What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

November 9, 2023

Terri Friedman
tomorrow is just a thought
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
September 23 - November 22, 2023

Terri Friedman

tomorrow is just a thought is a wonderful exhibition of woven tapestries by the El Cerrito, California based artist Terri Friedman. Friedman has been creating her "yarn paintings" — applying formal principals of color, shape and texture to her compositions as if they were traditional "paintings"— for a number of years and in her stunning installation at Shoshana Wayne Gallery, she showcases both abstractions and a new series of woven "portraits" each titled after a different feeling or emotion. The works "respond to internal and external uncertainty" and present positive possibilities through the use of bright color, unusual materials and open ended non-objective abstraction. Her palette and compositions pay homage to Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Sonia Delaunay, but also share similarities with the knitted works of Channing Hansen. While some of the pieces contain words, they are meant to be suggestive rather than didactic. Friedman also cites interests in neuroplasticity, the capacity humans have to reshape their brain toward a more optimistic outlook as one of the motivating forces behind her endeavors. Even the title, tomorrow is just a thought can be seen in a positive, rather than negative light.

Refresh (2022) is a large tapestry of undulating shapes, colors and textures that resemble a mountain landscape/seascape dotted with droplets that dangle above zig-zagging and cross-hatched lines. Areas filled with green, pink and purple weaves overlap below dark-thread spelling out the word "refresh." What can go right (2023) is a five panel tapestry filled with floral imagery that shares a kinship with children's renderings of gardens. Trees and flowers populate the mostly yellow hued background that is filled with different colored yarns forming swirls, circles and triangles as they recede into a distant landscape. Nested within eye-shaped ovals at the top of the abstract tapestry Sometimes OK is good enough (2022) are the letters "O" and "K," giving the image an aura of positivity. Though busy and frenetic, the soft colors and suggestion of facial features offer a sense of calm and encouragement.

While the front gallery is filled with Friedman's larger pieces, seven smaller works are presented in the back space. Faces depicting "elevated states of emotion" fill these tapestries. Though brightly colored, they are messy, somewhat confrontational and a bit disconcerting. A deep purple background surrounds the lighter purple and green face of a man with black hair, magenta eyes and an open mouth in Whoa (2023). The mouth outlined in yellow thread is actually a hole in the weave. To the right of the mouth is a stained glass inset in the shape of a tear that echoes golden tears that fall from the figure's eyes. Homesick (2023) exudes sadness. Here, Friedman weaves the head of a girl with black hair — a curl on one side and four different length dreadlocks on the other side of her face. Her open mouth is filled with gritted teeth. She has one open blue eye with dark purple eyelids. A weave of dark red and yellow threads, the other eye is vacant, held open by a vertical piece of stained glass that creates a void. The figure in Atonal (2023) spews multi-colored threads from their mouth that dangle at the right edge of the composition, whereas the two heads in Ditto (2023) are mirror images of each other. The space between their multi-colored and thickly textured faces is an abstract gradient filled with orange, pink and yellow.

Though at first glance, Friedman's tapestries appear unwieldy, they are thought out compositions that are calming for her to fashion. This tension between the process of making and viewing give the works a commanding presence. They are colorful, gestural, soft, tactile, beautiful and disturbing simultaneously. They catch your eye and hold your gaze, engaging with the language of painting and textiles on complex and multiple levels.