EMERGING: Adam Friedman Bends the Laws of Physics With His Fractured Landscapes

Adam Friedman, "Stone Forrest," 2012
(Courtesy the Artist and Eleanor Harwood Gallery)

EMERGING is a regular column where ARTINFO spotlights an up-and-coming artist.

Portland-based artist Adam Friedman’s new solo show at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in San Francisco, titled “Space and Time, and Other Mysterious Aggregations,” is a trippy walk-through-the-woods. The painter’s landscapes turn traditional pastoral portraiture on its head, rearranging scenes in nature both spatially and temporally.

A graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute and no stranger to the outdoors, having grown up camping in the Sierra Nevada and swimming along the California coast, Friedman’s practice is especially sensitive to nature, even when suspending the laws of physics on his canvas. As he said to ARTINFO in a recent email, “The paintings are about recognizing the lenses that we use to ‘understand’ the natural world, but breaking the rules of those lenses to expose nature’s inherent mystery.”   

The pieces juxtapose representations of space, time, and physical change by rearranging several partial landscapes within one scene – alternating and overlapping day with night, and sweeping panoramas with the cross sections of mountains. The cliffs and streams in the backgrounds contrast starkly with the floating panels of marbled brown, grey, and purple sediment in the foregrounds, as Friedman carefully reorganizes the natural world into alternate planes of existence – literally, floating one above another.

In one piece, “Bedrock of Being,” (2012) the central mountainscape is set amidst a red sunset, while outside of the small window view Friedman has painted, a similar mountain range appears cast in green amid a blue and purple night sky. The meticulous geological details, like the textures of sediment or the shadows cast by bouncing light, become highly abstracted by the layering of so many landscapes on top of one another.

“We impose and accept conceptual binaries as factual knowledge (space and time, up and down, solid and liquid), but that’s such a human way of looking at nature,” he said. Though it may be hard to think we could see both space and time, he doesn’t seem to think this an impossible task, adding, “For instance, we tend to understand space through the lens of time. When one looks out over a mountain range, it is understood as a vast amount of space largely because of how long it would take to move through that space. I’m interested in presenting work where these rules and/or binaries no longer apply.”

His process is nearly as fluid as the worlds in his paintings. “From my sketches and notes, I build panels and start painting,” Friedman explained. “Sometimes the paintings end up looking a lot like the sketches, but most often the sketches are just a point of reference.”

The show at Eleanor Harwood demonstrates new areas of exploration for the artist, featuring new three-dimensional works that jut out from the walls or are free-standing on the floor. The small triangular pieces mirror the shapes and angles in the larger paintings, mimicking the uneven and boundless landscape of Friedman’s creation.

To see Adam Friedman’s artwork, click the slideshow here.