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Henry Freedman: American Icons An Art Historian's Circus

Art New England, Oct/Nov 2008  


McGowan Fine Art
Concord, New Hampshire

By Craig Stockwell

Henry Freedman is an art historian who makes boxes and small constructions. In viewing his work one must immediately come to grips with Freedman’s relation to the work of Joseph Cornell. It also feels imperative to acknowledge, as the title of this exhibit does, that Freedman is an art historian. This work is loaded with homage, to Cornell, but also to a deep and sensual appreciation for all that art has been for this man. This work invokes Cornell, but perhaps even in the Postmodern spirit of appropriation, Cornell is inhaled, tasted, and re-cast in personal terms. The work is beautifully made. There are many amateur artists who fall under the spell of the desire to make Cornell assemblages. 

But there are very few that are able to so carefully (and yet invisibly) craft the structures. These structures are made of a multitude of old materials: wood, glass, paper and photo images, etc. and all of these materials are put together with confidence and grace. There is both an apparent fragility and actual solidity in each object. 

The work is also wonderfully erotic, in the full sense of the word. Cornell, of course, was a master at this erotic suggestiveness. But Freedman gets there on his own. It is the poetic mixing of shapes, color, image, and finally, the shapes of the constructions themselves that create reference to the body, the human form, touch, feel, and sensation. It is wonderful the way that the constructions both contain references to the human form and often create human form in themselves…torso, legs, head, arms. 

In the work pictured here, Remnant of a Renaissance Circus, there is an encounter with gray…an overall gray that allows for tones and values to be delivered. There is a depth produced surrounding the image of a Renaissance woman perched atop two dies covered with script. Atop the image is a sculptural child (putti?) with two small lions. A gray ring frames the child and obscures. There is, herein…desire, restraint, longing, and flirtation with the prohibited. But holding it all together is this form. This is what art can do.