Hand-Crafting a New Vision of Art

Arts / Article

Is a blank canvas empty of art? See for yourself with a solo show from Miami’s Frances Trombly at the Girls’ Club in Fort Lauderdale (the first solo show at the relatively new exhibition space, made possible from a $10,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant). Called “Paintings,” the excellent, subtle show forces you to think about art on many levels.

The first clue, these aren’t paintings – or are they? That will be up to you to discover. These hand-woven, off-white canvases are sparse and bare, that’s true. But on closer inspection, they come to life, with imperfections, gradations of the initially monotone color, stretch marks. Trombly is known for her handmade objects: garden hoses or Publix receipts that are in fact embroidered and woven. Here, the element of what-is-it-that-you-really-see is taken to a new depth – what is art, how is it defined, how is it valued? As described, “does greater labor equal greater value?”

Even if you don’t feel like delving into such topics, these (non?) paintings will grab your attention from their (simple?) beauty. They are complex and meticulous pieces.

The space at the Girls Club is an interesting one, and the white walls hosting the off-white pieces works well. Not one of the canvases is hanging, they all sit on the floor, while one piece is a bench. Very nice. Upstairs, a companion show called “Facsimile” also works well. The pieces here are all from the collection of Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz (Good, also an artist, opened the Girls’ Club), and are a play on replicas, reflecting the show downstairs. Don’t miss “Swatches, Albers” (you’ll get the reference) from Elaine Reichek, a pioneer in handmade conceptual art; the bed video from Gustavo Roman; and the ephemeral sketch of a house created from cigarette smoke.

What we get isn’t always what we first perceive; no different, really, from life. And in the art world, this exhibit is up for a seeming lifetime – a year, giving you no chance to miss it.

“Frances Trombly: Paintings” through Sept. 30, 2011, at the Girls’ Club; 117 N.E. 2nd St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-828-9151; www.girlsclubcollection.org.