Text: Alec Coiro
All Images Courtesy of Safe Gallery
Performance Photo: Amy Ruhl
How do you really create raw, immediate, pre-ideological art? You have a child make it. “From the mouth of babes,” so to speak — but instead of telling the truth, in this case the babes make the art. But who are these babes and what do they have to do with this show at Safe Gallery? Peter LaBier has found an ingeniously simple way of accessing a childlike state in his art: he reproduces the art he made as a child. A lot of things have been recontextualized as art; open your Janson and flip to the end if you don’t believe me. LaBier’s case is an strikingly clever instance of juvenilia being recontextualized as mature art. The work is very rewarding, often funny, and necessarily vulnerable.
Mixing almost seamlessly with LaBier’s work is a collection of very personal works by Amanda Friedman. Personal not in the confessional sense necessarily, but taken from Friedman’s personal space. If childhood is what shapes us in Labier’s work, then it is our surroundings that have the same effect in Friedman’s. In fact, a big chunk of Friedman’s personal space actually appears as part of the show. A crudely hewn storage loft from her workspace is moved to the gallery where it is transformed into an object d’art, not simply through placing it in the gallery but by Friedman carefully adorning it with aspects of her work. Importantly (and excitingly) these aspects also include a performance piece — a play — based on the work of beat poet Helen Adam, who also becomes the central character. The unexpectedly large cast includes a performer taking on the role of the stage light (remnants of this light and the its gels also adorn the loft). This characterizing of the light nicely ties the importance of the visual into a play that is rooted heavily in Adams written words — a gesture that Adams, who was herself a collagist, would have approved of.
It’s a show that rewards a visit. There are tons of miscellania and little notes, to sift through in the installations, the paintings, and the artists’ commonplace books left lying about. Safe couldn’t be a better gallery for this show, as it is very much “a visit to the attic,” an opening up of an long discarded safe. Anyone who’s ever sifted through their own old ephemera or a loved one’s or even felt the thrill of a flea market will understand how it’s the sort of show you could happily lose time in.
A one act play by Amanda Friedman called Helen Rides performed on May 5th at 7:30pm.
With: Clara Chapin, Gretta Johnson, Jo’Lisa Jones, and Amanda Friedman
Music: Josh Brand and Joanna Yagerman
Props, set, and costumes: Andrew D’Angelo, Amanda Friedman, Irina Jasnowski Pascual, and Gretta Johnson
Makeup: Andrew D’Angelo
Lighting: Irina Jasnowski Pascual
Choreography and vocal arrangements: Clara Chapin and Jo’Lisa Jones
Voice recording: Charity Coleman
Written and directed by: Amanda Friedman
With text by: Helen Adam and Charity Coleman
Special thanks to: Jim Maynard and Aaron Goldsman of The Poetry Collection at the University at Buffalo Libraries
Loosely adapted from: Helen Adam’s short story, Riders to Blokula (published in 1979 by Hanging Loose Press)