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 Pedro Friedeberg  (1936 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/Texas / Italy/Mexico      Known for: abstract easel and mural painting-fantasy themes, furniture making

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Pedro Friedeberg
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Friedeberg was born in Florence, Italy, on January 11, 1936, the son of German-Jewish parents, Friedeberg arrived in Mexico at the age of three.  Having shown an early inclination for drawing and reading, he studied architecture at the Universidad Iberoamericana, where he was profoundly influenced by the teaching of Mathias Goeritz, a German-Mexican artist.  Under Goeritz influence he created architectural models that fused diverse elements into single structures and were often designed to be non-fictional. His educational background ranged from medieval to Art Nouveau and his work anticipated postmodernism.

In 1960, Friedeberg was invited to join a group based on Dadaist principles: the creation of anti-art for art's sake.  Los Hartos (The Fed Up) was a rejection of political painting and provided an alternative to the social painting of the time.  This organization led Friedeberg to part in another direction that would define his work - he believed in the autonomy of aestheticism.

Apart from Friedeberg’s non-fictional architectural fantasies, he began producing furniture that rejected the predominantly international style of architecture and design that was being taught in Mexico.  After designing his first chair, Friedeberg went on to design tables, couches, and love seats.  This body of work, along with Friedeberg's obsessively crowded and meticulously detailed canvases, often included references to Tantric scriptures, Aztec codices, Catholicism, Hinduism, and symbols of the occult.

The former apprentice of Friedeberg, American artist and spiritist Zachary Selig, also uses references to Mesoamerican culture and Chakra symbolism in his works of art.  In 1970, Friedeberg introduced his friend Selig to the surrealist painter Bridget Bate Tichenor in Mexico City, and she spiritually adopted Selig, becoming his mentor until her death in 1990.

Although Friedeberg's paintings, filled to overflowing with surprise, were sometimes described as examples of Surrealism or fantastic realism, they are not easily definable in terms of conventional categories.  He used architectural drawing as the medium through which he created unusual compositions and also designed furniture and useless objects, admitting that his artistic activity was rooted in boredom.  This sense of irony and surfeit imparted to his pictures, through the hallucinatory repetition of elements, an asphyxiating formal disorder. Friedeberg's work is a product of highly conscious, if not self-conscious, thought.

Pedro invented the hand chair in the 1960s, and continues to create them to this day along with assorted chairs ranging from butterfly chairs to small stools and upholstered couches.  His paintings range from small and relatively simple to tremendously large complicated ones. His art is periodically auctioned at auction houses such as Sotheby's and Christie's among others.

--------------

Biography by Alejandro Diaz, 1998.

The work of Pedro Friedeberg includes architecture, painting, sculpture, furniture and set design. Although his formal background is in architecture and the applied arts, Friedeberg has often deliberately pushed the limits of functionalism.

Pedro Friedeberg was born in Florence, Italy in 1936 to German-Jewish parents that left Germany to escape the war. Three years after his birth, he moved with his mother to Mexico.

Friedeberg comments, “I was born in Italy when Mussolini made sure that trains ran on time. Later, we went to Mexico where the trains never ran on time but when they did run, they would pass in front of pyramids.” In his youth, he spent most of his free time at the Benjamin Franklin Library in Mexico City going through the collection of books on architecture, painting, sculpture and medieval manuscripts. During this time, he became particularly interested in works by early Renaissance and Rococo artist Desiderio, Magnasco, Piranesi and Canaletto. Friedeberg’s aesthetic studies formed his disposition as a modern day flaneur.

His interest in architecture led him to enroll at the Universidad Ibero-Americana where he first met Mathias Goeritz in 1957. Goeritz, a German artist, arrived in Mexico in 1948 after being invited by architect Luis Barragan to give classes at the Universidad de Guadalajara. Under Goeritz's tutelage, Friedeberg created architectural models that fused diverse elements into single structures and were often designed to be non-functional. His combination of disparate styles, from Medieval to Art Nouveau, anticipated post-modeernist architecture of the 1980s. In 1960, friedeberg was invited to join a group of artist led by Goeritz called Los Hartos [The Fed-Up].

The group was based on Dadaist principles in that it proposed anti-art for art's sake. Friedeberg recalls that Goeritz's manifesto stated that painting was a feeble and dying art that only served to promote the ego of the artist . Goeritz was interested in the anomity of the artist through the reduction of self-expression in order to attain a higher level of spirituality.

Although Los Hartos provided an alternative to the social realist painting of the time, Friedeberg recalls that, “[it] was too nihilistic. Mexicans didn't want to hear negative things, they wanted to hear positive things. Since the manifesto called for the end of painting, the majority of artists were very unsatisfied with that. They wanted to go on painting and selling.” He added, “These artist had either been trained at the Taller de Arte Gráfica y Popular at La Esmeralda, which promoted socialist realist painting, or they were disciples of Diego Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco.”

During the mid-60's, another group of young artist called Los Independientes [The Independents] began to rebel against the Mexican school of painting. The group was headed by Rufino Tamayo, whose work was influenced by modernist European art which was seen by social realist painters as too decadent and apolitical. Los Hartos was both a rejection of political painting, which he left lacked spiritual introspection.

It is still inappropriate to situate Friedeberg entirely in terms of the serious concerns that pervaded the different camps in Mexico City at that time. Mexican art of that period, whether abstract or figurative, was latent with either spiritual or political content.  Friedeberg's involvement with Los Hartos was further complicated by the fact that, by the late 1950s he had already begun producing art that was solely in the service of itself. Friedeberg believed in the autonomy of aestheticism.

Apart from Friedeberg's non-functional architectural fantasies, he began producing furniture that rejected the predominantly international style of architecture and design that was being taught in Mexico. His first chair, made in 1961, is an oversized-cupped hand carved in wood on a conical-shaped base in the same material. At first glance, the strong sculptural quality of the chair gives it the appearance of being entirely non-functional. In an interview he remarked, “I didn't like all those right angles, I admired Gaudi, The Barcelonan architect. I hated functionalism – the idea, like that of Le Corbusier's, that houses were supposed to be ´machines to live in´. For me, the house was supposed to be some crazy place that me, the house was supposed to be some crazy place that made you laugh.”

After designing his first chair, Friedeberg went on to design tables, couches and love seats. Glass table tops were held up by a series of hands that at the base turned into human shaped feet. A love seat covered in a dark hairy cowhide was contrasted with its gold armature made up of gilt hands gesticulating in a secret sign language. By 1963, Friedeberg had also begun making entirely sculptural works of perversely distorted bodies with appendages taken from religious statuary found in antique shops and outdoor markets. In one of these hybrids, for example, the head of Saint Theresa was given a gilt serpent's body with six breasts and multiple arms recalling Shiva the Hindu goddess.

This body of work, along with Friedeberg's obsessively crowded and meticulously detailed canvases, often included references to Tantric Scriptures, Aztec Codices, Catholicism, Hinduism and symbols of the occult. However, his interest in ritualistic imagery is purely a matter of stylistic choice. When speaking about religion and his spiritual inclinations, he comments, “My God, I'm an atheist so I don't know. I'm an agnostic at least until I get on a plane and there's a lot of turbulence. Then I start making the sign of the cross.”

His stylistic juxtapositions of European high art with Mexican folk art, the sacred with the profane, the banal with the meaningful, have often been read in terms of Surrealism. Breton wrote a letter to Friedeberg in 1963 in which he stated, It only suffices to take one look to be convinced that your work participates in the surrealists intentions. However, if we look to the founding analytical texts of the surrealist movement that spoke of the subconscious mind, it becomes difficult to place Friedeberg within this movement.

Friedeberg's work is product of highly conscious, if not self- conscious, thought. When asked about being a surrealist he replied, “My work is maybe more decorative. The surrealists were more into profound dreaming, into the absurdity of things. But I think my work is also criticizing the absurdity of things.”

One of the reasons why Friedeberg places himself outside Surrealism is because, in Mexico, Surrealism meant something inherently different than it did in Europe and the United States: “Americans don't understand Mexicans. They find Mexicans unpunctual, they eat funny things, and act like old-fashioned Chinese.” Friedeberg continues, “Surrealism is the a natural lifestyle here. When Breton came here he said it was the chosen country of surrealism. He saw all kinds of surrealist things happen here every day. Friedeberg's comments reminded me of the extraordinary visual juxtapositions that I had experienced when I lived in Mexico in the late 1980Â's. In my neighborhood there was a blind man who played melodic tunes on a Jacaranda leaf and, beside him, a transvestite on a cellular phone getting her shoes shined.

The group was based on Dadaist principles in that it proposed anti-art for art's sake. Friedeberg recalls that Goeritz's manifesto stated that painting was a feeble and dying art that only served to promote the ego of the artist. Goeritz was interested in the anomity of the artist through the reduction of self-expression in order to attain a higher level of spirituality.


Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro_Friedeberg


Biography from GallArt.com:
Pedro Friedeberg, Mexican (1936 - )

Friedeberg was born in Florence, Italy, on January 11, 1936, the son of German-Jewish parents, Friedeberg arrived in Mexico at the age of three. Having shown an early inclination for drawing and reading, he studied architecture at the Universidad Iberoamericana, where he was profoundly influenced by the teaching of Mathias Goeritz, a German-Mexican artist. Under Goeritz influence he created architectural models that fused diverse elements into single structures and were often designed to be non-fictional. His educational background ranged from medieval to Art Nouveau and his work anticipated postmodernism.

In 1960, Friedeberg was invited to join a group based on Dadaist principles: the creation of anti-art for art's sake. Los Hartos (The Fed Up) was a rejection of political painting and provided an alternative to the social painting of the time. This organization led Friedeberg to part in another direction that would define his work - he believed in the autonomy of aestheticism.

Apart from Friedeberg’s non-fictional architectural fantasies, he began producing furniture that rejected the predominantly international style of architecture and design that was being taught in Mexico. After designing his first chair, Friedeberg went on to design tables, couches, and love seats. This body of work, along with Friedeberg's obsessively crowded and meticulously detailed canvases, often included references to Tantric scriptures, Aztec codices, Catholicism, Hinduism, and symbols of the occult.

Although his paintings, filled to overflowing with surprise, were sometimes described as examples of Surrealism or fantastic realism, they are not easily definable in terms of conventional categories. He used architectural drawing as the medium through which he created unusual compositions and also designed furniture and useless objects, admitting that his artistic activity was rooted in boredom. This sense of irony and surfeit imparted to his pictures, through the hallucinatory repetition of elements, an asphyxiating formal disorder. Friedeberg's work is a product of highly conscious, if not self-conscious, thought.

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