Exhibition of new and recent work by artist Tom Friedman opens at Lehmann Maupin Seoul
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Exhibition of new and recent work by artist Tom Friedman opens at Lehmann Maupin Seoul
Tom Friedman, Cyclops, 2022. © Tom Friedman. Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

SEOUL.- Lehmann Maupin Seoul presents Many Things All at Once, a dynamic presentation of new and recent work by artist Tom Friedman. Concerned with ideas of perception, logic, and assumption, Friedman’s practice engages questions of looking and the purpose of art today. Particularly interested in how our preconceptions influence how we understand the world, Friedman’s work often employs trompe l'oeil effects that make viewers stop and look—and then look again. Known for his meticulous attention to detail and astounding craftsmanship, Friedman creates sculptures, paintings, drawings, videos, and installations that exploit the physical and conceptual nature of his materials and incorporate a dash of dry humor.

Many Things All at Once is Lehmann Maupin’s debut exhibition with Friedman, who joined the gallery’s program in 2021. The artist’s first solo presentation in South Korea, the show is a contemporary survey of sorts that introduces Friedman’s practice to a new geography. Spanning sculpture, installation, work on paper, and video projection, the works in Many Things All at Once feature notable elements from many of Friedman’s most recognizable pieces. In Hazmat Love, two of the artist’s signature chromed figures come together in a slow dance, while in Bee, a larger-than-lifesize handmade bumblebee rests high on a gallery wall, the latest in a series of hyper-realistic insect works that Friedman has been creating since the mid-1990s.

The exhibition shifts from micro to macro, and back again, often with common proportions reversed. Poppyseed, made from carved styrofoam and painted blue-black, depicts a single poppy seed enlarged hundreds of times. Friedman’s magnification exposes a honeycomb-like pattern across the seed’s surface, rendering it unrecognizable to anyone who has never closely examined the common baking ingredient. Once the sculpture’s identity is revealed, however, the viewer’s perception of the seed is permanently altered—what might have once been a small black dot in the mind’s eye transforms into a micro version of Friedman’s sculpture. In contrast to Poppyseed, many of Friedman’s human figures are smaller than lifesize, with his chromed Untitled and Hazmat Love sculptures standing just under five feet. These inversions of typical scale upend expectations across the exhibition, creating space for viewers to be surprised, delighted, and intrigued.

Listen features a small green figure set on top of a classic white pedestal, cocking his head to one side as if trying to hear better. Made completely out of styrofoam often used in construction to dampen noise, the work functions as a sort of visual pun. Upon closer inspection, viewers notice a gash taken out of the lower left hand side of the pedestal, revealing that it is in fact carved from the same block of styrofoam as the figure itself. Here and throughout the exhibition Friedman sets out to disarm his audience, subverting expectations and in the process allowing for fresh engagement with familiar ideas, objects, concepts, and things. “There was a point where I thought about the rules of thinking, all the rules that I’ve sort of inherited,” the artist explains, “and I really tried to lay those aside.” Through its playful use of scale, perspective, and materiality, Many Things All at Once invites viewers to do the same.

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