Gina Freschet, Lemon Head, 2011, Oil crayon and acrylic on paper, 20 in x 30 in (50.8 cm x 76.2 cm)

Gina Freschet, Lemon Head, 2011, Oil crayon and acrylic on paper, 20 in x 30 in (50.8 cm x 76.2 cm)

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Excerpt below:

“In New York in the 80s, the City exploded with figurative work, which was really exciting to us (artists) because we hadn’t seen anyone doing figurative work in the galleries for about a decade…I saw the Neo-Expressionists come out and they were just using wonderful huge spots of color. And then a lot of times, using their hands, just digging into it, and that really turned me on…There was something really messy about it (Neo-Expressionism) and very emotional about it…I really liked Francesco Clemente and Julian Schnabel…and of course Jean-Michel Basquiat was just coming into that scene. He saw a lot of raw emotion that hadn’t been seen before.”

Gina Freschet is an artist who likes to write in pictures.  Her unique illustrative style depicts sociopolitical themes through cartoon figures and elementary sketches. Seemingly simple caricatures represent a complex thought process laced with satiric humor. Stylistically, Freschet’s compositions are a pastiche of pictorial and script based signs, graffiti gesticulations and children’s drawings.  A self-proclaimed sign painter, Freschet considers her work unmoored from any specific artistic movement in the canon of art history.  As a School of Visual Arts (SVA) undergraduate, Freschet studied illustration. What made the two-year program particularly alluring was the myriad of successful New York City illustrators that peppered the SVA professorial collective.  This detail was particularly important to Freschet because as an aspiring illustrator, the field was in great need of validation due to its distinct separation from the fine arts.   Freschet explains, “In the 1980s, there was a large divide between illustration and Fine Arts.  It was all about Minimalism—there was no painting going on, not even in the galleries—so all the drawing and painting got relegated to illustration.” Eager to express her creative forces, Freschet took it upon herself to learn how to paint.  The artist took a liking to oils due to their forgiving properties—oils could be easily manipulated wet or dry—unlike other mediums such as watercolors.

That Freschet is self-taught in painting, her initial foray into the medium was awkward. Due to the fact that she did not have an early art history appreciation; Freschet did not understand contemporary art until college. Freschet explains that quite simply, she did not know how to look at art: “For example, I didn’t know how to look at Cy Twombly’s work. When I was twenty-two I called him ‘the scribbler’…and now he is one of biggest influences in my craft.”  In many ways Freschet had to start over by unlearning much of her traditional art doctrine. The artist likens the experience to a maturation process. During this elementary stage, she became frustrated by the fact that the ability to paint had not been bestowed upon her naturally. Perhaps the most challenging was Freschet’s mastery of the paintbrush; she was perturbed that she could not paint the way she could draw.  It took her a full year to learn not only about the mechanics of painting—such as changing her tool from pencil to brush—but also about liquid color and its properties.

Gina Freschet, Ka-Pow, 2007, Mixed Media, 29.5 in X 22 in (74.93 cm x 55.88 cm)

Gina Freschet, Ka-Pow, 2007, Mixed Media, 29.5 in X 22 in (74.93 cm x 55.88 cm)

Up until the 1980’s, Freschet was working strictly in black in white. Consequently Freschet had to readjust her mode of thinking; instead of working from a mental palette of grisailles, she was suddenly executing her ideas in Technicolor.  Part of this process required a formal study of color theory and the color wheel, which included a humbling introduction of how to mix colors. During this nascent stage, Freschet came to fully embrace color, and has since securely fastened it to her technique. Stylistically, some of Freschet’s work can be likened to Basquiat’s given their mutual penchant for bright colors, rudimentary sketches, and ideogrammatic compositions.  Works like Ka Pow, 2008 and The Vacuum, 2008 particularly exemplify this.  Upon further exploration of Freschet’s oeuvre, one can begin to identify other artistic influences as well. Freschet expresses a great interest particularly in Outsider Art:

“I love the way people who don’t know how to paint represent things.  It’s like a beautiful language barrier—someone comes to your country and they start speaking English and they don’t know it that well—but they invent the most wonderful phrases that are wholly unique and so original. It’s like having access only to a thesaurus instead of a dictionary.”

Gina Freschet, Horse 2008, Oil on canvas, 28 in x 22 in (71.12 cm x 55.88)

Gina Freschet, Horse 2008, Oil on canvas, 28 in x 22 in (71.12 cm x 55.88)

Simplified animal forms and rustic environments depicted in Horse, 2008 and Wyoming, 2008 suggest compositional similarities to Outsider Artist Bill Traylor. Untitled (Kewpie Doll), 2007 and Garden of Allah, 2007 each illustrate an attraction/repulsion element featured heavily in Outsider Artist Henry Darger’s work.  The artist also pulls elements from Dada, Abstract Expressionism, Neo-Expressionism, Oceanic Art, celebrated musicians like Bob Dylan and avant-garde filmmakers like Roman Polanski and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.  Freschet plucks strands of unconventional pictorial language and East Asian spiritualism in Untitled (Elephant and Buddha), 2007 and The Little Dog Laughed, 2008 reminiscent of Francesco Clemente.  Catacombs, 2008 reflects a personalized version of Cy Twombly’s “blackboard” picture style.  Curly script, yellow color planes and non-delineated space in Untitled, 2007 and History and Memory, 2007 quote from the trademark style of Saul Steinberg.  What is notable about Freschet’s artistic and musical heroes is the absence of any female figures…

Gina Freschet, Untitled, 2008, Mixed Media

Gina Freschet, Untitled, 2008, Mixed Media