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Leslie Friedman’s Tastier at Space 1026

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July 23, 2013   ·   2 Comments

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—>Alyssa visits Space 1026 for the frank, Pop-art treatment of our crass commercial landscape by Leslie Friedman, one of the founders of the alternative gallery Napoleon. –the artblog editors—————————->

Leslie Friedman knows her way around a suggestive mise-en-scène. That much is clear after about a millisecond of looking at “Tastier,” her show at Space 1026; from every angle, the pieces deftly skewer the culture of materialism and do it stylishly, with maximum symbolic impact. Using time-honored icons of the culture — naked women, Coca-Cola — and tropes of pop art, “Tastier” is nothing we haven’t seen before. Its arrangement and choice of context, however, transcend cliché and successfully draw visitors into its gleeful crassness.

Leslie Friedman's "Tastier." Photo: David Mielcarek.

Leslie Friedman’s “Tastier.” Photo: David Mielcarek.

Tastier (installation shot), gallery dimensions 20′ x 40′ x 15′), mixed media: wood, paint, screenprints on paper, screenprints on metalized laminate, screenprints on Tyvek, cardboard, acrylic paint pours, mica powder, video, hinges, brackets, and brass chain, 2013. Photo: David Mielcarek.

“Tastier” (installation shot), gallery dimensions 20′ x 40′ x 15′, mixed media: wood, paint, screenprints on paper, metalized laminate & Tyvek, cardboard, acrylic paint pours, mica powder, video, hinges, brackets, and brass chain, 2013. Photo: David Mielcarek.

Both nauseating and tittilating, and that’s the point

“Tastier” is a series of installations staged as scenes. Around the room, mountainous heaps of intermixed Coke Zero cans and Splenda packets sit, presided over by nude women in various states of sexual availability. My immediate reaction? A kind of nauseated titillation. Nobody in their right mind could be enticed by that mess of neon colors, garbage, and overt sexual gimmickry, and perhaps that’s what Friedman wants us to take away.

Coke Zero Cans (installation shot), individually measure 12.5″ x 7.5″ x 7.5″, mixed media: screenprints on metalized laminate, cardboard, and polyacrylic, 2011 – 2013. Photo: David Mielcarek.

“Coke Zero Cans” (installation shot), individually measure 12.5″ x 7.5″ x 7.5″, mixed media: screenprints on metalized laminate, cardboard, and polyacrylic, 2011 – 2013. Photo: David Mielcarek.

All aspects of “Tastier” are simulacra– the women preening, the Coke Zero cans screen-printed in candy colors rather than their signature sleek black and red, and the cheerfully-named sugar substitute, Splenda. Friedman’s choice of Coke Zero, Coca-Cola’s allegedly better-for-you offspring, is both contextually smart and necessary in evoking American triumphalism. Symbolic of America’s preference for seeking new sugar substitutes the way scientists seek the cure for cancer, the Coke Zero and Splenda detritus in these works lays bare what we’re still greedily pouring into our bodies, truly believing it to be somehow better than the real thing.

Splenda Dreams, 80″ x 108″ x 1.5″, mixed media: wood, paint, screenprints on paper, and polyarylic, 2013. Photo: David Mielcarek.

“Splenda Dreams,” 80″ x 108″ x 1.5″, mixed media: wood, paint, screenprints on paper, and polyacrylic, 2013. Photo: David Mielcarek.

The Splenda packets are a wonderful contemporary touch. Now ubiquitous in restaurants and cafes, how appropriate that this cheerily-named faux-sugar punctuates “Tastier.”

Sugar Voice, 80″ x 60″ x 24″, mixed media: wood, paint, screenprints on paper, polyarylic, acrylic and mica powder paint pour, 2013. Photo: David Mielcarek.

“Sugar Voice,” 80″ x 60″ x 24″, mixed media: wood, paint, screenprints on paper, polyacrylic, acrylic and mica powder paint pour, 2013. Photo: David Mielcarek.

Poking fun at advertising’s use of sex to sell

The brazen sexuality is just as it’s always been in advertising in the porn industry: in your face, with nothing left to the imagination. Here the depictions of women serve two roles: as guardians (see “Sugar Voice”) and as submissive recipients. The folding purple doors are adorned with mirror images of a nude woman stretching her arms over her head, and the doors open to spill a deluge of Coke Zero cans and Splenda packets onto the floor, making the women gatekeepers. But of what? The unbridled gluttonous pleasure of devouring mountains of sugar? Sexual availability to the visitor? It’s not clear, and that’s what Friedman does best: she points to our conflation of carnal, sensual and emotional satisfaction as a most fascinating, if admittedly vile, American trope.

Tastier Screen, 72″ x 108″ x 3″, mixed media: wood, paint, screenprints on paper, and polyarylic, 2013. Photo: David Mielcarek.

“Tastier Screen,” 72″ x 108″ x 3″, mixed media: wood, paint, screenprints on paper, and polyacrylic, 2013. Photo: David Mielcarek.

Paint placement is essential to a few pieces here, in cases where the “Tastier” women are frozen in a perpetual open-mouthed reception of pink, globby paint, which for some will resemble bubble gum. Does it need to be laid out that crudely? Maybe not, but it does lend an air of entrapment and domination to “Tastier,” which is another ineffable fact of our consumer culture. We may think that we’re choosing freely, but it’s just the opposite.

Standing on Splenda, 72″ x 72″ x 4″, mixed media: wood, paint, screenprints on paper, polyarylic, acrylic and mica powder paint pour, 2013. Photo: David Mielcarek.

“Standing on Splenda,” 72″ x 72″ x 4″, mixed media: wood, paint, screenprints on paper, polyacrylic, acrylic and mica powder paint pour, 2013. Photo: David Mielcarek.

 

Ultimately, Friedman offers no comment on how invested we should be in our quest to swap out the harmful for the allegedly more salutary. She does, however, show how ingrained all of this garish, lustful ad-speak is in life, while raising the question of how these products may either help or hurt our quest for better living.

 “Tastier” is at Space 1026 through July 26.

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2 Responses to “Leslie Friedman’s Tastier at Space 1026”

  1. […] To read the entire review, click here. […]

  2. Matt Singer says:

    Great review! L:eslie is most definitely mining her own vein–and doing so in the boldest way possible, at that! Wanna see more; her exhibition “Mis/Constru(ct)ed Identities” is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art at Congregation Rodeph Shalom (615 N. Broad St./Broad and Mt. Vernon) through August 1. It is similarly fearless!

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