The show's title, "You Can't See the Same Thing Twice," comes from a poem written by Freed's friend Charles Wright. It suits Freed since he has visited and revisited landscapes as if each experience brings a new dimension of understanding. Here his 29 landscapes subtly resemble one another because he not only represents similar scenes, but he reuses plates from one work to another. The same forked tree appears in several frames, as does a tangle of tree limbs. In the end, each piece is unique because Freed layers images differently to express various atmospheric conditions or times of year.
More interestingly, Freed distinguishes these landscapes with direct markings in pastel, watercolor or both something many printmakers would never do. A fine technician in various printing processes, the artist has frequently combined multiple techniques in single frames. But here he is more relaxed and freer than ever with his craft, frequently using two or three printing techniques with drawing or painting. His watercolors run and pool, and the results are sometimes chaotic and complex, but always fluid, loose and more painterly than ever.
In a series of landscapes based on vertical panels, his delicacy and directness recall Japanese ink painting and printmaking. For "Awake," the grain of a wood-print plate runs horizontally at the foreground, while trees line up under the horizon. Middle ground and background drop before the viewer like thin scrims or colored lenses.
When Charles Wright wrote in his poem "Summer Storm" that art is "more vacant, more transparent with each repeat and slough," he must have been thinking of Freed's gauzy and tenuous layers.
There are some lighthearted passages in this work, but the artist's facile touch and the ephemeral qualities of thin layers of pigment never mask the edge of loneliness that runs throughout. Bare, bony trees seem rootless and vulnerable against elements the artist so skillfully represents. Even in his portraits of family, friends and himself, shown upstairs, a feeling of separateness pervades. Subjects' backs are turned to the viewer, or their faces are expressionless. In a self-portrait from 2003, Freed's figure is almost completely black. "Reflection," another self-portrait, sums up the artist's tendency to imbue his work with suggestions of separation. In it, the artist is alone and knee-deep in water.
Freed is a serious fan of poetry, which should clue viewers as to how his images are constructed and how one might appreciate them. His is quiet work and isn't art for the MTV crowd. This is an exhibition that should be seen more than once, because, as Freed believes, you can't see the same thing twice. S
David Freed's "You Can't See the Same Thing Twice" is at Reynolds Gallery, 1514 W. Main St., through June 18.
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