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.