A New Realism

Friedman Benda


Tanya Aguiñiga [American, b. 1978]. Within/without, 2021. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Tanya Aguiñiga. Photography by Gina Clyne.
From June 3, 2021 until July 2, 2021
It’s time to get real.
A New Realism presents eight practitioners whose work meets the present head-on, direct and immediate. They are “realists” in at least two senses: first, in a diverse art historical context; and second, as individualistic pragmatists.
We are interested in the range of historic resonances that the concept of ‘realism’ has for contemporary practice. In some cases, it is a form of social engagement – a position that can be traced all the way back to the “realism” of mid-19th century French painting (artists like Courbet), but has important connections to the polyphonic voices of contemporary activism. Realism can also be expressed in a less politicized way, through material indexicality that recalls the work of Rauschenberg; or by exploring the overlaps and divergences between representation and abstraction as means of responding to the real, with a sophistication that recalls historic African sculpture, or constructed textiles.
Underpinning all of these complex concerns is a fundamental personal capability. The makers in A New Realism are just that – makers – who draw on deep wells of artisanal skill. This affords them a certain autonomy, a carved-out space of self-reliance. Their works, often realized through invented means, are thoroughly considered, from their base materiality to their eloquent surfaces. Yet they remain free of medium-specific narrowness. Indeed, all of these makers have experienced some disciplinary shift and flexibility over the course of their careers. Having trained in industrial design or fine art, they have found their way to craft for its generative possibilities.
Together, these two aspects of realism are a potent combination: on the one hand, a registration of the times; on the other, an investment in embodied creativity. The works that inhabit this junction, where social awareness and interiority meet, are aesthetic and ethical guideposts. At a time when reality itself has come to seem worryingly malleable, they give us something to hold on to.
Ferréol Babin [French, b. 1987]. À LA DÉRIVE, 2021. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Ferréol Babin
Ferréol Babin [French, b. 1987]. NOISE No1 and No2, 2021. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Ferréol Babin
Ebitenyefa Baralaye [Nigerian, American b.1984]. Big Head I, 2021. Courtesy of Friedman Benda. and Ebitenyefa Baralaye
Ebitenyefa Baralaye [Nigerian, American b.1984], Vessel IV, 2021. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Ebitenyefa Baralaye
Carl Emil Jacobsen [Danish, b. 1987]. Dark Red Powder Variation #2, 2017. © Carl Emil Jacobsen. Courtesy of Galerie Maria Wettergren and Carl Emil Jacobsen. Photo: Jeppe Gudmundsen Holmgreen.
Enough. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Terri Friedman
Until. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Terri Friedman.
You don't get to know. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Terri Friedman
Fernando Laposse [Mexican, b. 1988]. Agave Cabinet, 2021. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Fernando Laposse
Fernando Laposse [Mexican, b. 1988]. Agave Cabinet, 2021. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Fernando Laposse
Mattias Sellden [Swedish, b. 1986]. Slugger, 2020. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Mattias Sellden
Mattias Sellden [Swedish, b. 1986]. Odysseus, 2020. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Mattias Sellden
Mattias Sellden [Swedish, b. 1986]. Spinal Spiral, 2021. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Mattias Sellden
Thaddeus Wolfe [American, b. 1979]. Untitled, 2021. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Thaddeus Wolfe photography by Joe Kramm.
Thaddeus Wolfe [American, b. 1979]. Untitled, 2021. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Thaddeus Wolfe photography by Joe Kramm.
Thaddeus Wolfe [American, b. 1979]. Untitled, 2021. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Thaddeus Wolfe photography by Joe Kramm.