Artist Spotlight: Tom Friedman

When I was a new college student, I took an art studio class that opened my eyes to the genius of artist Tom Friedman. Our instructor showed us a book about him, and I became mesmerized by his usage of ordinary household materials such as paper, toilet paper, trash bags, and pencils. Now I see sculpture in a different light; not all art has to be made from traditional materials such as wood, metal, or glass.

Friedman is a conceptual artist because he makes us ask the question: What is art history?

For example, he once created a piece called “1,000 Hours of Staring” by literally staring at a blank sheet of white paper for 1,000 hours… he “created” a history with the object.  When someone else looks at it, they simply see a sheet of blank paper without knowing the history behind it.

here’s a synopsis from the book:

“The work of Tom Friedman captures for many the essence of art at the beginning of a new century: modest in scale; imaginative and ecological; painstakingly crafted and “unheroic”. Friedman suggests a new direction in art – post-video; post-political/identity issues; post-digital media; post-ready-mades. He works in a windowless studio (more like a playground-kitchen-laboratory) in rural Masachusetts, relentlessly inventing these startling ephemeral objects “out of the stuff in my house” -bits of Styrofoam, packing material, bottle tops, pencil shavings, plastic straws, dental floss, spaghetti, toothpicks, bubble gum. Some of his works are too delicate to move, and exist above all in photographs – and in the imagination. This is art which, to quote “New York Times” critic Roberta Smith again, “raises wonderful questions about the making and seeing of art”, about paying attention, about how we spend our time, and about the pleasures of small transformations producing sudden beauty. Solo exhibitions of Tom Friedman’s works have been held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. A major touring exhibition of his work, “Tom Friedman: The Epic in the Everyday”, in 2000-2002 is at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts, San Francisco, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York and Southeastern Centre for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.”

colored construction paper



trash bags, opened then stuffed into one another


ink from one ballpoint pen, until the ink ran out

masking tape

human hair on a bar of soap


2 responses to “Artist Spotlight: Tom Friedman

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