Tom Friedman (b. 1965, Saint Louis, MO; lives and works in Leverett, MA) is a conceptual artist known for his meticulously fabricated work, including sculpture, painting, drawing, video, and installation. Friedman investigates the concepts of perception, logic, and plausibility with a strong attention to detail. Since the early 1990s, Friedman has utilized an array of sophisticated processes to achieve a seemingly mass-produced appearance. His highly conceptual work engages both maximalist and minimalist aesthetics, as well as recalling those of Pop Art, and his practice is deeply engaged with the history of sculpture.
Friedman draws from personal experiences to recreate prosaic moments from everyday life. His work tends toward the darkly humorous, and his often sarcastic use of materials has distinguished his practice over the last 30 years. Made from a wide variety of unconventional materials, such as Styrofoam, foil, plastic, wire, paper, clay, and hair, Friedman’s work often surprises the viewer. As Friedman explains, “Art, for me, is a context to slow the viewer’s experience from their everyday life in order to think about things they haven’t thought about, or to think in a new way.”
Throughout his career, Friedman has developed an important body of outdoor and public sculptures. Most of these are cast from maquettes rendered out of aluminum roasting pans, further cementing the artist’s alchemic ability to transform the everyday. In his celebrated large-scale sculpture Looking Up (2015), a figure looks to the sky, inviting viewers to stand at its base and do the same. Looking Up was installed at the entrance of Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens in January 2021, and has previously been exhibited at Park Avenue, New York; South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois; and the Contemporary Austin, Texas, among others.
Tom Friedman received a BFA in graphic illustration from Washington University in St. Louis in 1988 and an MFA in sculpture from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1990. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at Gagosian Gallery (2006 and 2008); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL (2000); Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO (1997); and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (1995). Friedman’s work has also been included in major group exhibitions including Shapes of Space, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (2007); Recent Acquisitions: Contemporary Sculpture, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (2004); SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM (2004); Self-Portraits from the Permanent Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (2000); New Work: Drawing Today, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (1997); and the São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo, Brazil (1996). Friedman has received numerous awards, including an Academy Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1993), the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (1993), and a grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation (2001). He was also a finalist for the Hugo Boss Prize in 2000. Friedman lives and works in Leverett, Massachusetts.
Artist portrait by Tony Luong.