Art in the City: Foiled Again 

Tom Friedman, Aluminum Foil Lever House, through September 16

I hope you’ve got stock in Reynolds Wrap. Master of ordinary materials Tom Friedman, who’s made a name for himself using little more than spaghetti, eraser shavings, toothpaste and pubic hair, is at it again. This time he’s applied his outlandishly creative skills to the malleable metal medium most of us keep in our kitchen cabinets, installing ten eye-catching pieces in the Lever House’s shiny Midtown lobby. Aluminum Foil Circle is a slap-dash sculpture of 12 inch-high figures holding hands in a ring. Their leaning, leaping bodies — made from crumpled foil whose shoddiness is only highlighted by its placement in a velvet-lined vitrine — make undeniable reference to Matisse’s Dancers. The inexactitude of the foil people is in opposition to a much more carefully made figure that lies on the floor nearby: the delicately detailed Aluminum Foil Birth, which shows off Friedman’s technical abilities and highlights his often baffling choice of subject matter. A bald, three-foot-long woman lying spread-eagle and wearing nothing but a string of pearls looks shocked as a large orb emerges from between her legs. A bit of Ron Mueck-meets-Aliens humor, the piece fits nicely into this martian metal landscape (in whose center stands a large, googly-eyed extraterrestrial king crowned with cardboard tubes from aluminum foil rolls). In the window of the lobby hangs the piece that stops passing pedestrians. It’s a grouping of 100-odd expertly crafted foil items — ranging from a realistically rendered blueberry pie (complete with serving knife) to a kitten — all hanging from the ceiling by invisible fishing line. The piece is an explosion of cartoonish bits and pieces, a tornado of unrelated objects swept together. We are left to conjure up riddles about their relationships to each other (what do an empty speech bubble and an ice cream cone have in common?), and to ponder Friedman’s expert creation of that which, ultimately, remains meaningless.

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