New York

John Freeman

Reese Palley Gallery

John Freeman’s blood systems are revolting without purpose. They use a guaranteed shock device––real blood––without justification in terms of a special message conveyed by its presence. Everyone is horrified by the sight of blood; that’s no revelation. In fact, most people are so horrified that any more sophisticated content attached to a piece in the form of political or ecological commentary is totally obscured by the viewer’s simple negative response.

Apparently, Freeman came to Reese Palley’s director with a set of plans for the proposed machines. The director liked the idea on paper and told Freeman to go ahead and build them. That’s just where the project should have remained––on paper. Freeman does schematic drawings that are visually interesting. Similarly skilled sketches of the blood machines would have made their point without effacing it by the turn-off response engendered by the red stuff. At last report, machines were breaking down forcing gallery staff members to get blood on them in repair efforts.

Mechanical questions aside, considerable effort went into building the machines, and it shows. They are not crudely made; it’s too bad their concept is. So far the huge space at Palley has been mobilized only once, by the Solari exhibition. It is still one of the most extravagant spaces in town and it would be a pleasure to see it utilized more effectively.

Kasha Linville