PU Art Museum presents “Body Matters / Martha Friedman”
“FLOATING THOUGHT 13”: This work from the series “A Natural Thickening of Thought” is part of “Body Matters / Martha Friedman,” on view May 20 through July 10 at the Princeton University Art Museum’s [email protected] on Nassau Street.
The Princeton University Art Museum presents new multimedia works by artist Martha Friedman in “Body Matters / Martha Friedman,on view from May 20 to July 10 at [email protected] Friedman, a lecturer in Princeton’s visual arts program, incorporates elements of choreography, printmaking, drawing, poured and cast rubber, blown glass, plaster, wax and concrete into his complex multimedia practice. .
Highlighting Friedman’s interest in historical practices of conservation, representation and study of the body, the exhibition brings together two new series of sculptures — Mummy Wheat (2021) and A natural thickening of thought (2022) – which draws on influences as diverse as ancient Egyptian mummification, Greco-Roman portrait busts and early 20th-century drawings by neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Presented together for the first time, these works highlight Friedman’s interest in bodies as a site and subject of scientific exploration as well as to conceptualize a spiritual realm.
“‘The Body Matters / Martha Friedman’ continues the Princeton University Art Museum‘s commitment to activating Art @ Bainbridge with powerful works created by today’s most exciting practitioners,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director. “Through his provocative and compelling use of very different materials, Friedman’s sculptures and paintings challenge the boundaries of these disciplines while inviting us to reconsider our ideas about the human body and brain.”
In the exhibition, rubber, the artist’s main medium, serves as a metaphor for the body. A liquid that becomes a malleable solid, both extensible and resistant, its texture imitates flesh. Friedman collaborated with dancer and choreographer Silas Riener, a member of the Princeton Class of 2006, to cast his head and shoulders to create the blown mold sculptures for the exhibit. This process pushed the limits of Riener’s physical training as a dancer; he maintained his posture for 90 minutes as Friedman covered his eyes, ears, nose, head and torso with rubber, heat resistant and breathing through a small slit at his mouth. Friedman suspends his animation in the sculpture, freezing his body in time.
The result of their collaboration is Mummy Wheat, a series of sculptures that combine elements of Greco-Roman portrait busts in their detailed record of individual physical attributes and ancient Egyptian mummies in the carefully patterned weave of thin rubber bands that echo linen wrapping the corpses. Their golden surfaces are also reminiscent of the golden masks that were applied to the faces of many elite coffins. In ancient Egypt, gold was associated with the radiance of the sun and the skin of the gods; in Mummy Wheat the shimmering gold surfaces also lend an air of luxury and supernatural. However, one of the greatest luxury materials in ancient Egyptian tombs was linen. Friedman studied Egyptian techniques of wrapping bodies in linen to develop the precise geometric patterns in which she wove thin ribbons of translucent rubber around the heads of these Riener casts, a tribute to the care taken in this ritual practice in ancient Egypt. The inspiration for the title of the series comes from the ancient Egyptian practice of burying corpses with wheat seeds to carry to the afterlife.
“Body Matters/Martha Friedman” also includes A natural thickening of thought, a series of rubber paintings inspired by medical drawings by Santiago Ramón y Cajal from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Cajal’s groundbreaking studies of the cellular structure of the central nervous system earned the neuroscientist a share of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1906. Friedman’s works use Cajal’s drawings as a springboard, transforming them into her own compositions, expressive gestures and shapes by hand. colored rubber.
“The Body Matters / Martha Friedman” is curated by Mitra M. Abbaspour, Haskell Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. All works featured in the exhibition are courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman, San Francisco.
In addition to the exhibition, the Princeton University Art Museum will present programming for students and the public, including an introduction to the exhibition with Friedman on May 19 at 5 p.m. at [email protected]
[email protected] is located in downtown Princeton at 158 Nassau Street. Hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free entry. For more information, visit artmuseum.princeton.edu.