Christine Frerichs reviewed in Artforum 2.1.20

February Issue

Christine Frerichs


By Suzanne Hudson

Christine Frerichs’s “interior portraits” are diminutive, closely observed paintings on paper that frame her home and studio, sites of domesticity and labor. They are much smaller than the canvases on which she has often worked, whose larger scales summon landscapes and climates as well as emotions. Indeed, she began making the pieces shown here under the exhibition title “Viewfinder” in 2018 as interim compositions of light and mood, adjacent to the other work; they are now a project of their own, an ongoing chronicle of place and a mnemonic device for the things—often exterior—that come to be stored in the home. They likewise record how insistently and unavoidably political such materials are. Each portrait is specific, almost performatively so: The news today, 2018, closes in on Frerichs’s living room, where a potted plant sits on a coffee table, a tufted chair rests before a bookshelf stuffed with art books and display objects, and and a television non too subtly broadcasts the Brett Kavanaugh hearings (the text along the bottom reads PROTESTERS INTERRUPT SENATE VOTE). Orange ranunculus, pink tulip, fertility test, 2019, highlights nothing but the titular items, blooming under an open time-stamped laptop that provides a crepuscular glow. 

Some aspects of this project are more evidently continuous with Frerichs’s earlier paintings. Finding the middle, 2018, depicts a wall drawing of a standing figure radiating concentric lines that reiterate the figure-eight form that the artist often uses to organize largely abstract compositions made of thick oil paint, acrylic, and wax. As an exhibition, “Viewfinder” also carried forward the intention of the painting Viewfinder, 2012-14, which references framing devices imbricated within the histories and conventions of imagemaking, in this instance a rectangular hole cut into a stiff sheet of paper that Frerichs also used to compose and paint what was shown here under its sign. Like Viewfinder, which punctures surface with aperture—the real material act affording an illusionistic vista—the newer paintings often feature portals and pictures of pictures. In Truman Show, 2019, an image hovers on a TV; View from the kitchen to the studio, 2018, highlights a hall of framed art; Open Tulip, 2018, alights on postcards and ephemera tacked to a wall (these are the sources for still other representations, mediated and translational). 

Frerichs begins these works with stream-of-consiousness writing; she then turns the page over and starts making other kinds of marks. Hidden, bracketed between public-facing apparition and institutional support, these jottings remain animating forces whose effects are felt even at a distance. (For a scheduled event during the show’s run, the artist pulled the paintings down and read the inscriptions on the back to those gathered.) An interview between Frerichs and one of her former teachers, the Los Angeles artist Charles Long, provides another lens onto Frerichs’s process. In their conversation, which was made available at the gallery, Long connects Frerichs’s makeshift viewfinder—which forces the eye to focus on one arbitrary thing—to the idea of the readymade, which makes it possible to understand whatever appears before you as an aesthetic: “It’s almost like a roulette wheel. Like, where does this thing stop? And when it stops, how do we know that this moment, this arrangement of things, is somehow significant over all others?” In response, Frerichs points out the handheld nature of the viewfinder and the “entirely personal” selection process it requires. Her paintings are always partial views of her authored space—iterations of selfhood. 

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