Critics’ Picks

PETER FRIEDL, 1998.

New York

Peter Friedl

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

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.