Tom Friedman was born in 1965 in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA. He lives and works in Massachusetts.
Fluctuating between the comical and conceptual, Friedman’s meticulously rendered drawings and sculptures recreate random elements from his daily life and surroundings. Confounding expectations through startling trompe l'oeil, Friedman’s works reveal his remarkable attention to detail and handicraft. What might first appear to be a simple, stable structure is, on closer inspection, intricately constructed from unexpected materials such as Styrofoam, flock, wire or even the artist’s own hair.
Inhabiting the boundary between reality and illusion, Friedman’s playful works challenge everyday processes of perception and notions of artistic value. Friedman explains, “Art, for me, is a context to slow the viewer’s experience from their everyday life in order to think about things they haven’t thought about. Or to think in a new way.”
Friedman has developed an extensive portfolio of public works centred on a series of whimsical stainless-steel sculptures. Cast from maquettes fashioned out of aluminium roasting pans, tin foil and takeaway containers, this body of work captures the artist’s alchemic ability to transform the everyday. ‘Hazmat Love’, which portrays two wrestling figures clad in this unusual protective armour, was installed at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Connecticut in 2019. ‘Takeaway’, a running figure with a towering stack of aluminium containers balanced atop its head, went on display at Beverly Gardens Park, Los Angeles in 2018. The tallest of Friedman’s sculptures at thirty-three feet high, ‘Looking Up’ was unveiled at Park Avenue in New York in 2015 before being permanently installed on Chicago’s lakefront. Other editions are on view at The Contemporary Austin, Texas and Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, Council Bluffs, Iowa. In contrast with the dramatic stasis of this gazing figure, ‘Circle Dance’ employs the lightweight aesthetic of aluminium foil to evoke a sense of joyous movement. The sculpture was installed in at Brown University Campus in 2012.
Friedman’s recent series of animations signify a break in the artist’s practice by steering away from his distinctive use of physical materials. Using light as both a rendering tool and ambient backdrop, Friedman uses complex computer technology to toy with perceptions of immateriality and question notions of objecthood. Examples of Friedman’s animations were presented in the artist’s solo exhibition ‘Always the Beginning’ at Stephen Friedman Gallery in 2018.
Friedman had an important mid-career exhibition ‘Tom Friedman: The Epic in the Everyday’ at South-Eastern Centre for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 2000. This exhibition toured to Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Aspen Art Museum, Aspen and New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. A monograph on the artist was published by Phaidon in 2001.
Notable solo exhibitions include ‘Always the Beginning’, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, England (2018); ‘Ghosts and UFOs: Projections for Well-Lit Spaces’, Luhring Augustine, New York, which travelled to Vista Mare Studio, Milan, Italy and Parrasch Heijnen Gallery, Los Angeles, California (2017); ‘Huddle’, The Star in Frisco, Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters and Practice Facility, Frisco, Texas (2017); ‘Untitled (Foundation)’, Mead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts (2016); ‘Gravity’, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, England (2014); ‘Paint and Styrofoam’, Luhring Augustine, New York (2014); Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, England (2012); ‘Up in the Air’, Magasin 3, Stockholm Konsthalle, Stockholm; touring to FRAC Montpellier, France (2010); ‘REAM’, Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, Missouri (2009); ‘Pure Invention’, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Saint Louis, Missouri (2006); ‘Tom Friedman’, South London Gallery, London, England (2004) and ‘Stitching’, Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2002).
Friedman’s works are included in prominent collections internationally, including Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California; Aspen Art Museum, Colorado; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel and Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden.