This an an image that Pedro Friedeberg has returned to again and again, the footed hand. Signed. Surrealism joined to the Mexican tradition. Fascinating and downright gorgeous.
Price on request.
Pedro Friedeberg (January 11, 1936-) is a Mexican artist and designer known for his surrealist work filled with lines colors and ancient and religious symbols. His best known piece is the “Hand-Chair” a sculpture/chair designed for people to sit on the palm, using the fingers as back and arm rests. Friedeberg began studying as an architect but did not complete his studies as he began to draw designs against the conventional forms of the 1950s and even completely implausible ones such as houses with artichoke roofs. However, his work caught the attention of artist Mathias Goeritz who encouraged him to continue as an artist. Friedeberg became part of a group of surrealist artists in Mexico which included Leonora Carrington and Alice Rahon, who were irreverent, rejecting the social and political art which was dominant at the time. Friedeberg has had a lifelong reputation for being eccentric, and states that art is dead because nothing new is being produced.
Friedeberg has painted, created murals for institutions in Mexico and abroad, illustrated books and book covers, created furniture and set designs. He was the art director, along with Sergio Villegas of a spectacular called Arbol de la Vida. He began designing furniture in the 1960s, rejecting the then-dominant international style of architecture. He has designed chairs, tables, couches and love seats in fantastic designs. He is best known for his hand-chair, which has sold more than 5,000 copies since it was created in 1962. The original chair was made of wood and covered in gold leaf. It is designed to allow one to sit on the palm, using the fingers as a back and arm rest. He has declared that he is never really relaxed and stated that he has painted one canvas per week, 52 weeks a year for the fifty years of his career in addition to sculptures and chair designs. His paintings, sculpture and furniture was very fashionable, called “chic” in the 1960s and 1970s.
His first two individual exhibitions were at the Diana Gallery in 1959 and the Protec Gallery in 1960, both in Mexico City. In the 1960s, he had sixteen exhibitions in Mexico, France, New York, Portugal and the Pan American Union in Washington, DC in 1963. In the 1970s, he had nineteen exhibitions in various cities in Mexico and the United States, Barcelona, Haifa (Israel) and Canada. In the 1980s, he had thirteen including the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City. In the 1990s, he had twenty one, mostly in Mexico which a tribute to his work in 1997 and an exhibition in Colombia. In the 2000s, he had nine, all in Mexico except for one in Germany in 2000 and one in Belgium in 2003. He has also participated in many group exhibitions from 1960 to 2003.
Awards include the Córdoba Argentina Biennale in 1966 (2nd prize), the Solar Exhibition in Mexico City in 1967 (1st prize), the Argentina Engraving Triennale in Buenos Aires in 1979, the XI Biennale of Graphic Works in Tokyo (Special Award) in 1984 and was named an “Artistic Creater” by the National System of Mexican and Foreign Creators in 1993. His work and life have been featured in many books from 1972 to the present. These books include his autobiography published in Mexico “De vacaciones por la vida, Memorias no autorizadas” (On vacation for life, Unauthorized memories) edited by Trilce and CONACULTA . In his autobiography, Friedeberg writes about experiences with his many friends in the art world, including Salvador Dalí, Leonora Carrington, Kati Horna, Tamara de Lempicka, Mathias Goeritz, Edward James, Zachary Selig and Bridget Bate Tichenor.
His works can be found in the permanent collections of the Museo de Arte Moderno, the José Luis Cuevas Museum, the Televisa Cultural Center, all in Mexico City, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Toluca, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Culiacán, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Pátzcuaro, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art in New Orleans, the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University in Boston, the National Research Library in Ottawa, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the National Museum of Modern Art in Baghdad, the Ponce Museum of Art in Puerto Rico, the Franklin Rawson Museum in Argentina, the Omar Rayo Museum in Colombia and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC., The Museum of Arts and Design in New York.
From his first exhibition, his work has had an easily identifiable style, although it is not easily classifiable. He often uses architectural drawing as his medium to create unusual compositions including designs for useless objects, often as a result of boredom. He has studied and incorporated elements of various artistic and design trends from his lifetimes from Art Nouveau to Op art. Much of his work has an industrial quality, stemming from his training as an architect. However, there is a dream like quality as well, painting impossible palaces and other structures, with innumerable halls and rooms, secret passages and stairs which are often absurd.
Irony and surfeit are generally expressed through the almost hallucinogenic repetition of elements and formal disorder, but it is the result of conscious thought. He classifies his work as eclectic and hybrid. His art is not political, it is art for art’s sake and he states it is elitist. He does not believe in making art “for the people” because most people do not care about it. His art almost always have a sarcastic and cynical touch. He says his only intention in his art is to make fun of himself and everyone else.
Paintings, furniture and more are often characterized as being filled with ornamentation, with little or no white space, with lines, colors and symbols referencing ancient scriptures, Aztec codices, Catholicism, Hinduism and the occult. While his art has been criticized as adding ornament for its own sake or even distraction, he disagrees, saying that ornamentation is the oldest form of fine art, added to give objects an exceptional, even religious quality. He has called his extensive ornamentation, which includes elements from ancient texts, “Nintendo Churrigueresque”
Friedeberg belongs to a group of 20th century surrealist artists, which in Mexico include Gunther Gerzso, Mathias Goeritz, Alice Rahon, Kati Horna, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and Paul Antragne, who were grouped together under the name of Los Hartos. They were original, eccentric, irreverent and iconoclastic. His techniques have not changes since he started and themes have changed only a little, as today he includes fantastic animal hybrids in some of his work. He has criticized modern artists saying “Art has died, after surrealism, there is nothing new.” He says that people have lost their taste for irony, sarcasm and the absurd.