56 Henry is pleased to present Décor Slip, an exhibition of new work by Jonah Freeman, on view from April 6, 2024 through May 24, 2024 at 105 Henry Street.

Décor Slip is comprised of three interconnected series of artworks: paintings on mirror-polished aluminum, an experimental essay film, and storyboard collage sequences. These three elements, while seemingly disparate, share a formal and narrative logic that is composed spatially in an environment where patterns of color act as a ground for emergent image and material play.

The Brick Paintings start with a substrate of mirror-polished aluminum. The mirror works began some 16 years ago with a screen-printing technique that used a series of monoprints to build up the image. It is called process printing and originated as a commercial technique used to reproduce color photographs for mass dissemination. Freeman distorted the process through a deliberate misuse of color. Instead of the standard CMYK the colors became BPOK or some other clashing combination. The first pictures were of broken pieces of gypsum sheetrock; the artifacts of an architectural ruin. These works were incorporated into the ongoing collaborative project with Justin Lowe, where they create sprawling architectural environments as a form of immersive sculpture. The mirror was intended to bring the environment into the picture; a shifting, self- reflexive space that changed with movement and light. It has been theorized that reflections, likely in a body of water, were humans first encounter with the image.

The Brick Paintings are made through a complex layering of oil paint, high-gloss varnish, and UV-cured ink. Instead of pieces of decaying architecture, these pictures render a state of morphogenesis within the realm of technical imagery. Inspired by the mid-20th century Matterist art movement, which emphasized the transformation of materials through destructive processes like burning, tearing, and cutting; these paintings delve into the material degradation of image-making technologies, such as autonomous drones, LCD screens and photochemical films. 

The process begins with landscape images captured by autonomous drones, viewed through the machinic perspective of surveillance technology. These images are then rephotographed and subjected to color separation, simplifying the environments into basic grid patterns of an LCD screen. This abstraction reduces the recognizable spaces to their geometric essentials. Subsequent layers incorporate other media elements, including melted photographic film and aged cinematic celluloid, further distorting the original image, and enhancing the illusion of material transformation. This method results in a visual paradox, where the tangible elements of the artwork evoke a sense of hard materialism, yet the overall effect is one of intangible, shifting patterns—a trompe l'oeil that plays with the notion of what is physical and what is mere appearance.

The experimental essay film, also titled Décor Slip, uses an associative narrative structure to articulate an unlikely set of relationships surrounding the themes of pattern, perception, and environment. It blends a variety of elements, including science fiction, historical events, and personal narratives, into a kaleidoscopic tour. This information collage is built mostly from found material pulled from a studio image archive that Freeman has been building over the past 20+ years. Footage from Bell Labs' industrial films and the World’s Fair, educational science infographics, commercials from the 1980s, and modern social media content are intercut with unique collage animations, AI hallucinations and home videos.

This diverse collection of images and scenes illustrates a series of transformative processes: how gypsum dust is repurposed as fertilizer, which in turn catalyzes population growth, leading to urban development that integrates gypsum into its architecture; how the carrot spawned the technology behind liquid crystal displays; how failed beatnik wallpaper found a new life as packaging for the first computers; how sand is transformed into a medium for digital thought; and how the complex process of biological morphogenesis is distilled into mathematical equations.

The storyboard collages, composed of interchangeable "frames" in the cinematic 16:9 aspect ratio, function as a visual language, akin to hieroglyphics. This spatial form of screenwriting, a blend of traditional blackboard brainstorming and cybernetic mapping, serves as a blueprint for a speculative film. This, like the film, is grounded in the collection and mediation of found imagery. These storyboards originated as a kind of drawing; a studio-based cut-up method used to find unlikely associations, work through narratives and themes; a loose, non-committal process of exercising and finding form.

The color schematic that undergirds each series and the overall exhibition design is collaged from Josef Albers' seminal work "Interaction of Color." Albers' exploration into color relativity underscores the idea that our perception is inherently influenced by its context. His notion of "color deception" challenges the concept of absolute colors, emphasizing the fluid and subjective nature of perception. Décor Slip extrudes this idea of perceptual instability and puts it into play within the world of technical images, information, and urban environments where meaning is never fixed but constantly changing in relation to everything else. Together, these three series function as complements within a larger conceptual whole, each element informing the others in a feedback loop of overlapping cause and effect.

Décor Slip at 56 Henry marks Jonah Freeman’s first New York solo exhibition in 20 years.

JONAH FREEMAN was born in 1975 in Santa Fe, NM and lives and works in New York City. He has a degree in Film Production and Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. He has exhibited extensively since 1998. His work, while grounded in the filmmaking process, has manifested in a variety of forms including painting, pictures, environments, and films. The themes of his work are primarily focused on the odysseys of the constructed world and the resulting social and psychological effects. Fiction is often employed as a means of uncanny distortion in the depiction of specific social/historical situations.

Since 2007 he has engaged in a collaborative project, known as Freeman/Lowe, with artist Justin Lowe. Together they produce large-scale architectural scenarios that explore the connections between counterculture and industrial society. Their signature form of spatial collage creates sprawling sequences of interiors that turn the everyday architectural experience into a cinematic montage.

Solo exhibitions include at Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York; Artist Space, New York; Galerie Mitterrand, Paris and Geneva; Play, Berlin; Kadist Foundation, Paris, and Public Art Fund, New York. Museum Exhibitions include at MOMA P.S. 1, New York; The Centre Pompidou, Paris; Centre d'Art Contemporain, Genève; Busan Biennale, Busan, Korea; The Kitchen, New York, and Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio. His films have screened in film festivals that include The International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Locarno International Film Festival and The Rome International Film Festival.

Freeman/Lowe’s collaborative projects have been exhibited at Deitch Projects, New York; Marlborough Gallery, New York and London; ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Denmark; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museo Maat, Lisbon, Portugal; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark; Sammlung Philara, Dusseldorf, Germany; Art Basel Unlimited, Basel, Switzerland; Ballroom, Marfa; Istanbul Biennale, Istanbul, Turkey, and Taipei Biennale, Taipei, Taiwan.

Freeman/Lowe will present their first solo American Museum exhibition at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in October 2024.

Link to film.