Portraits of an Artist's Friends 

Great Prints

Speaking of printmaking, while visiting the "Great Prints" show at Reynolds Gallery, be sure to go upstairs to see another great printmaker — Richmond's own David Freed. A longtime professor of painting and printmaking at Virginia Commonwealth University, Freed moves beyond pedagogy to reveal his skills as an artist. This show focuses on his portraits of friends, colleagues and mentors largely in the Richmond area. It is an intimate display of the significant people in the artist's life. And what he has to say about them is amazingly distilled through the visual method of etching and aquatints.

One senses that Freed is capable of capturing the very essence of the individual. There is Tom Chenoweth's almost demonic face emerging out of an eerie blackness with welding mask pushed back on his head and one glaring pupil accented in red. Or "Miss Pollak," a figural portrait of Theresa Pollak where each line confidently brings the subject into view. Freed's etched lines become vision itself, retracing by hand what the eye is capable of seeing.

"Richard's Routine" places the viewer behind Richard Carlyon' figure as he stealthily walks alone down a corridor. Despite the large, loose tonal areas derived from the process of aquatinting, the very essence of the subject has been extracted in the signature black clothes and dutiful stride of the former VCU art history professor.

Perhaps most telling is Freed's portrait of himself. In his typical format — neck and head severed from the body below — the artist's face of muddled gray wash is thrown in high relief against the velvety black background. With his shock of white hair, curling mustache and searching, bespectacled eyes, the artist probes the personality and physical makings of perhaps the most difficult subject of all —

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