Howard Fried
Sociopath, 1983
The Decomposition of My Mother’s Wardrobe, 2014-2015

November 15, 2014 – January 10, 2015
Opening Reception November 15, 6-9pm 

In the first exhibition of Howard Fried’s at The Box, we will be exhibiting two pieces: Sociopath, 1983and The Decomposition of My Mother’s Wardrobe, 2014-2015. The exhibition will explore the historical and the present day thinking of Howard Fried, who is primarily known as a conceptualist, working in performance, video and sculpture. Fried’s practice resides in a precise, intrinsically critical space that creates an insatiable need to know more. Here are two descriptive texts he has recently written about Sociopath and The Decomposition of My Mother’s Wardrobe:


“Sociopath” includes a large sink supported by a slotted angle stand equipped with three casters and one pivot block around which the assembled stand is pivoted into place atop an eight by eight foot platform which is divided by an off-centered off-horizontal-running gutter and is supported by legs of four different heights.

          The resulting angled planes and linear elements make up a system wherein metaphorically a particular species of creative energy stiffened by a risk-taking starch and represented by water in this case is held in the most extreme, threatening, or precarious location and position possible within the boundaries of the system. That place is that corner of the sink that is outside and on the wrong side of the protective edge of the gutter. Water falling on the wrong side of the gutter would spill onto the gallery floor. Water falling through the sink’s drain will not and is conducted by gravity to the gutter and then into a drainpipe that runs parallel to the incoming water pipe until it reaches the perimeter of the room from where it follows the perimeter of the room until it can drain outside of the gallery space.

          The effective height of each leg is adjusted by a machine jack set into a bore in the top of each leg. The jacks are adjusted until the only thing keeping the water flowing into the sink through the work’s faucet element from cascading onto the wrong side of the platform via the aforementioned precarious corner is surface tension.

          The piece explores the relationship between risk taking, the avant-garde, and the institutions and communities that support them.

          Sociopath has not been installed since 1983 when it was shown first at Artist’s Space in New York and then at the University Art Museum in Berkeley. The piece was acquired in 1989 by Arnold and Marie Forde, who were unable to install it because it didn’t fit in the room they had intended for it. It was accessioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 1998.


“The Decomposition of My Mother’s Wardrobe” involves the distribution of the approximately 260 items in the wardrobe of my late mother, Rose K Fried, who passed away in 2002.  Those people invited to participate will be asked to answer a questionnaire containing several questions such as, “What color are your eyes?”, “What color is your car?”, “Do you prefer tints to shades?”, “Do you prefer simple or complex patterns?”, etc.

          The answers to these will be processed by an algorithm that will produce an array of six to eight online shopping style pictures of items remaining in the wardrobe. From these each participant will choose one, which they will keep. Each item becomes a unique artwork and includes a label sewn into it with my mother’s and my signature and the name and date of the piece. In return the participant must agree to wear the item to a celebratory event, which will take place on a date and at a time to be announced as soon as the completion of the distribution becomes predictable. Should the date present a conflict for the participant, she or he must agree to make every effort to send a surrogate to wear the selected item in their place. The item in this case will remain the property of the original participant.

          Participants must also agree to take several pictures for me at some future time. My instructions for these might be for example, take a picture out of a window in a room adjacent to the room where the garment is usually kept, or take a picture from the farthest intersection bordering the block with the building the garment is kept in while aiming the camera toward the approximate location of the garment, or take a picture of your least favorite piece of furniture in that room farthest from the garment, etc. None of my requests will involve photographing the garment itself or the participant. I will use these pictures and other information collected during the processes involved in the distribution of the items in the wardrobe to construct algorithm that will drive subsequent structural decisions that will result in a series of compositions (probably wall pieces) whose subject in some sense may also be described as decompositions of my mother’s wardrobe.

                                                                                                 —Howard Fried, November 2014


Howard Fried (b. 1946, Cleveland, Ohio) received his MFA in 1970 from the University of California, Davis, and BFA in 1968 from the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). Founder of the video and performance department (New Genres), he taught performance, video, and sculpture at SFAI from 1970 to 1987. He lives and works in Vallejo, California.

Fried was the subject of a 1983 midcareer survey at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and has held solo exhibitions at Apexart, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; ICA, Boston; Artists Space, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York; Fort Worth Art Museum; Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Canada; Reese Palley Gallery, San Francisco - New York, among other venues. Associated with the first generation of conceptual artists in the Bay Area, Fried was featured in numerous exhibitions at artist-run spaces including the Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco; and/or, Seattle; and A Space, Toronto, among others. 

Fried’s work was included in the recent group surveys State of Mind: New California Art since 1970 (2011-13, tour), Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, and Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981 (2011), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The View from Here (2011), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; California Video (2008), J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles. Fried has participated in numerous group exhibitions at such institutions as SFMOMA; CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; de Young Museum, San Francisco; University Art Gallery, University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff, Alberta, among others. Major group exhibitions include Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949‒1979 (1998, tour); '60/'80 Attitudes/Concepts/Images, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; New American Video Art; A Historical Survey 1967-1980, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (tour); Whitney Biennial (1977, 1979, 1981, 1983), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Documenta 5, Kassel, Germany (1972); and Prospect 71: Projection (1971) Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, Germany; Louisiana Museum, Denmark.


If you have any questions please contact:
Mara McCarthy, Principal/Curator of The Box at [email protected] / 213 625 1747


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