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Art Reviews

Nicholas Fox Weber, Executive Director, Josef & Anni Albers Foundation, The Witkin Gallery, March 1996

The word "lyricism" pertains to Victor Friedman's latest work, but it is a lyricism with weight, built on a solid foundation. The ambient gentleness is grounded in substance and grit; the softness is bold.

Sensuous nudes and luminous pitchers and vials interact with rough-cut chunks of metal. These amazing juxtapositions occur in pale ivories and browns that radiate a muted pink. Blossoms arranged as if by Redon sing their quiet tune against a metal relief that evokes Schwitters’ junkyard fantasies. 

Yet these sculptural photographs--media blends, musical still-lifes--we don't quite know what to call them--resemble no one else's work. We feel the same excitement offered by Synthetic Cubism and enjoy its themes of domestic beauty, but the approach is completely imaginative. With their vocabulary of guitars and mandolins, flowered fabric and ripe fruit, Friedman's constructions provide the sensuous well-being so essential to Braque and Picasso and Gris in that era when life was to be savored in all its bounty and nuance--but his pioneering images do it in a new way.

These well organized yet seemingly spontaneous amalgams derive from Friedman's particular and personal manipulations of the photographic process. The technique achieves astounding richness and a vibrant interplay of three-dimensional layering with a highly charged surface. Airy, weightless forms--metal blocks transformed to total lightness--interact in lively syncopation. To explain it all--either visually or scientifically--is nearly impossible; in any event, it is beside the point. For the effect of the art exceeds the components that made it work.  

Friedman's images are mysterious in a gentle and enticing way. They suggest the richness of disarray that is under control, and the wonder of veils. The sensibility behind them is both courageous and gentle--exhilarating rather than threatening. Here we look at the New York of dancers/artist models and construction waste heaps as seen and re-formed by a master of his craft who is refined, erudite, and daring. The artistic results are translucent,  provocative and deeply satisfying.

Mary Cummings, The Southhampton Press, December 19, 1991

Victor Friedman doesn't deny that he uses a camera to create the haunting images in black and white that will hang at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor through January 4. They are indeed photographs, these evocative visions in which female figures, bathed in lovely, muted, natural light, take on the textural variations of objects superimposed on them, or vice versa, to such mysterious, otherworldly effect. 

“Drawn figures always attracted me,” he says, and indeed, the photos he has readied for the Canio show hit the senses with the same evocative power that some of the best black and white drawings possess. (One that comes immediately to mind is Georges Seurat’s of his mother, a gem of the current show at the Metropolitan Museum, in which the figure of a woman sewing emerges out of the shadows of another era.)  

The point is, when Mr. Friedman undertakes to bring form to his vision, the camera work is simply one part of the process—and not necessarily the most important one, he suggests. His real creative task, as he explains it, involves sculpting an image, composing its parts, manipulating them to give them relief, texture and meaning. It happens that he combines the elements of his image and creates his illusions photographically, with the help of some inventive work in the darkroom. 

Mr. Friedman doesn’t talk much about lenses, exposures and the mechanics of taking pictures. He prefers an artistic vocabulary drawn from virtually every medium but photography.

He first tried his hand as a "street photographer," he recalls, but almost immediately there was this "urge to do the figure." With hindsight, it seems inevitable that anyone who uses the female figure to such poetic and sensuous effect would take that direction. When he did, the decision immediately raised the whole enterprise to new levels of intensity.  

He has progressed to bigger prints, better cameras. He has experimented with his images, toning them, scraping, cutting them up, putting negatives together. He has a New York dealer, The Witkin Gallery, at 415 West Broadway, and he is planning a new series with even bigger dimensions and more complex collage techniques.  

Three Village Herald, March 7, 1990
"The Photographer's Lens at Gallery North," by Susan Bridson

These photographs are photo-journalism at their respective best. Victor Friedman uses a large field for his towering silver prints, "Figure with Violin," "Two Figures with Violin and Lute," and "Two Figures." These deft creations are so textured and composed that they require a second look, and a third, before we are sure these are not Cubist paintings. There is wizardry in Friedman's touch.

The Three Village Herald, June 23, 1999.

Victor Friedman's Nova Scotia portfolio is as a zoom lens on the hard scrabble lives which some Canadians eke out there. "Cleaning Berries" tugs at the heart with vivid cinema verite -- a contrast to the blazingly white church so characteristic of Nova Scotia. And that blacksmith's face cannot be beat. 


Philadelphia City Paper, July 19, 1985
"Victor Friedman: Photographs, the Philadelphia Art Alliance"

The black and white photographs by Victor Friedman on display there are worth visiting for themselves. A good proportion are of the Burk Uzzle genre, in which exhibitionistic subjects reveal more than they intend, or just plain American folks wind up looking oddly kinky. Other of Friedman's pictures are social or ethnically conscious with sentimental overtones. The series from the Lubovitch Hasidic Synagogue is especially rich in traditional imagery.  Friedman's prints have a romantically dark tonality. 



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