Of all the uses of frames, we might readily recall that they serve both protective and decorative purposes. But frames act as a kind of stage, too. That’s how the artist Frances Trombly uses them in All This Time, her wondrously elegant show at Emerson Dorsch, where she plays the dynamic shape of textiles against the minimal severity of the gallery.
The maple wood frames of Trombly’s works are vacant save for the sweep of textile that lay aslant them. Each textile is woven and dyed (in red, blue, yellow) by the artist herself. An inveterate weaver, Trombly has experimented with the object qualities of textiles for nearly a decade, melding aspects of both painting and sculpture to construct her works. These new works are distinguished by their enlarged scale, and the shift in dimensions yields many pleasures.
Trombly’s intimacies with fabric are palpable, immediate. Crisp, sensuous folds here, a sumptuous drape there. Notice the little glitches in the gradated weave; the loose threads that dangle at the edges. Trombly has arrayed each textile within and around the frames with rigorous grace. You feel the force of her deft hand throughout. Weaving (Weld, All This Time) (2020) is all taut delicacy, with its birdlike flight of canary yellow across the diamond shaped frame.
It’s fascinating to watch the works inhabit the gallery with such poise and presence. Look at the way the threads of Weaving (Madder, All This Time) (2020) spill off the wall and wind languorously along the floor. They compel your eye toward its central arrangement. Two freestanding works punctuate the space too. The lithe blue textile of Weaving (The Fates) (2020) undulates over a wooden support, forming peaks and wide, supple valleys.
Artemisia: a name we’re likely all familiar with, occasionally glitters in the delphic titles of the show. It’s a fitting invocation. Do Trombly’s textiles evoke those renowned Old Master paintings? They do, and richly so. But they aren’t merely opulent props here. Trombly gives textiles independent, self-contained lives outside of all those gilded paintings enshrined in art history.