Michigan artist, Eric Freitas will be putting on a art exhibition entitled “Growth & Decay” in Detroit at the Tangent Gallery on Saturday, February 6. The exhibit will be built around the unveiling of a giant seven-foot clock titled “Jungers Commission”.
This will be the only public viewing of the clock before it is shipped to a private collection in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The public is invited to attend the showing for free from 7 pm to 10 pm with the first 500 attendees receiving signed prints.
Freitas grew up in Chelsea, Michigan before moving to Detroit to attend the College for Creative Studies. He currently calls Royal Oak home.
For the past decade, he has pushed the boundaries of his singular fascination with horology, the art of measuring time. He has found a way to combine both of his interests in the mechanical and the natural and marry them in new and exciting ways.
Last week, Freitas talked about the upcoming show and what is next for him.
Examiner: How did this exhibit come together for you?
Eric: Well over a year and a half ago I was approached with a commission for somebody’s wine cellar. He wanted a big center-piece for it and yeah, the drawings started it but then it kind of snowballed into a much bigger project than would have happened at the beginning of the conversation. It’s kind of crazy how these things go. After working pretty relentlessly on it for all this time, my friends and my family pushed pretty hard for me to do a show with an unveiling so I can show people before I ship it off to Milwaukee to be hidden away in a wine cellar forever. I’ve been working so hard on it that I think people need to see it.
Examiner: How many hours do you think you’ve actually put into it?
Eric: I log my hours really tightly because I want to know if I’m ever approached by a client down the road how long it takes and how much materials cost. So I’m almost at 2,300 hours.
Examiner: What does it mean to you to be able to finish such a huge job as this and have a chance to do a show to unveil it?
Eric: I’m not going to know what to do when this piece is finished! This has been my whole world for so long so when I finally put it down and set it up over there, I’m just going to sit on my couch and not hear this monster ticking in the middle of my living room. It’s going to be a strange sort of postpartum experience I think.
Examiner: What do you want to tell people about this exhibit?
Eric: Well for all of my work in general the main sort of theme behind all of my stuff is the marriage between natural stuff and mechanical stuff. Normally those two things are though of as opposites but I actually try to blend them together and they actually complement each other very well. So that’s the sort of underlying aesthetic behind everything that I do. I chose to do it at a Detroit warehouse too because I think the industrial feel not only is a good theatrical backdrop for shooting video and taking pictures of the piece, but it’s also nice to be able to grab a space like that and set up a show and do whatever you like with it. So there’s not just going to be sellable work. Nobody has to worry about things like making overheard or taking commissions or anything like that. I can use the space for whatever I want. There’s going to be a lot of concept sketches and just random scraps from the shop and all sorts of stuff that give you a good idea of my process.
Examiner: And you will have some of your other pieces on display as well?
Eric: Yeah I think I’ve got ten to twelve pieces in total alongside the big seven-foot tall commission. I’m also going to have the video showing the gear making process running too.
Examiner: Speaking of that industrial feel, your workshop even has that feel to it. Is that something that you have always been interested in?
Eric: I don’t know. I think the mechanical stuff always interested me but I think the industrial bug caught me when I moved to Detroit awhile back. It must have been twenty years now when I first came out here to go to CCS and that’s when I started exploring it. I grew up on a wooded, dirt road so I think I’m influenced more by the natural stuff than the industrial stuff.
Examiner: And how did the clocks come into play?
Eric: That’s one of those things that sort of snowballed too. There was a couple of years where I wasn’t producing any sort of art work at all. I wasn’t inspired to really do anything and then I kind of caught the bug and made these little steel clocks that had these sort of branch-y forms to them. I was using those little plastic motors that you buy at Michaels, which was a hindrance aesthetically because now I had to have this big disc in the middle of the clock to cover up the motor and my friend sort of jokingly said, you should make the gears and stuff yourself so that you can erode away the part where the motor is too. I’m laughing at him, of course, because it’s so absurd, the idea of making your own gears. Then lo and behold, my dad, the engineer, jumps in and a couple of years later I have these monster tools in my garage and I cut my first gear from scratch and I was hooked. That was the point where I stopped thinking about it and just went full speed ahead because I was in love with the whole clock-making process.
Examiner: Were you surprised by the enthusiasm for your work? Clocks have kind of gone by the wayside and I think there’s that hint of nostalgia there for everyone.
Eric: Well in the beginning I don’t think I know how many people really knew about it. It was just me kind of tucked away in my workshop like a hermit making this stuff and it was like that for awhile because as you can imagine, clock making is not a very prolific art form. It takes a long time to make these things so I don’t get a chance to do show after show and promote my work a lot. But yeah it’s great that people have gotten on board and yeah, I do think it’s a bit of nostalgia. In the digital age everything is much less tactile and people love seeing the actual moving gears and seeing a weight pulling a bunch of moving parts and the pendulum moving back and forth and giving everyone a view of how these things work.
Examiner: You’ve been very active in sharing your work process on your blog. Have you gotten good feedback to that?
Eric: Yeah a lot of people love seeing that. When you only make a few pieces a year, it’s hard to keep people interested so that’s a great way to keep them involved. Also I really want to let people in so that they can see how much work is behind all of this and they can see that I do in fact make all of these little parts by hand.
Examiner: Moving forward will you be taking a break or jumping into a new project?
Eric: I don’t think I’m going to be able to take a break right now. I actually left my full-time job not long ago knowing that when I finished this piece that I’d be getting the final payment for this commission. So I’m going to kind of go for it here. That means that for quite awhile I’m going to be really stressed about money! [laughing] I’ve got a couple of little things lined up that I’m going to have to do right after the show.
Examiner: Does that mean you’ll be doing more shows then too?
Eric: Yes, for sure. Now that I’m doing this full-time hopefully I’ll be able to put more work out there.
Freitas’ work has been exhibited in galleries across the globe, most notably the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, Germany, the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, England, and the AFA gallery in SoHo, New York.