Friedman's approach to understanding the world and its logic has long been expressed through the laborious, painstakingly precise and unexpected methods that he uses. His work is often autobiographical, recreating random elements from his own life and surroundings. To create these sculptures and objects he uses everyday materials including styrofoam, paint, paper, card, clay, wire, plastic, hair and fuzz. He pays obsessive attention to detail in each work, particularly in the replication of personal characteristics.
Friedman states: "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 had an important mid-career exhibition in 2000 entitled ‘Tom Friedman: The Epic in the Everyday' at the South-Eastern Centre for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA. This exhibition toured to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, and The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. A monograph on the artist was published by Phaidon in 2001.
Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Always the Beginning', Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, UK (2018); ‘Ghosts and UFOs: Projections for Well-Lit Spaces', Luhring Augustine, New York (2017), travelled to Vista Mare Studio, Miilan, Italy and Parrasch Heijnen Gallery, Los Angeles, California; ‘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, USA (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, USA (2009); ‘Pure Invention', Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Saint Louis (2006); ‘Tom Friedman', South London Gallery, London, England (2004); ‘Stitching', Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2002).
Notable group exhibitions include ‘My Head is a Haunted House', Sadie Coles, HQ, London, UK (2019); ‘Drawn Together Again', FLAG Art Foundation, New York, USA (2019); ‘Digital Worlds: New Media from the Museum's Collection, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, Texas (2018); ‘Pizza is God !', NRW-Forum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany (2018); ‘Sculpture Milwaukee', outdoor installation, Milwaukee (2018); ‘Process and Practice: 40 Years of Experimentation', The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2017-2018); ‘Blessed Inaction', Kranenburgh Museum, Bergen, Netherlands (2017); ‘Get Outta That Spaceship . . .!', Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York (2017); ‘Victors for Art: Michigan's Alumni Collectors', University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, Michigan (2017); ‘Tom Friedman (+ The Birthday Show)', 1969 Gallery, New York (2016-2017); ‘Explode Every Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder', Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, Massachusetts (2017); ‘Summer School', FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2016); ‘This Is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today', Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine (2016); ‘Arts & Foods. Rituals Since 1851', Triennale di Milano, Italy (2015); ‘Visual Deception II: Into the Future', The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Shibuya-ku, Japan; touring to Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, Kobe, Japan; Nagoya City Art Museum, Nagoya, Japan (2015); ‘Room by Room: Monographic Presentations from the Faulconer and Rachofsky Collections', The Warehouse, Dallas, Texas, USA (2014); ‘Study from the Human Body', Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, England (2014); ‘Seismic Shifts', The National Academy Museum, Manhattan, New York, USA (2013); ‘Lifelike', Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, USA (2013); ‘Invisible Art: About the Unseen, 1957 - 2012', The Hayward Gallery, London, England (2012); ‘Paper', Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Nice, France (2012); ‘All that Glisters', Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, England (2011); ‘Floor Corner Wall', Fort Worth Contemporary Arts, Fort Worth, Texas, USA (2010); and ‘Chasing Napoleon', Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2009).
Friedman's works are included in prominent collections internationally, including the Aspen Art Museum, Colorado; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, and Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall, Stockholm.