Like most Americans, I keep the idea of death’s unforgiving grasp safely confined to the periphery of my subconscious via a gentle stream of sex, alcohol and vaguely pointless amusement. Our society, pathologically ill-equipped to deal with grief in any kind of serious way, allows for little else. So it should come as no surprise that Conrad Freiburg’s fun-loving memento mori, “Before the Grave and Constant” at Linda Warren Projects, fits neatly into this bitter-pill-washed-down-with-mountains-of-sugar cultural ethos.
Echoing a giant game of Mouse Trap, the various ropes and pulleys that populate this gallery-sized installation set steel bearings into motion along divergent channels that always end in the dark void of the proverbial (and literal) bucket. Symbolizing decision and consequence, life’s travails and its inevitable end, Freiburg’s take on death is also inherently materialist and occidental, portraying it as the final destination on a linear journey, with no hint of an afterlife, or even reincarnation. The problem—if you want to call it that—is that the interactive installation is just too fun to take very seriously.
Perfectly encapsulating the central conflict that plagues contemporary art, “Before the Grave and Constant” takes on a significant issue—our collective inability to grapple with mortality—and offers only a lightweight treatment of it, literally turning it into a game. Far more affecting are Freiburg’s free-standing and untitled small-scale sculptures. Compact and concentrated, these delicately assembled pieces cut an ambiguous path that evokes recognizable forms (honey dipper, telescope, etc.) but resist concrete identification, beautifully embodying the notion that the materials of our world must “die” in order to be “reborn” as works of art. (Alan Pocaro)
Through August 10 at Linda Warren Projects, 327 North Aberdeen, Suite 151