On ViewPeter Freeman, Inc.
September 8–November 5, 2022
In the challenging and affecting show currently on view at Peter Freeman, Inc., Fernanda Gomes has devised an unpredictable landscape of the mind, full of impromptu growths and unexpected outcroppings. Somehow, it all connects. The entire installation, filling the gallery’s several rooms and corridors, is something like a stage set, with all the props either tossed about or lined up—and the performance not yet rehearsed. Where should the pieces go? What is their purpose? How do they relate to one another? Do they? And, above all, how do they activate our imaginations?
We, as audience, must serve as directors, employing light, space, air currents, shadows, and ourselves, this time taking the part of characters.
At the same time, the production mirrors Gomes’s creative process, moving from emptiness to reflection to free-association to engagement with material and the construction of an idea. And then we see the deconstruction of that idea as decisions morph. We do it all with the artist.
Enigmas abound: a very small white cube in the center of the largest gallery is set among large clusters of raw wood and other materials suggesting smashed furniture and street debris. The effect is that of a dot, like one in a Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot painting, holding and sending our eye into motion amid the chaos surrounding it. Perhaps the center will hold?
Connections, too, proliferate. Both rough-edged and refined, a piece of wood with a shredded edge calls to mind the torn-off unfinished hem of a dress and a sense of endlessness—an allusion, perhaps, to the experience of domesticity. Gomes also invokes gardens amid landscapes of both ephemeral and solid materials. A favorite of mine is a sculpture composed of a piece of raw wood with a rock that looks like a potato balanced precariously on top of it. The modest assemblage is mounted on a pedestal and poses, seemingly ready to shift both position and direction, with the rock tipping the balance.
As minimal as Gomes’s art initially appears, in its whiteness and the unspecificity of its elements, the works on view here call to mind both the visual comforts of modernism and the craftiness of Constructivism. We see this in Gomes’s built wooden grids, as patches of white paint against the raw wood allow for ever-varying reflections in response to shifts in natural light.
Throughout the show, all kinds of frames come and go—disappearing when viewed from the side or boldly two-dimensional when seen head-on. Materials are at once there and not there: a string hanging in front of a white sheet of paper with a thin line painted on it tricks our eye as it disappears. Something similar happens with sheets of white paper or canvas hanging in such a way that they become invisible from the side.
Most enthralling in the exhibition is the white studio Gomes has created in the gallery. Spare and poetic, it’s a mesmerizing and perfectly illuminated meditation space. Pieces of white wood stick out from the walls and catch the light, quietly reflecting it one moment and seeming to disappear the next. This room is a space for dreaming.
Gomes is an artist whose power lies in her modesty. She stretches us to perceive how her process works. She is a kind of magician—now you see it, now you don’t. You can’t believe your eyes. Things are barely there, not there. The white paint that partially covers her constructions of found objects adds accident to the visual effects of the works. The white heightens the ability of Gomes’s constructions to engage with their surroundings and with ambient light, a quality that counter-intuitively allows their various parts to come into sharper focus. Objects change.
As the artist herself puts it: "Play freely with things, because they are, after all, things.”1
The artist is indeed present.