Joshua Liner Gallery is pleased to present Happy Place, an exhibition of new works by New York based artist Sam Friedman. This will be the artist’s inaugural exhibition with the gallery, featuring large-scale works on canvas and Freidman’s Happy Place series—a collection of fifty small sized works. The artist will be in attendance for the opening reception on Thursday, January 15, 2015.
The chief ambition of Friedman’s paintings place emphasis on the study of line, form, vibrant color, texture, and the process of painting itself. The abundance of thick, undulating lines and overlapping layers of vibrant, opaque color create otherworldly landscapes that are both captivating and warming. Each work is completed freehand, with no more than a quick preliminary sketch for planning. Rather than meticulously devising, the artist prefers a more spontaneous approach of picking up a paintbrush and moving directly to paint, allowing the tools and the immediate process to dictate the outcome. This important and skillful exercise results in an expressive body of work, free from rigidity.
In contrast to his earlier, entirely abstract paintings, Friedman’s inclusion of realistic elements introduced a new direction for his work. For Friedman, the use of representational forms allows for a reflection upon sentimental memories, simultaneously creating a more approachable image. The beaches—a significant and frequent motif of Friedman’s paintings—emerged in the artist’s work in the summer of 2008, after a day spent at Rockaway Beach, observing an oncoming storm. The beaches stand as an important regional beacon of identity for the artist, who was raised and continues to reside in Upstate New York. Friedman remembers his father describing the beach as a place people venture to with a common goal, a place to escape from the structures we have created. The artist explains, “There is a comfort in going to the edge of the world we live in, and just looking out at the void.”
Elements depicted in the individual works within Friedman’s Happy Place series are snapshots of the artist’s life, reduced to their simplest forms. Lobsters represent happy memories of childhood vacations in New England. For Friedman, lobsters signify comfort and pleasure, as well as luxury—a food that is not easily afforded, and thus symbolizes the artist’s personal aspirations to make a living and support his own future family. Other works include drug paraphernalia—reflecting on Friedman’s youthful experiences with intoxication and experimentation, and in a broader sense, the turbulence of young adulthood. Friedman’s abstract nudes are a personal love letter to his wife. To the artist, she embodies love, companionship and warmth.
Friedman abstracts these works through magnification of particular aspects. The nudes are only a fragment of a nude, with headless figures or a hint of a breast. Some of the lobster works may only be evident in the form of a tail. This abstraction effectively distances these works from a personal biography, and it is through abstract painting and stripping back to their simplest forms that the artist hopes the work will speak to a vast audience.
Each of the works in Friedman’s Happy Place series is to be considered independently. However, the presentation as a singular grid of fifty small sized works strengthen their function and resonance; forming a visual map of the artist’s life, memories and the things he holds dear—and perhaps, thoughts we can appreciate and apply to our own lives as well.
Born 1984 in Oneonta, New York, Sam Friedman received his BFA in Commercial Art and Illustration from Pratt Institute in 2006. As a studio assistant to artist KAWS for many years, Friedman notes this as an important contribution to his development as a contemporary artist. Solo exhibitions include EASY at Library Street Collective, Detroit, MI (2014), BEACH at Space 1026, Philadelphia, PA (2013), and Territories Unexplored at Nuartlink Gallery, Norwalk, CT (2012). Selected group exhibitions include Summer Mixer at Joshua Liner Gallery, New York, NY (2014), Exhibit Z at Library Street Collective, Detroit, MI (2014), and July Group Show at Guerrero Gallery, San Francisco, CA (2013).