Max Frisinger has become well known for his large assemblages and site-specific installations, which make use of various found materials, objects, and scraps. His work is a mixture of ‘cabinet of curiosities,’ tributes to the ‘readymade,’ and carefully premeditated approaches to recycling and reclaiming used materials. His large assemblages and even larger site-specific installations often take on a monumental, architectural scale, and engage or negotiate with surrounding space; they have numerous entry points, shifting topographies, and although they keep the eye of the viewer consistently engaged and in constant motion, they manage never to overwhelm.
At Gallery Baton, a few of Frisinger’s more recent works are currently on view. For this new body of work, Frisinger takes a quieter approach, departing from the monumentality of his assemblages and adopting a strategy of rehabilitation of the everyday object; he seems to scale down and pay homage to the simple yet significant act of recovery surrounding the found object. Perhaps it is a new direction for Frisinger, or perhaps it is Gallery Baton’s astute curatorial vision and focus; either way, Goddess of Industry, Frisinger’s first exhibition in Asia, is a leading exhibition this month in Seoul.
Goddess of Industry includes two distinct bodies of work: the radiator sculptures (made of old cast iron radiators), and ‘two-dimensional’ works of layered polyethylene wire mesh through which tiny flickers of light, from assembled LED bulbs behind, peer. The lights are assembled in such a way as to resemble a constellation, are at times reminiscent of a stain, or in the case of K, the light pattern creating a vertical slit, a fissure. These works not only use found materials in such an astute, sensible way, but in addition, the reduction of the imagery to simple abstraction (reminiscent of Rothko’s late works) reveals a maturing artist refining his process and practice, as well as his aesthetic. The radiator sculptures also display this maturing. Frisinger seems to return to or perhaps to advance to the simplicity of the standing sculpture, and he finds beauty in the decay of the obsolete object.
Although the title of the exhibition is suggestive of the super-powerful impact of industry, the work gives off a quiet echo, and has a vestige-like quality. The objects and materials used, even though impersonal and ‘industrial’ in nature, have been altered and layered, their use and meaning (meaning as use) has been re-invented, yet despite their new ‘identity,’ they remain anchored in their essence, in their past use; they are relics of a past life, relics of their own usage. Frisinger is able to transforms the object just enough to remove it from its function, yet without interfering with its original identity.
Frisinger’s recent work, although much smaller in scope and scale, is no less monumental: the artist’s tenacity and sensible aesthetic as well and his knowledgeable use of materials are revealed again, and modest object, the unpretentious materials, are transformed into poignant, stirring works. Frisinger does not alter the everyday object in a playful way, just to toy with concepts of meaning or to challenge the idea of the ‘readymade.’ In an art world that is constantly trying to reinvent itself, to impress with new approaches and ‘original’ theories, Frisinger is comfortable making purely aesthetic choices. He embraces both the theoretical conversation surrounding the history of the ‘readymade’—and its far-reaching implications of re-working and re-inventing meaning and purpose—and the purely aesthetic, historically strategic, material pursuit of making an ‘art object.’ Frisinger seems to be able to maintain a sensible balance between methodology and production, between the strategic use of the banal, the ‘everyday’ (as a philosophy of practice), and the tactical path of producing artwork.