New York “Trust Me. Be Careful,” Zipora Fried’s emotionally wall-eyed exhibition, contained a small but resonant group of oddly assorted, meticulously crafted things, images and sounds (all 2008 or ’09). At center stage was Quentin, a heavy, old-fashioned dining table tightly encased in a hand-crocheted, black wool covering. The wool absorbs light thoroughly enough to eliminate any internal shadows, and makes the bulky object seem somehow two-dimensional—a dense charcoal drawing of itself. The only other freestanding object was b. b. bat, made from vertically spliced segments of three baseball bats. In section, this sculpture has the silhouette of a stemless three-leaf clover, or of a club, as in a suite of cards. Leaned in solitude against the wall, it had a slightly ominous presence—it was more menacing, in fact, than if its display had seemed less casual.
The four medium-size photographs shown, all but one black and white and all variants of portraiture (the subjects are artists, and friends of Fried’s), are similarly both guarded and truculent. In T.H., the subject’s face is obscured by the surreal imposition of a full head of hair springing forth where features should be; an ear is visible. This implacably occluded image hung beside C.O., a photo of a bare-chested man whose features are all on view, though screened by three stacked pairs of eyeglasses; he peers intently through the middle pair. Above the desk in an alcove was U.A., an image of a big, T-shirted man shown from the back, his hands clasped behind him in a pose that seems vaguely contemplative, though a quick glance could make you assume handcuffs. On one side of him was R.H., a radiant color photo of a woman whose face is hidden behind a huge pink chrysanthemum. Wildly colorful tattoos adorn her shoulders. Also in the alcove was a set of earphones with supernumerary earpieces, forming visually stuttering but otherwise mute chains of linked circles.
An untitled drawing on Mylar was the single example of the kind of work for which Fried is best known, its laboriously repeated strokes of shiny graphite creating columns of crescents dense as armor. A new species of drawing appeared with Chatter, which bore a line of text written in fine black yarn on Mylar; the ends of the thread trail behind the milky support. Sewn with a trembling hand, it reads “stammerings of history. trust me. be careful. who has the sickest shoes. trust me. be careful.” Completing the installation was L’enfant sauvage, an audio piece, running on three DVD players, that broadcasts unintelligible peeps and squawks; unaccountably, it faded instantly into a benign murmur—another evocation, this one aural, of incipient language. As an ensemble, this group of objects alternated between things muffled and obscured, on the one hand, or multiplied many times over on the other, and in each case mystified in a way that seemed to open one door as it closed another.
Photo: Zipora Fried: R.H., 2009, C-print, 31 by 21 inches; at On Stellar Rays.