Matt Freedman: The Devil Tricked Me

This is on view from 05.10.13 — 06.16.13 at Studio 10, 56 Bogart St. Brooklyn, NY. Go see it.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d never actually seen his work before except for a few props for videos or performances online. I tried not to look up much of my professors’ work before I took their classes because, in general, it is a terrible measure of how good or helpful a teacher will be.

The work at this show is given context by Matt Freedman in a personal way, which is unusual. Most of the gallery swag is written by someone else or written by the artist to sound like it was written by someone else, and then formated for distribution. But at this show, as you walk in the gallery you immediately notice a hand written sign on basic strathmore drawing paper, written in all capital letters with vine charcoal. 

        Everyone that walked in read it.

I wish I had taken a picture to remember the words, but that felt disrespectful to the impermanence of their display and construction. It was something to effect of:

        “MY BODY AND, I SUSPECT, MY MIND HAVE BEEN COMPROMISED, SO I DELIVER THIS ART TO YOU THE ONLY WAY THAT I CAN, WITHOUT SKILL”

The impact of a handwritten admission of weakness in the place where there is usually a glossly flier proclaiming genius in a field of unique interests… the impact, for me at least, was immediate. It slowed me down.

Instead of looking for the THIS OBJECT = THIS IDEA equations that are common to this kind of sculptural work, I slowed down and tried to look past it. Instead of evaluating craft and appraising aesthetic value, tried to feel it. Or maybe more accurately, I was made to feel it.

Often the THIS = THIS game of contemporary sculpture can be a thinly veiled attempt to veil intentions by using references designed to show how smart or unique or educated the author is. And they often do show those things quite well, but it can be difficult to feel anything from them as their ability to communicate doesn’t reach beyond their desire to impress. 

But in this show, the mind as well as the body had been compromised, so intellectual conceit was off the table from the beginning, rendering the THIS = THIS equation remarkably readable. Not just readable but communicative; it talked. 

      Forgive me for two quick qualifiers:

          1 I can’t speak to Matt’s earlier work but I suspect that it has always been communicative in this way regardless of state of mind. 2 Although he may suspect that his mind is in some way compromised, it still works better than mine, and I’ll bet, yours.

The references were mostly signs of bad omens, given to us so we could feel their impact and their intention: pennies wrong side down, broken mirrors, heads on a wall showing a progression towards cancer through cigarette after cigarette, umbrellas opened, black cats, and ladders to walk under. Unlike most shows, everyone got the references and the sense that everyone around you understood these omens combined itself with a suppressed superstition that I think we all have and that gave the show power through a sense of shared experience.

Most pieces consisted of two to five or six moves. Concise, present, and powerful. All the more powerful because of the immediacy of their construction. He had to DO THIS NOW, so he did. Without skill to him perhaps, but with an intention and attention that makes the whole show exactly what art is meant to be. 

- Anthony Bowers