Originally published in Artillery Magazine jul/aug 2010 Vol. 4 Issue 6
Erik Frydenborg’s first solo-exhibition at Cherry and Martin consists of sculptural groupings that bring to mind a kind of imaginary high-end boutique filled with commodities that entreat the viewer with their gorgeous abstracted forms and unrelenting delectable uselessness. Walking through his show one gets the feeling that one should be shopping, or at least browsing, for something to die for.
The most arresting of Frydenborg’s works contain small sliced polyurethane molds of the negative space left by absent forms. These lumpy thingamabobs, which ungulate with surfaces resembling goosebumped skin, are pigmented in hues reminiscent of sun-bleached Peptobismol, 20th century workplace beige, and Caribbean wintergreen, colors that serve to calm the abject forms and make them more appealing. They look like they should be one-of-a-kind creations, yet many are often replicated in multiples of two to four, and are positioned carefully on varying geometrically conspicuous bases that, like Brancusi plinths, serve as both pedestal and artwork.
Unfortunately, the show is marred by some inconsequential photographs, the most disappointing of which is Sunstroke, a parlor-sized portrait of an entirely blank expanse punctuated by a tiny patch of skin-like outgrowth in its bottom left corner. The photo’s “look at me” silence fails to hide the fact that it has little to say. It’s fortunate that the rest of the works in the show come with richer significance.
One of Frydenborg’s best assets is his ability to pan Modernist sludge for the equivalent of artistic gold: a signature aesthetic that lingers in the mind, affecting all similar forms in the future. This is achieved with a work like Warm Ride, where multiple versions of his sliced blobs, fresh off an assembly line, stand on pedestals of varying heights. A stark grey rubber sheet attached to the wall frames the scene. The sculptural tableau sits on a shallow white pedestal, which reasserts the work as a totalized cohesive unit; everything fits nicely together and nothing is out of place. It’s a theatrical conglomeration of forms that resists easy interpretation, but brings to mind Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni’s dynamic sculptures, with hints of Martin Kippenberger’s fantastic arrangements of transformed everyday objects. If anything is certain, it’s that these objects are important and worthy of such considered display.
Frydenborg’s sculptural works make you aware of your own judgmental gaze, how you value one object against another, because the objects in question, despite their perfect placement, are seemingly interchangeable. In their entirely abstracted state, literally produced from the negative space delineating a tangible surface, they come into play without referential touchstones. This causes much of the work to act like a showroom for mass manufactured widgets, evocative and pleasing widgets, but widgets nonetheless. The result is an environment that apes high-end display, but intentionally fails to deliver the goods. Frydenborg’s is not necessarily a critique of the gallery as yet another trinket shop, but a generative exploration into the conventions of display that typify nearly every place of purchase in a post-industrial society. If this work succeeds, which has yet to be seen, it does so by casting its signature misshapen shadow on all the venues that sell goods out there, from handbags at Louis Vuitton, to imported pineapples at Vons, making us even more aware that sometimes we want things simply because they are arranged to be wanted.