Cocktail Party, 2015

Miami Beach 2019
Stephen Friedman Gallery
Mixed Media
Styrofoam and mixed media

Cocktail Party exemplifies Tom Friedman’s unparalleled technical craftsmanship and unique creative philosophy. Never before exhibited in the United States, it is one of the artist's most accomplished works to date. Here, Friedman presents an animated group of twenty-six life-size figures in a wild array of outfits and hairstyles all enjoying a lively party. Described by the artist as a 'living cartoon’ created to mirror the art world, the sculpture plays on themes of voyeurism while riffing on pop culture, art history and self-portraiture. Despite their obvious caricature, each character has an intensely genuine quality to which we are all able to relate. A man and a woman are caught mid-embrace, an ageing waiter serves canapés, a cigarette is about to be lit, a phone is prepped for a snapshot. Painstakingly hand-carved from individual blocks of Styrofoam, Friedman built up each figure with clay before painting them. Imbuing each party-goer with a distinct personality, hair was fashioned out of yarn, pillow stuffing, and painted steel wool; clothes were sourced from a local thrift store and painted over, and accessories added for a final finesse. Friedman’s meticulous eye for detail heightens the sense of pseudo-reality in this work. Details within the figures' clothing and accessories also give a subtle nod to those familiar with Friedman's practice – a woman wearing an emerald broach fashioned out of toothpicks, a young man’s snowflake pendant, and a woman holding a block of Styrofoam in lieu of a clutch bag. As New York Times critic Roberta Smith has written, Friedman in his work demonstrates “unusual clarity in the interaction of materials and thought. In fact, he connects the two.” In Cocktail Party, the lines of reality and hyper-reality are blurred as the boundaries of the gathering itself as Friedman invites the members of the art world he depicts to become live players themselves within the action.