclusion into the hall of the anti-heroes because I attempted to dissect a work using methodology other than "good art is good; bad art is bad"? Or was it because my tone was opinionated and authoritative--oh, wait! No; I wrote something described as a "tiresome, heartwarming, sentimental, pointless how-many-angels-can-dance-on-the--head-of-a-pin exegesis"! Apparently my comment was the Family Circle of the comments section.

As wonderful as "so what" can be in the hands of a skilled maestro, I'm afraid that your usage is no jazz landmark; it was an inadequate schoolyard riposte.

Franklin: I enjoy differing perspectives of the same work. Cheers!


that guy in the second to last row

April 5, 2005, 12:25 AM

I don't know Kathleen, private eyes investigate. Your review was sufficiently windbagish enough to get lumped with the "what is wrong with the art world comment", but don't you work at a Museum? So that would make sense. I personally would rather read one of Momoko's seven word reviews about the show that conveys more? Call me crazy.



April 5, 2005, 3:01 AM

"the Family Circle of the comments section."

Yeah, something like that.

I don't mean to be abrasive. It's just that we see so much of taking thistepid mickey mouse stuff and reading the world into it. It's art that can't survive without explanations and barely with them.

I want art that lives, art that knocks me out, not a listless thing with a label hanging on it like a big toe in the morgue.



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