The Mass presents Room Service, a solo exhibition by Sam Friedman, curated and produced in collaboration with the Detroit-based gallery, Library Street Collective, and US-based creative agency and artist management firm, ICNCLST. The exhibition marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in Japan and will present all new canvas works from his ongoing ‘Cave Paintings’ series.
With their flowing lines and subtle colour gradations, Friedman’s works are a harmony of abstract forms that ripple across the surface of the canvas. Taking a formalist approach to painting, Friedman’s canvases are an exercise in abstraction that echo organic elements and textures found in nature. Finding inspiration in the natural landscape of his surroundings in upstate New York, his paintings are an attempt to put the images in his mind to canvas, whilst constantly adapting and changing his approach as the work unfolds. Often working on numerous canvases simultaneously, he creates iterations and sequences of works that share similar ideas, with each work becoming a unique manifestation of a concept that he can return to and examine in perpetuity.
Much like his painting process, Friedman resists concept of time and linear narratives. The seeds of his ‘Cave Paintings’ series began to emerge in his earlier representational landscape works, continuing and flowing through abstraction and repetition. With each subsequent exhibition, the series fluidly evolves and shows the subtle shifts in Friedman’s process. Due to the continuous nature of his practice, these changes move back and forth between abstraction and representation in a cyclical manner that is both methodical and repetitive, yet unrestricted and spontaneous. Speaking of this process, Friedman stated that his works start at a point from which he builds and adjusts as the idea grows, but oftentimes ‘the painting takes control [and] becomes its own boss.’ For Friedman it is the acceptance of this process and allowing the work to find its own direction that enables him to create images full of intrigue and limitless possibilities.
Friedman’s works follow in the tradition of American Abstract Expressionist painters such as Clyfford Still and Barnett Newman, however, his points of reference are far more wide-reaching, looking also towards representational artists, landscapes and Japanese woodblock prints. Closer inspection of Friedman’s works reveal that the colour gradations are formed from demarcated lines that seamlessly shift into one another. The lines and forms of the painted surface are reminiscent of the contour lines on a map, or the rippling raked lines of a ‘karesansui’ (Japanese Zen garden), both stylised representations of nature that have been unified into a graphic delineation. Indeed there are certain parallels between ‘karesansui’ and Friedman’s paintings as both, in effect, capture the essence of the natural landscape around them and create a meditative space wherein the repetitive act of painting can be equated to the act of raking gravel within a stone garden. The cycle of repetition and building layers of colour allows for the action of painting to become second nature and instinctual. This creates a sense of sacrosanct purity, with the dedication to his craft and the need to recreate the images within his mind almost becoming an act of spiritual devotion.
This exhibition will show a number of large scale works including a large- scale tondo and, much like the cyclical nature of his painting practice, the exhibition welcomes a return to creating small-scale continuous works painted across multiple canvases. We hope you will take this opportunity to visit the exhibition and experience the serenity and complexity of the works on display.
Born in Oneonta, New York in 1984.
Lives and works in Pleasant Valley, Upstate New York.
Friedman studied illustration and typography at the Pratt Art Institute in New York.
After graduating, Friedman worked various jobs before landing a position as studio manager for the artist KAWS. After several years in this position, he embarked on his solo career and has presented exhibitions in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Courtesy of the Artist and Library Street Collective
Hours 12:00 – 19:00
Closed Monday and Tuesday
The Mass presents INDEX #5, a solo exhibition by Yukari Nishi, from Saturday 5th February to Sunday 27th February 2022.
Nishi’s acrylic paintings are created from visual materials collected by the artist including personal photographs, old magazine clippings and found images from the internet. These images are placed together to form digital collages that serve as a sketch from which she paints onto canvas. Through painting, Nishi’s works present a contemporary re-interpretation of collage. Her unique process can be seen as an almost psychotherapeutic act of creation, allowing for her to go back and forth between her inner world and projected self, with the works serving as a record of these actions. The exhibition will feature all new works, including large-scale canvas paintings that mark a career-first for the artist. Nishi’s works transcend the world of collage to create bold compositions of endless skies, lush green meadows, lawns, and unidentified creatures with no name or identity.
By placing these disparate images of various resolutions together, there is a sense of unease and underlying darkness that undercuts the brightly coloured setting. However, the dissonant textures of different media such as collage and film are beautifully fused and expressed through her painting technique. The humorous yet disturbing world depicted in Nishi’s paintings are derived from science fiction and horror movies from the 1980’s, with the primitive creatures and bizarre monsters featured in these films providing a rich source of inspiration for Nishi. These are then reimagined within visual narratives that are based on her own personal experiences to form scenes of uncanny familiarity that question everyday life. Many of the works featured in the exhibition are a reflection of current times, with the works drawing subconscious observations from Nishi’s days spent quietly indoors with her family amidst the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. For example, a hamburger, something usually eaten by hand is placed next to a bottle of disinfectant, or a young girl wearing a helmet to protect herself from the outside air.
This sense of unease that is characteristic to Nishi’s work is further accentuated by curious directions of light and recurring motifs such as faceless figures, stuffed toys with no emotion, and inanimate animals. These absurd compositions interweave fiction with reality and depict distortions of the ordinary world in a unique way that deeply appeals to the viewer’s sense of meaning. Her works utilise the intrinsic properties of collage to allow for a multitude of interpretations, with each individual component providing limitless possibilities, transformed into an embodiment of Nishi’s individual pictorial expression. The exhibition will also include an installation and film in Room 02 of The Mass, recreating Nishi’s world on a life-size scale.
After graduating from the design department of the Kyoto University of Art and Design, Yukari taught herself painting, and made use of the compositional techniques and knowledge from her studies to nurture and develop her current style. She continues to produce works and has received recognition both in Japan and abroad. Her work was most recently exhibited in 2021 at ‘VIEWING’, a group exhibition at SAI in Tokyo.
Born 1978 in Kagawa Prefecture.
Nishi lives and works in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan.
After graduating from Kyoto University of Arts (formerly Kyoto University of Art and Design), Nishi has been exhibiting her paintings and mixed media works at galleries and art fairs in Japan and abroad since 2004. The surrealist expression found in Nishi’s acrylic paintings depict a strange and fantastic world with a depth of knowledge and visual narratives, veiled with an air of nostalgia. Nishi is also a popular muse within the Japanese music scene, collaborating with artists and musicians on CD cover designs, posters, tour merchandise, music videos, and video productions.
Untitled Scene: K, 2021 Acrylic on Fabric 728 × 1,030 x 30mm @Yukari Nishi, The Mass