Born in Brooklyn in 1935, Warner Friedman came of age as an artist during the 1950s and early 1960s, an era in which American painting redefined itself as an international cultural leader. Growing up in the Bronx, Friedman's talent for drawing was recognized with an award when he was just thirteen years old; the prize was additional drawing lessons. In high school, he was introduced to drafting classes, and subsequently enrolled in the engineering program at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. After earning his Bachelor of Science degree in engineering in 1957, Friedman accepted a position in the technical engineering department at the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in New Jersey. His stay there was short-lived, however, as the company's government contracts gradually diminished after World War II, resulting in the plant's closure.
Even while working as an engineer, Friedman continued to pursue his interest in the visual arts, registering for evening drawing courses at Pratt Institute taught by the respected illustrator Eugene Karlin (1918-2003). In September 1957, he was accepted into Cooper Union with a full scholarship, enabling him to study art full time for the next four years. To be close to school--and to the art scene of the time--Friedman moved to the lower East Side of Manhattan and also found a studio in the Bowery. Like many young painters at the time, he was fascinated with the work of the abstract expressionists who were living and working in the same neighborhood; and his paintings from those years reflect the influence of Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. The Tenth Street coop galleries associated with this bohemian environment also provided Friedman with occasional opportunities to exhibit his work, and importantly, introduced him to the challenges of making a living as an artist.
By 1962, Friedman had not only graduated from Cooper Union, but also married. To support his family, he worked in the conservation department at the Museum of Modern Art, courtesy of his friend, Thornton Rockwell, today a noted conservator. Friedman also continued to exhibit his paintings, which he describes as "concrete abstractionist", at the Tenth Street galleries. As he emerged from the abstract expressionism of his early work, Friedman began to develop his own aesthetic voice. His clean-edged geometric forms from the mid-1960s and 1970s reveal the artist's admiration of Piet Mondrian (1872-1944 ), as well as the contemporary concerns that Friedman shared with colleagues like Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd. The artist’s preference for crisp lines and precise geometry remain evident in his more recent work, in which architectural forms, art historical references and shaped canvases combine to create a distinctive expressive imagery. The 1960s also included two significant exhibitions for Friedman: Small Recent Paintings at the Fischbach Gallery in New York in 1965, and Labyrinth Paintings at the Wadsworth-Atheneum Museum in Hartford, Connecticut in 1969.
The decade of the 1970s opened with a move to the Berkshires and new employment at the Wadsworth-Atheneum Museum, working again in conservation with Thornton Rockwell. Life outside of New York City brought many changes, including a growing family and an environment with more natural components. His paintings became larger and larger, always focused on basic geometric forms at 90-degree angles and completely flat surfaces. Illusions of reality were banned. During this decade, Friedman gradually began to exhibit his work at colleges and universities as well as participating in the Black, White and Grey exhibition at the Wadsworth-Atheneum.
At the end of the 1970s, Friedman began using multiple colors in his painting, causing “horizon lines to creep into the painting" at the junction of the different colors. By 1981, light and shadow had crept in as well, and Friedman's pure geometry evolved into investigations of light, shadow and color. In 1988, in his Homage to Sol LeWitt, Friedman explored a strikingly new concept by creating fourteen, two-dimensional shaped canvases that referenced LeWitt’s three-dimensional series called Open Cubes. Friedman’s series was an immediate success, selling out quickly and attracting attention from an even larger audience of viewers. It was also during these years that he attracted attention from several corporations, thereby breaking into a new market for his large-scale works.
Friedman's new direction in his professional life was echoed in his personal life in 1989 when he met his present wife, Janet Rickus, a still-life artist. By then, his work was receiving increasing attention in New York at the Schillay & Rehs gallery exhibition in 1991, and at museums such as the Museum of Art in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 1993. In both cases, the works shown were large scale, imposing pieces featuring strong architectural elements combined with art historical references and sharply defined sunlight. Many of the paintings were as large as 8.5’ x 13’.
Increasingly, Friedman utilizes both models and photographs as the foundation for his paintings. He comments that the use of photographs is particularly useful because it captures the quality of light at a specific time of day, which allows him to maintain the integrity of the canvas as he envisions it. The large scale of the work, combined with architectural elements such as doors, fences or bridges, gives viewers the sense that they are experiencing a glimpse of a world just beyond them--and invites them to consider what a direct encounter with that world might be. For example, in the painting A Bend in the River, 2003, Friedman juxtaposes a view of the natural world through a window with an interior space containing a sunlit Mondrian painting; considerations about the relationship between inside and outside, between nature and art are inherent in this image, encouraging the viewer to study and reflect on the questions it might pose.
Janet Whitmore, Ph.D.
Selected one-person exhibitions
2010 Clark Gallery (Lincoln, MA) – Exhibition “Places in the Sun”
2010 Morrison Gallery (Kent, CT) – Exhibition of Recent Work
2008 New Arts Gallery (Litchfield, CT) – Exhibition of Recent Work
2007 Ferrin Gallery (Pittsfield, MA) -- Exhibition “Black White and Blue”
Paintings From the Eighties
2007 - Berkshire Museum (Pittsfield, MA) -- Exhibition of Monumental Paintings 1982-1985
2007 - Scott Richards Contemporary Art (San Francisco, CA) --Exhibition of Recent Work
2004 - Hadaad-Lascano Gallery, (Gt. Barrington, MA) --Exhibition of Recent Work
2003 - Elaine Baker Gallery, (Boca Raton, FL)--Exhibition of Recent Work
2003 - Boca Raton Museum of Art --Retrospective Exhibition: “Surroundings”
2002 - Elaine Baker Gallery, (Boca Raton, FL)--Exhibition of Recent Work
2001 - Ute Stebich Gallery, (Lenox, MA)—Recent Paintings
1999 - Elaine Baker Gallery, (Boca Raton, FL)--Exhibition of Recent Work
1999 - Ute Stebich Gallery, (Lenox, MA)--Exhibition of Recent Work
1998 - Freites-Revilla Gallery, (Boca Raton, FL)--Recent Paintings
1996 - Horwitch Newman Gallery, (Scottsdale, AZ)--Recent Paintings
1996 - Carone Gallery, (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)--Exhibition of Recent Work
1994 - Spazzi Fine Art, (Housatonic, MA)--Cut-Out Paintings of the Seventies
1994 - Carone Gallery, (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)--Exhibition of Recent Work
1993 - Museum of Art, (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)--“Warner Friedman Paintings: Ideal Visions”
1993 - Five Points Gallery, (Chatham, N.Y.)--Exhibition of Recent Work
1992 - Spazzi Fine Art, (Housatonic, MA)--Exhibition of Recent Work
1991 - Schillay & Rehs Gallery, (N.Y.C.)--Exhibition of Recent Work
1991 - Simons Rock College of Bard, (Gt. Barrington, MA)--Exhibition of Recent Work
1989 - St. Peter’s Church, (N.Y.C.)--Paintings
1988 - Central Connecticut State University, (New Britain, CT)-- Exhibition of Recent Work
1987 - Bayless Gallery, (Norfolk, CT)--Exhibition of Recent Work--“Monuments”
1984 - Freedman Gallery at Albright College--Painting Installation: “The South Shore”
1982 - Jersey City College--Exhibition of Recent Work
1976 - Winterhill Gallery, (Houston, TX)--Exhibition of Recent Work
1974 - Simons Rock Early College, (Gt. Barrington, MA)--Exhibition of Recent Work
1972 - University of Connecticut--Exhibition of Recent Work
1969 - Wadsworth Atheneum, (Hartford, CT)--Exhibition of Eight “Labyrinth” Paintings
1965 - Fischbach Gallery, (N.Y.C.)--Exhibition of Small Recent Paintings, Curated by Stephen Pepper
1965 - A.M. Sachs Gallery, (N.Y.C.)--Exhibition of Recent Work
Selected group exhibitions
2011 - The Morrison Gallery (Kent, CT) – “Group Exhibition 6”
2010 - Ferrin Gallery, (Lenox, MA) – “Couples”
2009 - The Morrison Gallery (Kent, CT)
2007 - Ferrin Gallery, (Lenox, MA)--“We Are There”
2006 - Scott Richards Contemporary Art (San Francisco, CA)
2005 - Berkshire Museum (Pittsfield, MA)--“The Power of Place”
2005 - Ferrin Gallery, (Lenox, MA)--“House of Wonder”
2005 - Elaine Baker Gallery, (Boca Raton, FL)—“The New Realism”, Curated by L.K. Meisel
2004 - New Arts Gallery (Litchfield, CT)--“Drawing Today”
2004 - Armory Art Center, (Palm Beach, FL)--“Bakers Dozen”
2004 - Ferrin Gallery, (Lenox, MA)—“Winter Light”
2003 - New Arts Gallery (Litchfield, CT)--“Clear Vision”
2001 - Hoorn-Ashby Gallery, (N.Y.C) --“The Discerning Eye”
2001 - Louis K. Meisel Gallery, (N.Y.C) --“Near and Far, Perspective & Structure”
1999 - Geoff Young Gallery, (Gt. Barrington, MA)
1999 - The Albany Center Galleries, (Albany, N.Y.)--“Berkshire Artists”
1998 - Cristinerose Gallery, (N.Y.C)
1998 - Elaine Baker Gallery, (Boca Raton, FL)
1997 - Krasdale Foods Inc.
1997 - Westunberg Gallery, (Gt. Barrington, MA)--“The Alphabet of Trees”
1996 - Robert Kidd Gallery, (Birmingham, MI)
1995 - The Springfield Museum of Fine Art, (Springfield, MA)--“ The New Landscape”
1994 - Bachelier-Cardonsky Gallery, (Kent, CT)--“Viewpoints”
1993 - Carone Gallery, (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
1992 - Robert Kidd Gallery, (Birmingham, MI)
1992 - Spazzi Fine Art, (Housatonic, MA)--”Cacophony”
1992 - Five Points Gallery, (Chatham, N.Y.)--”Spirituality and Symbols of Eroticism”
1991 - Schillay & Rehs Gallery, (N.Y.C.)
1990 - Ted Gallery, (Albany, N.Y.)--”Aspects of Realism”
1989 - Berkshire Artisans Gallery, (Pittsfield, MA)
1987 - Leonarda Di Mauro Gallery, (N.Y.C.)
1985 - Civilization, (N.Y.C.)--Benefit Exhibition of Small Works
1981 - Berkshire Museum, (Pittsfield, MA)--First Annual Invitational Exhibit, Curated by Debra Balken
1978 - Susan Caldwell Gallery, (N.Y.C.)--”Towards the Monochromatic”, Curated by Michael Walls
1975 - Contemporary Gallery, (Dallas, TX)
1973 - University of Connecticut--Faculty Show
1972 - Wadsworth Atheneum--Connecticut Academy
1970 - Wadsworth Atheneum--”Black, White & Grey”, Curated by Sam Wagstaff
1966 - Corcoran Gallery, (Washington, D.C.)
1966 - Park Place Gallery, (N.Y.C.)
1964 - Pennsylvania Academy
1963 - Brata Gallery, (N.Y.C.)--”Friends of the Tenth Street Co-ops”
Works in the colelction of the following organizations
Albright College, Reading, Pennsylvania
The Andover Company
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
First National Bank of Chicago
The McCrory Corporation
Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
News American Publishing, Inc.
Owens Corning Collection
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut
Selected articles and reviews
2011 - Cynthia Nadelman, “Group Exhibition 6”, ARTnew, 2011
2010 - Celia McGee, “Warner Friedman”, ARTnews, 2010
2010 - Keith V. Shaw, “A Mix Of Marriages”, artscope, 2010
2010 - Tracey O’Shaughnessy, “Fenced Out From Nature”, Sunday Republican, 2010
2010 - Leon Graham, “A Quiet, Ominous World”, 2010
2008 - Keith V. Shaw, “Small Gems”, The Berkshire Eagle, 2008
2007 - Amy Norkus, “Black, White and Blue”, The Berkshire Eagle, 2007
2005 - Geoffrey Young, “Recent Readings of the Housatonic”, from “Art and the River”, 2005
2005 - Jennifer Ball, “Drawing Today”, Art News, January, 2005
2004 - Heather Schreckengast, “Warner Friedman: Voyeur Of Nature”, Florida Design, Spring 2004
2003 - Dale M. King, “Surroundings”, The Sun-Sentinel, October 13, 2003.
2003 - Gary Schwan, “Warner Friedman”, Palm Beach Post, October 12, 2003.
2003 - Ken Willis, “Surroundings”, Citylink, September 17, 2003.
1996 - Gary Rausch, “Landscape Frame-up”, Scottsdale Tribune, July 11, 1996.
1995 - Gloria Russell, “The New Landscape” Springfield Museum of Fine Arts, Sunday Republican, September 10, 1995.
1995 - Daniel M. Klein, “Berkshire Landscapes”, Berkshire Magazine, Spring 1995.
1994 - Jude Schwendenwien, “Viewpoints” at Bachelier-Chardonsky, Art New England, October-November, 1994.
19994 - Charles Hagen, “In Connecticut”, New York Times, July 8, 1994.
1994 - oger Hurlburt, “The Mathematics of Art”, The Sun-Sentinel, February 20, 1994.
1993 - Helen L. Kohen, “Warner Friedman Paintings: Ideal Visions”, Miami Herald, Sept. 26, 1993.
1989 - Eunice Agar, “Warner Friedman”, American Artist, January 1989.
1984 - Tullio DeSantis, “Friedman at the Freedman”, The Reading Eagle, May 20, 1984.
1981 - Charles Boneti, “1981 Berkshire Museum Invitational”, Art New England, August 1981.
2012 - Massachusetts Cultural Council, Painting Award
2006 - Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant
1996 - Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant
1993 - Richard Florsheim Art Fund Grant
1990 - Massachusetts Artist Fellowship