Los Angeles

Terri Friedman

In her second solo show at Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Terri Friedman continued her exploration of fluidity as subject matter, subtext, and material property in a group of new paintings in transparent or translucent acrylic poured onto Plexiglas surfaces. Friedman’s paintings descend from unusual precursors: Janet Sobel and Knud Merrild, who, in 1940s New York and Los Angeles, respectively, prefigured action-oriented uses of liquid paint media with more delicate experiments in mingling and controlling the movement of the material.

Like Merrild’s “flux” paintings, Friedman’s pictures deal in swirling colors, and in using the flow of one deposit of paint to affect the flow of another. The results are images that, though fixed, feel perpetually nascent. Friedman’s works are also fascinating documents of process. We see how material competes and collaborates to give rise to an image, and, in looking, we understand the different effects of a dribble, a slosh, or the impregnation of one puddle of color with a drop of another. But Friedman remains a move ahead, literally working in a highly fluid situation but able to balance her fondness for the serendipitous with a chess player’s penchant for strategic thinking.

While the legacy of the pour in twentieth-century painting is weighted toward abstraction, Friedman pushes it toward the representational, using marbling and rippling effects to suggest rock formations, torrents, flora, and atmosphere. Resting on small shelves, Friedman’s Plexiglas panels lean with their lower edges a few inches out from the wall. This placement amplifies the effect normally derived from a painter’s use of glazing, in which light traveling through transparent paint bounces off the substrate and back at the viewer. In Friedman’s works, as the light travels right through the substrate, its bounce off the wall results in an almost palpable luminosity, and because the paintings essentially create projections of themselves on the walls directly behind them, the optical result is a combination 3-D and moiré effect. The works thus channel the tendencies of luminist painting and Op art, putting them in the service of one another.

Appropriately, Friedman’s is a world in flux. Ice Cold Molten (all works 2007) foregrounds icicle-laden branches against a backdrop of geologically young mountains and mist-shrouded glaciers. Plastic Fantastic Plunge, on the other hand, is all hot and bothered, as a pair of green objects that are either trees or peaks appear ready to burst into flame, while a whirlpool of lava wells up beneath them. In Slippery Grove, ancient, knobby trees dot a landscape of rocks resembling sliced-open agates that is suddenly bisected by a turquoise torrent—a fl ash flood so erotic as to make one blush. And in Harmonic Swell, a collection of particularly Japanese-looking waves, seen from behind a blossoming tree, gather themselves into a tsunami that seems to pause, as if considering where to let loose.

Unabashedly Pop and decorative, Friedman’s paintings are nonetheless far from landscape lite. Rather, they are elegant meditations on a world in which our awareness of nature’s movements, once comprehended in glacial time and cyclical predictability, has itself become more fluid.

Christopher Miles