by Patricia Matthews
A consistent vocabulary of personal yet culturally relevant signs inhabits the textured encaustic paintings of Rachel Friedberg. These signs are not simply reductive ciphers that speak to some elemental and direct meaning. They are used in a narrative manner to reveal enculturated messages in which titles play a vital and illuminating role. As is the case with many such reductive narrative paintings today, the narratives do not read as a cohesive window on the world, or an autonomous self-referential whole, but, rather, as a series of associative elements, at the same time disjunctive and coordinate according to a structure of deferred meaning. In Little House on the Prairie a floating house appears, tied like a balloon to a fenced field, and within a dark void is a floating reclining nude woman with head turned from us, drawn in the most simplistic outline possible. These elements are not woven together in order to suture the viewer into their text. Rather, each element has meaning only as it defers and refers to the other, a reverberating linkage rather than a seamless whole, in Jacques Derrida's sense of the term 'differance.' In Friedberg's work, meaning is synchronically associative, varied & ambiguous. There is no ultimate, single message that can be excavated from her paintings.