New and recent work by American sculptor Tom Friedman being exhibited by Lehmann Maupin
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New and recent work by American sculptor Tom Friedman being exhibited by Lehmann Maupin
Portrait of Tom Friedman in his studio. Photo by Daniel Kukla.

NEW YORK, NY.- Lehmann Maupin is now showing Tom Friedman: In Focus, an exhibition of new and recent work by American sculptor Tom Friedman. Featuring both sculpture and work on paper, this presentation explores the role of scale in Friedman’s practice, which he has utilized as a tool throughout his career to disrupt viewers’ expectations and provoke deeper inquiry. Tom Friedman: In Focus also recognizes Lehmann Maupin’s recently expanded representation of the artist, which now includes the Americas. In fall 2025, Friedman will have a major solo exhibition spanning the gallery’s New York location.

Friedman is best known for his alchemic sculptural practice that transforms ordinary materials, such as styrofoam, oven roasting pans, plaster, and household items into meticulously constructed art objects. Over the course of his decades-long career, Friedman has pushed the limits of scale to extremes; the artist has both carved his self-portrait into a single aspirin and built gigantic human figures out of tinfoil and aluminum pans, casting them in stainless steel to immortalize the ephemeral material while retaining its signature aesthetic qualities. While Friedman’s work is marked by an astounding level of craftsmanship, his subjects are also highly conceptual. The artist is fond of visual puns and riddles, and many of Friedman’s sculptures assume their own circular logic—for example, the minute precision and prolonged focus required to carve one’s face into a 3mm painkiller is also likely to give one a headache.

When creating figurative sculpture, Friedman often resists a one-to-one ratio, opting instead for the slightly larger or smaller—or the vastly larger or smaller. Recent editions of the artist’s shrugging figures stand just under five feet tall, while one edition from his notable Looking Up series towers over the viewer at a staggering 50 feet. When Friedman does produce work in a true-to-life ratio, his sculptures are often incarnations of everyday objects imbued with trompe l’oeil effects. An acoustic guitar, a video camera, or a baseball bat may appear unassumingly placed in a gallery space, but closer inspection reveals them to be imposters, constructed completely out of paint and styrofoam.

Each work in Tom Friedman: In Focus subverts expectations of scale in its own way. At only three inches high, Friedman’s Hey (2023) draws viewers in to examine the genial figure’s open-armed gesture, which simultaneously suggests both a warm welcome and an expression of puzzled inquiry. Crafted from a single piece of closed-cell styrofoam, Hey exudes both a featherlight quality and a familiar tactility. Friedman used an arduous, subtractive method to create this work, painstakingly removing individual balls of styrofoam cell by cell as the figure took shape. Recalling the more traditional technique of chiseling sculptural forms from a marble block, here Friedman draws the human form from more humble materials.

Standing eight feet tall, Scribble Being (2023) offers a delightful contrast to Hey’s minimal, diminutive nature. Fundamentally additive, the piece is constructed from hundreds of pieces of paper cut out from essays, articles, magazines, and other texts featuring Friedman’s work, including this press release. Collaging these onto a slim MDF panel, Friedman creates an oversized figure that functions as a conceptual portrait of his practice, or even himself, through descriptions, critiques, and reproductions of his entire oeuvre to date. In the exhibition, Scribble Being retroactively considers Friedman’s storied artistic career while simultaneously gazing out at a gallery full of new work, as if pondering where the artist will go next—and what the viewer might find there.

Lehmann Maupin
Tom Friedman: In Focus
November 16th, 2023 – December 16, 2023

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