Critics’ Picks

PETER FRIEDL, 1998.

New York

Peter Friedl

Sara Meltzer Gallery
525-531 West 26th Street
April 3–May 1, 2004

It may be difficult to look at Peter Friedl’s animal costumes and images of playgrounds without thinking of pedophiles or “plushies” (fetishists with a thing for stuffed toys). But the Berlin-based artist somehow manages to fly under the radar of obscenity and present a show that charms rather than disturbs. The furry suits displayed on a dais are remnants of a 1998 project at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, where Friedl asked employees to choose an animal they had once wanted to be and then fabricated costumes based on their requests. A DVD projection presents a series of photographs of playgrounds; since 1995, Friedl has been traveling to countries all over the world, documenting these peculiar but universal social spaces. Knit together with cartoonish drawings and an animated video of a tree house—and overseen by a wall sculpture whose neon letters spell out the phrase BADLY ORGANIZED—the show combines artmaking in a variety of media with earnest investigations into the architectural, social, and psychological construction of childhood.