Comparative Guts

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Martha Friedman, 29 Untitled (2018)

Concrete, silicone rubber, and steel; Photo credit: John Berens. Courtesy of the artist

The work of Martha Friedman registers her ongoing experiments with materials—especially silicone rubber, concrete, and glass—capable of radical phase change under controlled conditions. She puts these material transformations into feedback loops with the capacities of the human body to endure or change. Her practice muddies the gendering of sculpture, often in collaboration with the dancer and choreographer Silas Riener. The series of twenty-nine untitled sculptures that were exhibited together in the show “Castoffs” intervenes in the marble-heavy tradition of classical art as it has been defined through a series of receptions of the articulated male form in fifth- and fourth-century BCE Greek sculpture. Friedman incorporates the flotsam of earlier work—solid rubber tubing that recalls viscera and mats like tissue samples, all in colors associated with the four humors; large metal spikes—into fragments of a virtuosic whole cast in concrete. Made from alginate molds taken through an arduous process with Riener, the fragments are sometimes rough-edged, pocked crusts, sometimes smooth and solid. They evoke the body as both shell and core. Staged on high pedestals ordered into a grid, the varied assemblages suggest a disciplined dis/re-embowelment, where matter is both released from form and threaded back through it. The “castoffs” refer to Friedman’s recycling of material in her studio as well as the constant trafficking of changeable material through the gut as metabolic processes sustain the body in time.
(Brooke Holmes)