Thursday, May 23, 2013

Trickster: Matt Freedman at Studio 10, Bushwick

Matt Freedman, Dead Man's Hand, epoxy and cards, 2013.

I’ve started writing this post a million times, but there’s no good way to begin. Okay, there’s an exhibition at Studio 10 in Bushwick by my beloved friend, Matt Freedman, who’s been strenuously treated for a rare form of cancer since the fall. The show, in Matt’s ironic, funny, touching, and self-deprecating way, is about his experience, and although heartbreaking, it’s not depressing. It’s just Matt, and art. Not art meant for the walls of the 1%, not art to further a career, not art meant to make a pithy statement about the human condition or to show off craft, but art made because Matt is an artist and this is how he processes the events of his life. If you want to know what art really is, this is it.

The title of the exhibition is “The Devil Tricked Me,” and indeed we could say the devil tricked all of us who know Matt, who has not a mean bone in his body. In the more than 20 years I’ve known him, I can’t remember hearing him say anything against anyone. Wickedly smart and without a shred of guile (two characteristics that often don’t go together), Matt's conversation tends toward humorous, gently ironic observation—as does his writing and art—and here he is observing himself face-to-face with mortality and his heroic attempts to thwart it. The 13 objects, all depicting folk admonitions of bad luck—broken mirrors, “three on a match,” stepping on a crack in the sidewalk—were made, for obvious reasons, without a lot of attention to craft. Yet nothing could be more heart wrenching than Matt’s pile of open and slightly crushed umbrellas, those fragile objects made to protect us that can so often fail. And the rainbow-colored ladder, which we must walk under, could be a stairway to heaven or, as I prefer to think of it, a way out, the escape route back to normal life.

Along with the exhibition are reproductions, for sale, of the journal with sketches Matt made during his extreme treatment. Again, I can only read a little bit each day, but it’s a way of keeping Matt in my thoughts. As his friends, we won’t let the devil trick us—having Matt in our lives is some of the best luck we’ll ever have. We love you, Matt!

Update: And here, a detailed and eloquent review of the show by Thomas Mitchell.