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Barbara Friedman

Studio Visit: Barbara Friedman

by Paul D'Agostino

writings on artists and artworks and where they exist

Barbara Friedman in her studio in downtown Manhattan. Click on images in this post for larger views.

Barbara Friedman in her studio in downtown Manhattan. Click on images in this post for larger views.


Barbara Friedman in her studio in downtown Manhattan. Click on images in this post for larger views.

Barbara Friedman’s broadly expressive depictions of often comically collared, sometimes art-historically identifiable someones are certainly no less, and perhaps a great deal more, than parodically unsettling decapitations of the tradition of portraiture—a tradition that might be considered questionably moralizing, on the one hand, and formally deterministic, on the other—all rendered aesthetically pleasing, and freshly so, by virtue of the artist’s preference for palettes beaming with surprisingly saccharine subtleties, and for now jarred, now divisively defined, now calmly considered compositions and applications.


All the same facets of Friedman’s works render her parodical decapitations all the more uniquely, curiously unsettling.

And all the more splendidly amusing.

And all the more, in a word, bizarre.

And bizarrely hard to shake.

Like the hint of terror in a rumble of maniacal laughter—even if its source, however creepy, is harmless.

At any rate, here are a few more images of Friedman’s works to jar, confuse and amuse you. Indulge in her gleaming whites, conflagrant oranges, sugary pinks and lustrous blues.

And perhaps listen close for a peculiar cackle.


Two Coats of The Paint by Sharon Butler

Barbara Friedman

March 8, 2013

EMAIL: A note from Barbara Friedman

6:42 AM  Sharon Butler  2

Hi Sharon,

It was so nice of you and J to come [to the Soapbox at Studio 10] last night. We had to stay and say hi to latecomers, so by the time we finally got to Tutu's, you'd already left. The four of us must make a dinner date! Thanks for suggesting I send you jpegs of my work in the show. These drawings were also up initially but we took them down for the event.

For the last six months or so I've been painting in museums. I cart my paints and portable easel to the Met, the Hispanic Society or the Brooklyn Museum. It's been fun - lingering in front of a piece long after others have moved on. Here are images of some drawings (charcoal on glassine) also made on site.

I hope you find your notebook. I was thinking about that this morning. It'll be interesting to compare your two notebooks when the lost one turns up - which it inevitably will. Have you seen Jay deFeo at the Whitney?  When I lived in San Francisco she was such a legend there....

Barbara Friedman is a New York artist and a member of the distinguished art faculty at Pace University's Dyson College of the Arts and Sciences. These drawings were recently included in "20/20/13," an exhibition at Studio 10 in Bushwick that also featured work by Kevin Curran, Paul D'Agostino, Joan Logue, Cathy Quinlan, and Adam Simon.

The Brooklyn Days

Barbara Friedman

FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 2008

The Tenuous Universe

Last week I attended the E32 art series, hosted by Linda Griggs, despite some deep forebodings, based upon past unfortunate experiences with arts groups that met at cafés on the Lower East Side. I am very pleased to report that the past unfortunate experiences were NOT repeated; on the contrary, it is my sober conclusion that this event was far superior, in both content and attitude, to the Armory Fair. At least, I had a lot more fun there.

I was particularly struck by the paintings of Barbara Friedman, which at first sight appeared to be mere blurred photo-depictions, but upon deeper inspection, proved at once more painterly and more metaphysical. The physical world is indeed an illusion, resolving momentarily out of linear time, then sliding away again. 

'Ferris Wheel,' Barbara Friedman, 36"x 27", 2006

'Ferris Wheel,' Barbara Friedman, 36"x 27", 2006

A salient feature of her style is the bright, almost fluorescent underpainting, which is allowed to glow through the image at key points, intimating the existence of an otherworldly light penetrating into this one.

'The Garden of the Fitzi-Continis, 45"x 60", 2005

'The Garden of the Fitzi-Continis, 45"x 60", 2005

They manage to be romantic, melancholic and downright creepy, all at the same time.

'Yellow Splashes,' 36"x 84", 2006

'Yellow Splashes,' 36"x 84", 2006

Barbara says that she usually starts out with a specific image in mind, but often her original plan is completely obliterated by the time she is finished. Her work has been compared to Richter, of course, but has a warmth and depth that Richter's lacks....


Two Coats of the Paint: Valentine hearts painting by Sharon Butler

Barbara Friedman

October 14, 2012

Valentine hearts painting

10:10 PM  Sharon Butler  0

 I went out to Ridgewood today and caught the last day of "4 Who Paint," a group show at Valentine that features work by Lauren Collings, Barbara Friedman, Gili Levi, and Shelley Marlow. Although I didn't discern a clear curatorial premise, the paintings look good, bouncing ideas off each other and reveling in their sheer painterliness...

 Barbara Friedman

"4 Who Paint: Lauren Collings, Barbara Friedman, Gili Levy, Shelley Marlow," Valentine, Ridgewood, Queens, New York, NY. Through October 14, 2012

Face Lifts: New Paintings and Drawings by Barbara Friedman_ Artcritical

Barbara Friedman


116 Warren Street . 518 828 4539

Opens: 08/03/13, Closes: 09/15/13

“I ‘perform’ as an artist while symbolically wearing the smock of the faithful museum copyist–an old trope often associated with ‘lady’ painters. I attempt both to honor and subvert this stereotype by parking in front of images, responding to them intuitively, and letting them become generative springboards… [A]t some museums, like the Met, I have to get my painting stamped ‘this is a copy’. This official stamp marks my painting as non-art, meaning that it’s not from the museum’s collection. I think of this as the counterpart to ‘Ceçi n’est pas une pipe,’ (This is not a pipe*), an addendum that both denies the artwork’s function and let’s it take on a new function.” Barbara Friedman
exhibition closes September 15
Barbara Friedman, Dutch Woman with Yellow Lungs (after Susanna Lunden by Rubens), 2012. Oil on wood, 24 x 18 inches. Courtesy of the Artist

Paint, Memory

Barbara Friedman

Paint, Memory - Catalogue essay by Lilly Wei for In Passing, Michael Steinberg Fine Art, 2007

    The theme of disappearance and loss, time and memory is present in one way or another in all of Barbara Friedman’s paintings but became less an inquiry into the inevitabilities of the human condition inflected through a specific temperament and more inconsolable after 2001.  Friedman, who lived—and still does—very near the site of the World Trade Center was overwhelmed at first and responded to the attack tentatively, obliquely. Lightening her palette, using colors that were pale, pastel, less bold than in previous ventures, gradually softening, then blurring the contours of her images, tempering reality, Friedman depicted scenes on the verge of dissolution, seen as if through a scrim, filtered to suggest indistinct, incomplete, subjective memory. 

    The paintings that followed further explored the contiguity of unremarkable daily life with its dark, disruptive obverse.  These do not form a chronological, autobiographical narrative—although the autobiographical is encoded into the work—but are images, stripped down, scavenged from the peripheries of streaming memory, revenants persuaded into uneasy, tremulous existence.  Eventually emptied of people, depicted objects became Friedman’s surrogate personae.  The haunting Vagabonde (2003) features a white hammock emerging from a lushly, beautifully painted impressionistic ground of many-colored greys streaked with bright, shocking pinks. The hammock, psychologically and emotionally resonant, seems to swing forward out of a dream state. Christmas in July (2004) is similar in theme.  In it, an empty Adirondack chair dabbed with arbitrary patches of more strident, darker pinks is surrounded by a complex white as if in snow, confusing and conflating season and sensation.  Another is of a blurred yellow school bus, rushing through the time and space of what might be a wintry day to and from the sweet hereafter, its invisible passengers captive. There are cars and cable chairs and a cropped Ferris wheel, things in motion or about motion, perceived from odd, slightly disturbing angles. There are also traffic lights, blinking red and green, swinging solitary against a brushed, palpated sky or strung out in sequence like Chinese lanterns, flashing incandescently orange in a void. 


    In more recent work, the foreground images are clearer and in her most recent production, Friedman has re-introduced figures in ones, twos and small groups, as if reassured herself, she is reassuring her viewers.  But many compositions are still devoid of people, such as The Garden of the Finzi-Contini (2006) in which a large expanse of green tennis court takes up most of the painting and is edged by dark trees and an inflamed, portentous sky.  It has the secretive air of a crime scene and invites speculation:  Where are the players?  What happened to them?  Will they return?  (Those who have read Giorgio Bassani’s novel or saw the Vittorio de Sica film to which the painting refers know the answers.)    

    These lovely, poetic, formally inventive pictures with their Richteresque blurs seem to be on fast forward—or backward—a two-way exposition of time and memory cinematically formatted, accompanied by pop references, Proust updated.  Friedman is fixated on time and its deformations, its distortions, jostled as if recorded by a hand-held camera.  Memory also is her subject, but it is a fictive, dissembled, re-constructed memory. Wistful, vulnerable, open-ended, interrogative, self-conscious, these paintings are Friedman’s salvaging operation, her longing to excerpt remnants of life from the inexorable passage of time, her willful act of resistance to our common mortality—and her romance with it.  

Lilly Wei

    Lilly Wei is a New York-based independent curator, essayist and critic who writes regularly for Art in America and is a contributing editor atARTnews and Art Asia Pacific.