Dianna Frid

Dianna Frid is an artist who works on drawing, sculpture, installation and artist’s books. Her works are both corporeal and philosophical reflections on the ways in which materials—physical and lexical—produce aesthetic and contemplative experiences and, by doing so, shape our sense of reality. Frid has received major awards from the Canada Council of the Arts and the Artadia Foundation. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally at institutions such as PS1- MOMA, in New York, the Drawing Center in New York City, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Neues Kunstforum in Cologne. Her work has been recently exhibited at Bravin Lee Programs in New York, and is housed in public collections such as the Art Institute of Chicago and the Cleveland Clinic.

Dianna Frid was born in Mexico City and migrated to Canada with her family when she was a teenager. She currently lives in Chicago where she is Associate Professor in the School of Art and Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In addition to her studio work, Dianna Frid started to make artist’s books in 1993 in Vancouver, with the name The Artery Archives as her imprint.

“I make two and three-dimensional objects as well as site-specific installations that are both corporeal and philosophical. My works are conceived as reflections on the ways in which materials—physical and lexical—engender aesthetic and contemplative experiences and, by doing so, shape our sense of reality.

On the one hand, my work resonates with inquiries arising in the 1950s concerning process and material in sculpture and painting, where concurrent movements challenged classicism and monumentality in art, and celebrated ‘impoverished materials’ as radical alternatives to media such as marble and bronze. On the other hand, a corresponding set of influences arises from unexpectedly parallel lineages of craft, such as textile production. I reconsider these lineages as significant pivots at the margins of modernism, where aesthetic and technical traditions meet, where an artifact is given form through structured processes that integrate basic fibers to produce codes embodied in patterned signs—codes that are not altogether distant from the inscription of words on a page. Across these influences, I interrogate the ideological gap between the arts and crafts, between idea and production.

At the inception of a body of work, I engage attentively with manual processes, concentrating on the specific properties and potentials of substances and matter: the filaments of thread, the strangely brittle robustness of plaster, the lustrous shimmer of graphite. I reconfigure and combine these to arrive at resolutions for which there is no prior blueprint. This process relies on both gained proficiency and spontaneous exploration.

The works unfold within the context of my studio—a laboratory where I experiment with the multivalent possibilities of making. Cloth, with its dynamic potentials to be both volumetric and flat, offers the perfect model for how the sculptural and the pictorial inform each other—from surface and pattern to mass and its relation to bodily and architectural scale. The resulting works are formally heterogeneous: I might present a sculpture made with stacked canvas and coloring pencil next to an existing wall transformed by a thin membrane of shiny graphite; the two activate each other as percepts and precepts, prompting questions of awareness and meaning-making. Over the years, several of my projects have incorporated textual elements. The material of language—as it occurs in specific literary and popular sources—plays a generative role.

A reason why my work is provocative stems from its embrace of practices, such as sewing, that are too readily perceived as largely gendered. I boldly juxtapose these practices with themes and scales that offset any singular understanding of what a specific technique (and its materiality) is and does, historically and now.”