Stephen Friedman Gallery presents a show of new, large-scale drawings by American artist Tom Friedman.
Fluctuating between the comical and the conceptual, Friedman’s work celebrates the mundane nature of everyday life by looking afresh at objects and their assigned function. Taking place in Gallery One, the exhibition will be accompanied by a new publication that reproduces nearly a hundred pages from the sketchbooks that this new body of work draws upon.
For this exhibition, Friedman has revisited a series of entries from sketchbooks he has accumulated over the past 40 years. Friedman’s sketchbooks bring together his sporadic, creative thoughts where word associations, brainstorms and flow charts sit alongside detailed studies and hurried scribbles. In the exhibition, Friedman has enlarged individual pages and images from his sketchbooks and recreated them in photorealistic detail using coloured pencil and watercolour. As a group, they mirror the wit and material complexity that characterises his sculptural works.
Friedman frequently uses his drawings to formally and conceptually break down objects into their most rudimentary parts before subjecting them to material transformation. ‘Self Portrait for Sugar Cubes’ (2018) records the minute workings of this metamorphic process by revealing how ‘Untitled (Self-Portrait)’ (1999), a replica of the artist constructed out of hundreds of sugar cubes, was originally conceived. Featuring a detailed cross-section of Friedman’s body, the artist has fastidiously copied the pixelated diagram on a much larger scale, complete with the original numerical workings and doodles. As with the other works in the exhibition, the sketch’s original function as a preparatory drawing has been negated in favour of celebrating the image’s formal qualities.
Friedman’s work is often autobiographical, recreating arbitrary elements from his own life and personal surroundings. In ‘Mom Watching Shoa’ (2018), the artist’s mother is portrayed in her sitting room watching television. Friedman hones in on areas of chromatic intensity by depicting a bowl of rainbow-coloured jelly beans and a brightly patterned cushion. Characteristically tongue-in-cheek, the work’s vibrancy is in sharp contrast to the solemnity of the nine-hour Holocaust documentary that Friedman’s mother is intensely watching.
This element of humour is also shared by ‘Not Things’ (2018), in which Friedman swaps the names individually assigned to a group of cartoon objects, thereby altering their iconographic meaning; a half-eaten apple becomes an electric guitar, a puzzle piece becomes a gun, and a dead fish becomes a yellow star. This simple gesture manifests the artist’s wider desire to skew our perception of ordinary, day-to-day objects and experiences.
As in his sculptures, Friedman continues to confound material expectations in this body of work through his deployment of trompe l’oeil. Whilst ‘Big Bang’ (2018) reveals the textured grain of the paper in his sketchbook, Friedman’s distinctive handwriting in ‘Not Dot’ (2018) – as well as the ‘reverse workings’ of the page behind – is mimicked with inconceivable precision. Taking months to reproduce, the array of images that feature in these drawings demonstrates the extensive breadth of ideas that inform Friedman’s practice.
A group of video projections from the ‘Ghosts and UFOs: Projections for Well-Lit Spaces’ series (2017) will also be on view in Gallery Two. Unseen in the UK, these works signify a break in Friedman’s artistic investigation by steering away from the use of physical materials. Using complex computer technology, Friedman plays with the immateriality of natural light to question notions of objecthood.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)