Nicholas Fraser / Akiko Ichikawa
Nicholas Fraser’s work can seem ungraspable. In Unfixed/Unfixable (2009), his stenciled-in-ash texts on a sidewalk along Manhattan’s 14th Street present the artist’s site-specific observations of public moments like BABY KEPT FRESH IN PLASTIC, HUNGRY MAN MAKES EYE CONTACT, COMPACT STARE IN THE BEND OF THE BUS. But as the material was not adhered to the ground, and in the path of pedestrians, these phrases were gone in a matter of hours. You had to be there to have fully experienced the work.
Fraser’s reportage is allowed more ample interaction in still spaces, like a Paterson, New Jersey, defunct silk dyeing factory, the site of his 43’ x 65’ piece of The Paterson Project (2010), in which he overlaid worker interviews with selections from William Carlos Williams’ epic poem “Paterson,” selections that reflected on memory, loss, and writing’s mutability in its creation. One “grasped” the enormous work by walk directly on the powdered chalk text (and in doing so could, technically, also edit the work).
This flexibility to possibility drove the making of the Fronts (2010–),
an ongoing series of more than 2,400 videos the Orlando native recorded of people traversing a variety of storefronts in New York City. The artist focused on the movements of individuals along streets as various as New Lots Avenue, Canal Street, and Utica Avenue, in the editing room, threading them together into a continuous stream. The results uncover the polyvalent identity of the city passerby, not anonymous, their “writing” the manner in which they walk in what they chose to wear that day. The video allows us to focus on the singular rhythms in the pace of each subject, slowing down and grasping for viewers what we take for granted, presenting to us a relaxed but quirky view of what hardly anyone allows ourselves the time to see in real time.