Whitehot Magazine

Eric Freeman: Into the Light

Portrait of Eric Freeman, 2002. Courtesy of © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

By JAMES SALOMON August, 2021

WHAT?!? How???

It was early morning in early August, I was in bed, scrolling through IG stories which stopped on something from Ross that would set the mood for the day. Eric was dead.

No details were given. I later found out that it happened in his sleep, and that's enough for me to know about so I'll stop there. Although I hadn't seen him for several years, I'd been following his work on social media and knew he'd always stayed the course in his language.

Eric and I were close when he showed with Mary Boone and I was on her team. We'd sell his paintings before they could dry, clients would call up from the studio telling us what they'd be getting before we even knew they existed. This was in the mid 2000's, before the crash, when it was all a big party, and we had lots of fun together with all the social bonuses that the art world provided. I'd watch women (and men) tripping over themselves to talk with Eric, as he was this beautiful guy with boyish charm, no real agenda, just going with the flow.

"Eric and I became friends through Ross (Bleckner)," writes photographer Kelly Klein, "I would go over and visit him at his studio, he'd explain his process and objectives, I was so seduced by his use of color and thought of him as radiant as his work. An angel face with extraordinary green eyes. A beautiful soul."

Eric Freeman for NY Times, 2000. Courtesy of Kelly Klein.

In 2005 when I was looking to open a seasonal gallery out East, Eric was the first person I called, and it was he who dialed me into Ross' space on Plank Road, where David Salle also had a studio. Those units were brand new and just right for what I was trying to do. Ross eventually handed over his lease to Eric and we became neighbors.

Eric Freeman, Jack Youngerman, and Willem DeKooning at the Parrish Art Museum as part of their permanent collection. Courtesy of the Parrish.

During and after his time with Mary, he also had a presence in Europe, where the work was popular with Wetterling in Stockholm, Forsblom in Helsinki, and Noirhomme in Brussels. He later showed with Sam Trioli at Launch F18 in New York, and there was always Edsel Williams, then Trip Patterson, both notable East End dealers, amongst other galleries scattered around the world.

 Eric Freeman at Galerie Forsblom, Helsinki, 2010. Courtesy of Galerie Forsblom. 

 Eric Freeman at LAUNCH F18, New York, 2015. Courtesy of LAUNCH F18. 

Ross contributes: "As much as eric loved to be in his studio... as much as he was fascinated with the complexities of transparency, pigment, mixing, formulating new combinations and layering one atop the other so that the light seemed to shift color and the perception of space... I actually never saw his paintings as painting qua painting, I saw them as the flickering of being a fresh and contemporary definition of what we might call touching divinity. It's what artists aspire to, and I think he did.

They hum with vibrational energy that actually makes them seem sculptural. They seem to have angles, to optically pulsate... warp, bend, become convex or concave having more to do with the kinetics of artists like James Turrell, Richard Serra, or Dan Flavin...

He brought the light and mood that people are so moved by in a Rothko painting into contemporary discourse.

He had just turned 51 he had so much amazing work left in him to give the world."

Mary, who happily spends her days dealing privately, was disheartened when the news came in. "I have very fond memories of my time with Eric, he was a wonderful person and a very good artist. I know he'll be missed by many, including me." WM


James Salomon

is the Director of Design Projects at Achille Salvagni Atelier in New York. He occasionally writes and takes pictures for various art, design, and lifestyle publications.


Photo: Lori Hawkins


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