Jeremy Frey
Out of the Woods
April 28–June 17, 2023
Opening reception: Friday, April 28, 6–8pm

Karma, New York
188 & 172 East 2nd Street
New York, NY, 10009

Karma presents Out of the Woods, the first solo exhibition of work by Maine-based Passamaquoddy artist Jeremy Frey, on view from April 28 to June 17, 2023, at 188 and 172 East 2nd Street, New York. 

Woven from natural materials such as sweetgrass and wood from brown ash trees, Frey’s vessels are characterized by subtle forms, delicately layered colors, and elaborate weaves. While drawing upon Indigenous basketry traditions local to the Wabanaki of the northeastern United States and on ancient Greek and Roman pottery, each vessel is also a staging ground for innovation. Building on and experimenting with these visual and cultural histories, Frey’s work is simultaneously in dialogue with contemporary sculpture, sharing an emphasis on materiality and form, and variation within repetition. 

The culmination of hundreds of hours of labor, Frey’s works can take up to six months to complete. The artist begins by foraging all of his materials, including wood from ash trees, cedar bark, sweetgrass, and porcupine needles, which he then processes and dyes by hand. Ash wood, pounded into strips and sliced petal-thin, is then hand-woven into vessels of superfine mesh. In Urchin (2011), Frey preserves a form traditional to Wabanaki basketry—a low, curving silhouette inspired by sea urchins—which he accents with vertical bands of wood dyed a translucent dark brown. In other works on view, he experiments with new forms, at times working with a lathe to create new molds for his woven vessels. To make the crenulated surface of Aura (2023), the artist blended synthetic dyes with wood grains. The resulting sharp, red peaks create the appearance of an iridescent halo around the work. In Third Generation (2023), an asymmetrical collar rises from within a nested layer to a sloping peak, creating a dramatic disruption of implied order. With works ranging from palm-sized to several feet tall, Frey grants each vessel its own unique characteristics, which he determines through an intuitive and masterful engagement with material. 

A descendent of a long line of Indigenous basketmakers, he was introduced to the form by his mother and through an early apprenticeship at the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, where he now serves as a board member. The survival of the brown or black ash, or “basket tree,” is currently threatened by the emerald ash borer, an invasive species, marking a new era for Frey and for a practice exemplifying Indigenous resilience and ingenuity. 

Jeremy Frey’s (b. 1978, Passamaquoddy Indian Township Reservation, Maine) work expands the formal and conceptual possibilities of both Indigenous basketry traditions and contemporary sculpture. In 2011, Frey won Best of Show at the Santa Fe Indian Market in 2011, marking the first time a basketmaker achieved this honor in the market’s ninety-year history. That same year, he won Best of Show at the Heard Museum Indian Guild Fair and Market in Phoenix, Arizona, and again in 2015, making him the first artist ever to do so. Frey’s work is held in the public collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; the Portland Museum of Art, Maine; and the Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor, Maine, among others. He will have a solo exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine in fall 2023.