In an interview conducted by John Miller for index magazine he mentioned how the work of Tom Friedman reminded him of a book he had read in his childhood.
According to Miller the book was about “how to make an airplane out of Popsicle sticks or a wall plaque out of bottle caps.”(Miller) And true enough the work of Tom Friedman exuded a modern take to the art genre of sculptures.His imaginative and ecological approach to his work of arts have recognized around the world as imaginative and has introduced the art world to a new kind of direction with regards to the construction of symbolism and how this is projected to its viewers.(Rugoff et al.
) Considered by many as the “Manzoni of the ’90s,” Friedman has popularized art by making it more relatable to its audience and consequently introduces them to a better understanding of art. Tom Friedman, a man of many words, and his got the art to prove it.(Zinsmeister)Born in 1965 in St. Louis Missouri, Tom Friedman grew up in an environment where art was considered to be a foreign thing.
No one really took artists seriously and regarded this profession as hardly a profession at all. But Friedman was raised by a highly supportive and closely knit family which provided him with an ample amount of encouragement to pursue his talents.At an early age he was already entrenched with the exemplary works of different artists. He also showed enormous talent during his teenage years as seen in his charcoal based drawings that mimicked Thomas Hart Benton drawings.
(Pressplay) This early interest in the arts carried on to his adulthood and in the year 1988 he enrolled himself in the Graphic Illustration program of Washington University in St. Louis in order to pursue his dreams and talents.The choice made regarding his college education was well thought of. Before arriving with the decision to enroll in the graphic illustration program, he had considered delving into the fields of architecture and graphic design.
Although Friedman considered the eventual practicality of the said programs, he realized that “it wasn’t it”(Hainley, Cooper, & Searle) and decided to do what he did best, illustration. However his desire to get closer to the direct activity of making something led him to explore other options. One of such options is sculpting. As a result, in 1990 he enrolled at university of Illinois’s sculpting program.
Here, he mastered the art of sculpting and eventually developed a unique approach to the art form. During his stay in Chicago for his post-graduate degree, Friedman felt a sudden urge to cleanse himself artistically. This cleansing marked the turning point in both Friedman’s life and his artistic career.(Pressplay)Upon his graduation, he went home and turned his windowless studio upside down or rather inside out, as he threw everything that was in the studio out and painted the entire room white.
Most scholars believed that this allowed Friedman to take on a clean new slate with regards to his artistic styles and techniques.(Rugoff et al.) From this point, he started to reevaluate his approach and processes. He re-introduced object one by one into the space.
This further exemplifies the artist’ obsession towards the construction of space through systems. The first object that was brought in the studio was a menotrome. When asked about the experience, he simply described it as the mentorome “just clicked back and forth.” Many scholars believed that this reflected Friedman’s love for circular logic.
They argued that the “clicking back and forth” of the menetrome showed how Friedman believed that time is not linear; the past is just as connected to the present as the present is to the past.(Bigornia) Most of his works embodied this idea as it showcased the relationship and inseparability of his contemporary artistic style and art history.(Camnitzer)Home life is a recurring theme in most of Friedman’s works. Growing up in St.
Louis, a small community, he experienced first hand the relation between the constructions of a home life to one’s personal identity. He explained how the “sense of being at home” gave him a “sense of being yourself” and consequently encourage him to make use of everyday materials in his art. (Hainley)According to him, “I like the connection to everyday materials, things just sitting around the house.” (Smith)This is also probably the reason why most critics described his works as slightly more personal and even appears auto biographical at times.
As an artist Tom Friedman is described as an artist of focus, fortitude, and precision. His ability to create masterful arts with such vivacious details added to the appeal of his works. According to the artist, he probably acquired such skills at a very early age. During his childhood he was enrolled in a form of martial arts, the Tai Kwon Do.
(Huff) His training in the said sport introduced him to the idea of ideal situations and how it is “important to team that ideal situation with more like real time.” (Miller) In addition his training allowed him to be more disciplined with regards to the construction of his work rather than just doing it for the sake of doing it.Tom Freidman’s career was launched when Feature, Inc., a gallery in New York City, took notice of his work which eventually led them to build up exhibitions around them.
(Hainley) However prior to this, Friedman’s career was already gaining popularity with local art enthusiasts. In the 1990, 4 years before his eventful exhibition or feature, in., Friedman delves into an unapologetic broad of slapstick concept.(Watts) Most of his sculptures feature an animated recapitulation of lifelike insects.
In 1992, Friedman started to incorporate household materials into his works and this eventually led to a fresher concept in the art scene. Later on this sculpting style would bring him both enormous popularity and a good and solid fan base.(MCCARTHY) It was during the years 1992 onwards where he developed and perfected this process of recycling in art by expressing it in the most unconventional and exaggerated way possible.The years that followed after his exhibit for Feature, Inc.
, Freidman travelled all over the world to promote his art and as well as pick up various styles and approaches to art along the way. These styles inspired him to construct art forms that were more “urban” or “modern,” which related more to the current culture and society. (Schulman)From Geneva Switzerland to Tokyo Japan, the years from 1995 to 1999 marked Freidman’s experimental years.(Godfrey) His works varied both in material and style.
Although he still made use of household goods such as straws and toothpicks, he had also started to incorporate industrial and commercial goods into the mix. Examples of which were cereal boxes, playboy magazines and the like. The main theme that surrounds Friedman’s works in the early 2000 up to present was the conceptual strategies of assemblage which highlighted the central ideas of “man vs. the machine.
”(Bolin & Blandy) As he was hosting most of his exhibits in highly industrialized cities such as Tokyo and London, Friedman was determined to prove that in art the competition was not in speed but rather in accuracy. With the rise of massive structures for mass production, Freidman’s work became more renowned because of its process rather than its aesthetic value. He created a primitive form of mass production without losing his self in the system. This separated him from most artists of his generation by focusing more on his work and “looking for ways to make things easier.
”(Learner) He revealed that he looks at the process itself as “as striving to reveal the human element by denying it. (Miller)” Most artists of his decade highly romanticized humanity’s relationship with machines and this was used by Friedman to inspire him to indulge in processes that made him act like he was a machine. He adds by saying that this phenomenon “always interested me: the absurdity of wanting to be a machine.” (Miller)Basically, Tom Freidman’s work can be described as “Minimalism is conceptualized and conceptualism is minimized.
”(Suleiman) This sense of being in two places at the same but never solely in one illustrates the artist’s obsessive approach to circular logic. Most of his works mirrored reality by adding a comedic and overtly exaggerated appeal to it. His works were constantly in between the lines of illusion and reality that it was often able to blurred the lines between them. Using materials taken from homes, candy stores and “the human body,” he creates modern sculptures that were humorous yet mimicked reality in the most absurd way.
His works according to critics showcased his visual vocabulary, showing its audience that “less is a bore.”(Stallabrass) He often depicted his sculptures in wacky and colorful backdrops that contained an element of surprise. This allowed him to use everyday products to shock its viewers and eventually grasp their attention.Most of Friedman’s work were unnamed and was only identified through the use of their construction years.
However, one of his most famous, if not the most famous, work of art was coincidently that only which he had attributed a name to and was aptly titled “Everything.” “Everything” was a 36 inches by 36 inches sheet of paper wherein Friedman had transcribed every word that was found from a standard English dictionary. Using the blue 36×36 background, Friedman scribbles the words across heterogeneously. From afar it resembles tiny colorful paint splatters.
But up-close, the words became more evident. According to the artist “what interests me is my inability to process everything I’m confronted with and the idea of the whole.” (Miller)This particular artwork addresses such by showing the artist’s obsessive mapping out of complex systems. “Everything” symbolizes how a particular system becomes defined within a specific space.
(Silverblatt) The words found in the sheet of paper collectively formed a total system, the English Language that was defined in space by the paper. This artwork, like most of his other works, were characterized by Friedman’s obsession over circular logic. He wants the viewer to see the object not as merely the indicator of the message but as the explanation, the message itself.This particular work of art intimated me at first.
Its massive size and the chaos brought about by the flood of words before my eyes were too overwhelming for me. However when I got better acclamted to the artwork I realized that it hat more depth than I initially thought. I must admit that my initial reaction to his work were not at all impressive, since it is my least favorite piece from the artist. However, by scrutinizing the work deeper, I finally understood what Friedman was trying to say about the piece’s message being the piece itslef.
It enabled me to look at the piece from a different angle. Usually when we look at an art piece, we scrutinize its aesthetic properties and find its meaning through them. However in this particular piece, I had to look at the symbolism, what the piece represented, in order to appreciate its true beauty.In addition, the minimalist yet highly colorful work of art made me more aware of the amount and quality of work the artist had to put into making the piece.
I had a new found respect for Friedman’s process as it made me realize the human capability to mimic fantasy as to how machines mimimc humanity’s reality. Tom Friedman is undeniably one of the most brilliant and artistic minds of our time, his works ability to transcend all cultures has made him an international star in the art world and I definetly look forward to his artistic ventures in the future.BibliographyBigornia, J. C.
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