Tom Friedman creates sculptures out of everyday materials. Since 1990 he has worked with such commonplace household items as toothpaste, cubes of sugar, cereal boxes, Pepto-Bismol, and Life Savers. With painstakingly labor-intensive and time-consuming craftsmanship, Friedman transforms these modest resources into delicate, whimsical, and uncanny objects, ranging from self-portraits to abstract geometric configurations. Past works include a perfect sphere molded out of approximately 1500 pieces of chewed bubblegum, a likeness of the artist carved from a single tablet of aspirin, and a tangled, three-dimensional loop produced by gluing together the ends of a pound of cooked spaghetti.
Phenomena at both the micro and macro levels are recurring subjects of Friedman's practice. For two pieces from 1990, the artist created shimmering nebulae out of laundry detergent and red-eraser shavings, and in other sculptures, a construction of polystyrene insulation and Styrofoam balls or a cluster of various types and sizes of sports balls resemble models of DNA or atomic particles. The Guggenheim's untitled sculpture—a starburst-shaped network of chicken wire with painted Styrofoam orbs—is more ambiguous and could represent equally the interstellar or the molecular worlds. In this piece, as in all his work, Friedman cleverly plays on paradox, depicting something that is fundamental, mysterious, and invisible to the naked eye by using the mundane stuff from our daily experience.