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Jeffrey Frisch, "Extreme Moderation"
Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA), Santa Ana, California
Review by Liz Goldner

Jeffrey Frisch, “Same Size Suns,” 2014


Continuing through September 30, 2023


Veteran artist and curator Jeffrey Frisch turns art styles, genres, movements, and even painting techniques inside out and upside down. Titled “Extreme Moderation,” Frisch explains in his introductory text, “The exhibit title is my oblique, surrealistic, word-play reference to contemporary, modern and even traditional art.”


His "Optical Delusions and Impossible Objects” series is designed to cause a shift in consciousness. Using the hard-edge technique of simplified color and razor-sharp contours, he creates canvases intended to mystify us. “Two or Four” (2014) features two geometric arrows pointing outward, with four bases. The confounding “Four or Six” (2013) contains geometric blocks that number four or six, depending on where you look. And “Lewitt’s Conundrum” (2015), referring to Sol LeWitt, is a geometric cube-like structure with angles that appear and disappear, mimicking the tricks of a magician. In the diptych, “Same Size Suns” (2014), one sun, surrounded by planets smaller than itself, appears larger than the same size sun, surrounded by planets larger than itself. Looking at these and other enigmatic paintings, we might speculate whether Frisch was once a mad scientist.


The artist’s “dreamVessel” assemblage series (2014-2017), arranged on pedestals and hung from the ceiling throughout the main gallery, creates whimsical ambiance. These multi-faceted, bilaterally symmetrical sailboat-like constructions are made from cast-off materials, including pieces of shirts he has worn for the sails, discarded household items and long rods. All pieces are given the same title, “Airborne,” followed by a creation sequence number. They are not built to fly or float, but to take us on flights of fancy — even to places where the categories of modern, contemporary and traditional art are subsumed into what Frisch calls "the beyond," while "the ubiquitous creative force powering what seems to be our reality,” he says. The “dreamVessels,” as with other series, are up-cycled, found-object constructions alluding to environmental concern. 


Frisch’s paintings draw on his expertise in illustration. “Model-A Triptych” (2005), a figurative work, contains several views of his 1931 Model-A Ford, which he purchased in 1965, still owns, and drives occasionally. “Geometric Skydance,” numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 (all 2013), a suite of fantasy constructions containing balls, blocks, one square and one hexagon, are painted so adeptly that they appear almost three-dimensional. His “Microbe Derby” (2012) provides a whimsical look at free-form bacteria floating among two red balls. A series of seven “Encounter” paintings (all 2020), adapt depictions of sci-fi style flying saucers, a continuation of the “dreamVessels” flights of fancy. Frisch explains, “Each painting depicts a different UFO/UAP/Interstellar Craft design, all from a future era when these craft have become so mainstream they are sold commercially to the consuming public. Each work represents the various manufacturers and models available.”


Another theme pervading this exhibition is his all-glitter, low-relief “Hollywood” series, referencing what he calls “inclusion and equality, conceptually raising a potentially de-classe craft material [glitter] to fine art status.” These abstract creations, all from 2015, consist of multi-color glitter that is painstakingly collaged to ½” thick gator board. The results are artfully arranged geometric constructions, evoking the glamor, glitz and fantasies of Hollywood’s mythology factory. Frisch names these pieces “Chinatown,” “Being John Malkovitch,” “Bolero,” “Fargo” and other film titles.


Perhaps the most amusing installation in this packed show is “Found Object Lamps.” For this mixed media series, he places in random order six small desk lamps on three pedestals of varying heights, and affixes to them various cooking tools. These include a grater, corkscrew, can opener, bottle top and measuring spoons. We might wonder if this series is the artist’s homage to food preparation. His response: he doesn’t like to cook, but he does like to eat.


Also worth noting is an alphabet made of paper mâché, culled from shredded obsolete U.S. paper currency. Frisch not only treasures salvaged materials, but the many members of OCCCA who he has worked with for decades. Rounding out the show are works from 12 of these colleagues and friends. They include: Evalynn Alu, Becky Black, Annie Clavel, Gianne deGenevraye, Gina Genis, Beverly Jacobs, Tom Lamb, Donnal Poppe, Robin Repp, Brennan Roach, Soheila Siadate and Debra Vodhanel, and his daughter Becca Licha, who contributes ceramic works.

Orange County Center for Contemporary Art | OCCCA

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