The wavy graphite drawings were visible from the street at On Stellar Rays last night, falling and curving in long smooth lines or crossing over and reversing in another layer. They were huge, and beckoning like long dark hair on a pillow. One of the works even had attractive flecks of grey. Hair, clearly.
“It looks like hair but the intention was not so much hair, it was more about movement,” the artist Zipora Fried told The Observer, adding that she makes the works with a simple pencil like the one we were using to take down her words. Ms. Fried, one of the gallery’s first artists, has worked with pencils before but her earlier works tended to be solid coverings of the canvas, incrementally blotting out everything white, whatever the material.
“There’s always been been this capacity for violence and latent energy in her work, said gallery director Candice Madey. “I really wanted to show that line through all of it.”
The other works in the gallery were black and white photographs of Ms. Fried as a child, all of them featured wool stitching about the face, and Ms. Madey compared these to earlier works that Ms. Fried had done in which she scribbled over the books of George Steiner.
Most of these were in the gallery’s office but one, whose stitching made it look like the young Ms. Fried was wearing a Mardi Gras mask, was out in the gallery with the wavy graphite. A man with eyebrows that curved off his face like devil horns craned his neck to the side of this photo to check for a third dimension, presumably looking for solidarity with the work.
“When I was a child, I didn’t talk,” Ms. Fried said. “I would never smile and you see I would always have this forlorn face. Now I’m relaxing it.”
This didn’t seem to fit exactly, in that she’s defaced herself.
“It’s an interesting thing I was talking about the work with a forensic psychologist,” she responded. “He said the step after self-harm or self-destruction is that you step out of yourself, you project.”
There are much more of her work downstairs, she said, and she gestured to a trap door by the Mardi Gras-ed photo.
Before we left, Ms. Madey said we had to see something in her office. Vertically near the door was a smeared work about seven feet tall that looked like a Roschach test. It was behind glass and, in fact, the Vaseline and coffee ground work made by her artist Clifford Owens, a piece whose creation formed the lede of a story in this paper about a Fluxus show at MoMA.
“We took it to a conservationist and said, ‘Okay we’ve got a work make of Vaseline and coffee grounds. What should we do to protect it?’” she said, admiring the work. “He said don’t do anything! Just frame it, it’ll change beautifully over time.”