“Ms. Freeman creates a kind of Russian nesting doll of satire. One that takes in, beyond masculinity, the empty cutesiness of a nascently post-literate culture, the simulated coziness of runaway consumerism and the fun-house democracy of language itself. Here objects of incommensurate scale and importance are reduced to an artificial formal equality”. – Roberta Smith, The New York Times, May 2018
Born in Toronto, Canada in 1981, Al Freeman is a contemporary artist based in New York. Her practice revolves around oversized ‘soft sculptures’, made from pleather forms loosely stuffed with polyester filler.
Freeman’s large scale replicas of banal everyday objects (for example vaseline jars, highlighter pens, light bulbs among many others) freed from their branding and recognisable by their form and colour alone, are reminiscent of Claes Oldenburg’s sculptures. Yet, with an added gender twist they ironically reproduce and deflate items that have been traditionally associated with masculine domestic settings: the geometric sharpness of a Vaseline jar, a hammer, a beer can and a dick are transformed into sagging, almost sad objects that sink into themselves, weary of form. Softness becomes at once Freeman’s humoristic weapon against toxic masculinity and gendered spaces, and a whimsical allusion to materiality in the age of consumerism.
“The objects in my work come directly from what’s considered to be the most toxically masculine culture. It affects me personally, and it affects the people around me, and it’s everywhere—from frat houses up into our government. ” explains Al Freeman (in conversation with Nora Caplan-Bricker, GQ Magazine).
In Comparisons, Freeman creates collages combining famous works in art history with irreverent photographs often taken from the internet or from the Titans of the lexicon of Modernism. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Picasso is paired with a crew of grinning, naked inebriated friends; Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe is bluntly associated with an erotic scene of a threesome on the beach; Matisse’s reclining nude posits next to a drunk dude who fell asleep in the bath.
These collages function on a visual logic, alternating conceptual and metaphorical connections between the realms of fine arts and mass culture. This series is a disconcerting comment on sex, misogyny, cultural appropriation and sexism in contemporary culture. As commented by Roberta Smith on the New York Times: “Ms. Freeman’s comparisons are more than funny; they’re full of feminist barbs and insights into the mind’s reflexive leaps — their pleasures, tells and revelations.”
Al Freeman (b. 1981, Toronto, Canada) lives and works in New York. She received her B.F.A. from Concordia University in 2005, and her M.F.A. from the Yale University School of Art in 2010.
Her work has been the subject of numerous solo presentations, including recent exhibitions at Carl Kostyál, Stockholm; Bortolami, New York; and 56 HENRY, New York.
She has been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including recent presentations at Carl Kostyál Gallery, Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York; Chateau du Feÿ, Bourgogne; CUE Foundation, New York; Almine Rech, New York; Marlborough Contemporary, New York; Reyes Projects, Detroit; Galeria Alegria, Madrid; and Stems, Brussels. In 2017, Freeman published Comparisons with Flat Fix, Brooklyn. Al Freeman is represented by 56 HENRY Gallery, New York.