There is a poem by Robert Creeley, “The Mechanic,” which came to me as I looked at Françoise Grossen’s exhibition at Blum and Poe, New York. The essential lines of this brutally tight lyric are: “Were we now to fall / to our stubborn knees / and sink to rest, my / self sunk in yours, then / what would hold us / together but uninteresting / weight. Do you believe.” I think of what makes weight interesting, or better yet crucial, when I look at Grossen’s “Gamma (Signe II),” a work from 1993 that consists of just two metal pegs shoved into the wall, what the gallery describes as “natural paper piping cord,” and tape. There are two discrete cords, each is looped and hung from one of the metal pegs and each is hooked through the other’s loop. They are, like the putative lovers of Creeley’s poem, intimately connected, but not fallen. Each is still held off the floor and little away from the other by those unmoving stakes in the wall. They are at enough distance from each other to pull, to keep the other in a state of active suspension. In other words, they are keeping each other honest. In other words, the way their weights pitch against each other remains compelling, stays crucial.
Much has been made of Françoise Grossen’s clever intertwining of the gravitas and aesthetics of contemporary art with craft. However, what first enthralled me about her work when I saw it years ago, is what continues to engage me now. It’s not the question of craft’s relation to art practice (which should by now have been conclusively understood to not exist in opposition), but rather how Grossen’s ropes and cords, braids and yarn feel like they have consequence, like they are metaphors whose meaning I would do well not to miss. “Together, but uninteresting”: turns out to be both the formula for art that I am not compelled to spend time with, and exactly the kind of relationship I want to avoid.
Françoise Grossen continues at Blum & Poe (19 East 66th Street, Manhattan) through January 6.