On the western edge of the Mojave Desert, Lancaster is not a town known for its art scene, but it is where Andrew Frieder spent his most productive years as an artist, working day and night for several decades to produce a vast body of work in a variety of mediums. Andrew rarely sought attention for his work; in fact he oddly avoided it. Only after his death was the full range of his output discovered. The Good Luck Gallery is representing the artist’s estate and this exhibit will focus on mixed-media paintings and drawings.
Andrew frequently depicted scenes from classical mythology and the Old Testament scriptures with which he was so conversant: figures wrestling with serpents, communing with skulls and struggling with rocks, as well as hybrid beasts of his own design. A gentle and subtle coloration of soft pastel and muted earth tones distinguishes the work, sometimes scrawled upon with text (“Was it worth it? Vanquishing the serpent: Can it be done?”) and frequently pierced, perforated, sewn, glued and otherwise driven into aesthetic submission, resulting in a strangely harmonious combination of the visceral and meticulous.
As a teenager, Andrew spoke fluent French and was a nationally ranked tournament fencer, a sport he relinquished due to injuries and as he became more involved in art. A mental breakdown interrupted his art school education and he began to experience the schizophrenia with which he struggled for much of his adult life.
Through the chaos and pain of his illness Andrew destroyed his entire body of work three times, as well as a number of finished novels. By the two decades of life preceding his demise, however, he had stabilized and experienced no episodes or hospitalizations, a healing process facilitated in no small part by deep immersion in his art.
Andrew had an extraordinary sense of design all his own. He rebuilt and repaired several industrial sewing machines, some mechanically modified to be foot-treadle powered, with which he sewed intricate cotton quilts and constructed his own jaunty hats – ‘chapeaux’, as he called them. He was a licensed barber. A hobbyist cobbler, he made and repaired shoes. An incessant tinkerer who continually re-purposed every manner of objects, he would grind, weld and machine his own customized tools, and myriad objects both sculptural and practical.
Andrew had found a measure of peace with whatever impression the world may have taken of him, cutting a unique figure as he rolled his customized cart to source materials such as scrap iron and lumber for his projects, discovered everywhere from alleyways to yard sales, thrift shops and scrapyards.
Andy admired the work of artists from Vermeer to Basquiat, and the staff at the Lancaster Museum of Art, where Andy was a regular visitor, would gather around him to seek his opinions on art history. The museum presented a solo show of his work in 2014.
As well as a massive archive of artwork, Andy also left behind many written accounts expressing an acute awareness of his own work and mental state, as well as rigorous and compassionate essays on history and religion; he cared deeply about political injustice and ruminated on his work as painstakingly as any professional artist.
“It is strange to think one is a candidate for immaculate conception. But I sit and wait for some spirit to combine with me and lead to product.”
“As with trepidation the nature of the work begins to show, there develops a respect for what has been accomplished and a caution to complete the project with the same emotion and feeling for consistency. The joy as the potential blossoms awes you and you fear for its full development. Then nearly complete there is pleasure just to be near the work, to smell the sap, to see the chisel mark shine in the light.”
“Maybe after enough work has accumulated it could be presented to the public as the work of a deceased artist, but I wouldn’t necessarily die.”
Andrew Frieder, CV Highlights
2016 Museum of Art and History Lancaster California Artist As Subject Andrew Frieder: Waiting for Divine Inspiration
2016 Outsider Art Fair New York, NY
2015 Andrew Frieder, solo exhibition The Good Luck Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2015 Andrew Frieder, The Good Luck Gallery at The Outsider Art Fair, New York, NY
2014 Andrew Frieder A Life in Stitches, solo exhibition, The Lancaster Museum of Art, Lancaster, CA
Permanent Collection: Museum of Art and History Lancaster California
Review Andrew Frieder’s blunt poetry born of the urgent and intimate
By LEAH OLLMAN
AUGUST 21, 2015, 1:30 PM
Andrew Frieder was an outsider to the art world’s educational and institutional structures, but an insider to the animating forces of art itself.
His work has an immediacy to it, a blunt poetry born of the urgent and intimate. A deeply absorbing show at the Good Luck Gallery introduces Frieder, who was largely unknown before his death last year, through 20 mixed media works on paper.
All of the images here follow a similar physical format: vertical, roughly 20-by-16 inches, the sheet filled with a single central scene articulated mostly through line, complemented by color.
Each depicts an encounter of some sort, between two people or between a human and an animal. Ultimately, the stories tell of the meeting between impulse and action. They swing toward the poles of violence and tenderness, both often encompassing a comedic edge. (“Well, if you were to ask her, the mermaid doesn’t really like all the things her shark friend does,” reads the internal caption in one piece.)
In another (all are untitled), a kneeling nun raises her shoe in one hand, poised to pound the snake curling on the ground before her. Her brilliant blue habit gleams against a background of drab ocher and dark brick. The proverbial dove of peace flies or perhaps drops across another sheet. Beheaded, its neck spills a long scarlet dollop of blood, its olive branch in free-fall.
In another work, Cain murders Abel above the words “It’s a very old story,” nested in concentric parentheses.
Throughout, the simply drawn faces remain neutral, just shy of cartoonish. Even if Frieder adopts biblical or mythical themes, he renders them less as high drama than as the familiar theater of everyday life. They take place in undefined time and space, as parables of struggle and domesticity.
He draws a couple reclining, man’s hand cupping woman’s breast, in tautly elegant line emboldened by passages of yellow and chalky pink. Eroticism slips in, almost covertly, under￼cover of visual humor, a play of forms.
In one engrossing piece, a man, standing, embraces a woman from behind, his hands multiplied into a dozen that alight, as if simultaneously, on her every body part, hers responding like reverberating echoes. The image beautifully fuses stillness and motion, the actual and the aspirational.
Here, Frieder amplifies his distilled line with dilute color. He worked on paper that appears to have been prepared to bear layers of wash, pastel, ink and graphite.
Diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young adult, Frieder was self-taught, but not necessarily untaught. His home was packed with art books and tools for making all manner of things (including hats), and he was a regular visitor to the Museum of Art & History in Lancaster, where he lived. His only substantial show until this revelatory one at Good Luck opened there just weeks before his death of cancer at 55.
The Good Luck Gallery, 945 Chung King Road, (213) 625-0935, through Aug. 29. Closed Sunday through Tuesday. www.thegoodluckgallery.com
Link to original LA Times article:
ARTNews: FRIEDER REVIEWS NOVEMBER 2015
ENTERTAINMENT VOICE: Late Artist Andrew Frieder is Remembered at The Good Luck Gallery