Pedro Friedeberg - ArtNexus

Pedro Friedeberg - ArtNexus

Pedro Friedeberg

Galería Enrique Guerrero

By: Tania Turner

Getting closer to the work of Pedro Friedeberg (born 1937, Florence, Italy) means falling victim to an invasion. The work goes after the spectator and not the other way around. The world constructed by this artist upsets and transforms the natural state of reality; it turns it upside-down and brings it into a dreamlike world where anything is possible.

As in an alchemical trip, Friedeberg succeeds in transforming time with each of his works. The spectator suspends disbelief; what previously appeared to be certain becomes volatile. Friedeberg’s creative talent envelops the viewer in his world; his drawings, paintings, and sculptures immediately capture one’s imagination. Figures appear to converse with the viewer, drawings lure one into a search for cryptic messages with unique meanings for each spectator. Thus, one becomes part of the work. With the works 24 Meditaciones Sefiróticas (24 Sefirotic Meditations) and Gran Ensayo General (Main General Rehearsal), Friedeberg calculated the responses of the viewer, who became one of his creatures.

Pedro Friedeberg. Butterfly Chair. Polichrome wood. 36 1/2 x 21 1/2 x 23 1/2 in. (93 x 55 x 60 cm).


The Enrique Guerrero Gallery in Mexico City appeared to expand and excavate new labyrinthine depths when it recently presented Friedeberg’s work. Fantastic images jumped out to meet the visitor and, like the sphinx in Greek mythology, approached one with riddles that permitted entrance into this transformed reality.

The esoteric path through Friedeberg’s five sculptures, twenty paintings, eleven pieces of furniture, and two objects made one wonder about the world to be found upon leaving the exhibit. Indeed, the act of returning to a mundane reality becomes impossible after being altered, and apparently chosen, by one of Friedeberg’s works.

To define this artist’s work is practically impossible. It would be like attempting to describe the very essence of the spectator observing the work. Each work seemed to come alive and become filled with coded messages that mushroomed with the number of spectators interacting with it. Visitors marveled at a painting or at an object, but the overwhelming feeling was that of having been chosen by the piece, of being hypnotized by it and pulled closer to it. One would not select Las Tecnologías Esquizofrénicas (Schizophrenic Technologies) or La Familia en Armonía (The Family in Harmony) to understand them. One would only discover the hidden messages if the works decided to reveal them. Only then would one be able to enter that unfathomable world.

But once inside that world, the viewer was not surprised to tell time from the hands of a three-foot clock, to speak to a man-serpent, to become a lizard in order to inhabit Kindergarten, or to imagine the ways one would choose to live in Villas Oximorónicas (Oxymoronic Villas). Once inside, one might experience jet-lag traveling through the drawings, lose oneself inside Circulópolis Cuadrangular, have coffee on a Mesa de Ocho Manos y Ocho Pies (Eight Hands and Eight Feet Table), or sit and rest in the palm of the hand of a giant.

The parallel universe to which the visitor was transported in this exhibit permitted one to find oneself in reverence of supreme beings, including those derived from non-religious belief systems, or to encounter oneself transformed into a devout, praying individual, notwithstanding a lack of belief in prayer. Friedeberg jokes through his work, and the viewer delves deep into his game as if each of the cabalistic symbols emerging from his pieces is part of a spell that forever transforms our notion of reality.

Interaction with Friedeberg’s work makes the viewer wonder on which side of the looking glass she is. After being affected by one of his pieces, it is possible to encounter a Cerberus, which keeps one from exiting the enveloping and nourishing world: an elixir of life that endows one with understanding beyond reason.

Pedro Friedeberg migrated to Mexico in 1939, where he lives to this day. In 1961, the artist became part of a group known as Los Hartos (The Fed-Up Ones) that, under the leadership of Mathias Goeritz sought an alternative to the Realist movement that prevailed in Mexico.

Friedeberg’s painting techniques are mostly based on the use of acrylic and ink on museum board, paper, compressed wood, and pasteboard. He uses carved wood, sometimes covered with gold leaf or polychromed, for his sculptures and furniture. Noteworthy among these works, the Silla-Mano (Hand-Chair) is a piece that has identified this artist for several decades.

In this exhibit, the famous Silla-Mano was presented in black and white and was held up by a foot piece: a table with a base of five foot-shaped legs near the bottom that became hands at the other end and fastened the circular glass surface.

Friedeberg’s creative powers made it possible for the visitor to sit in several gigantic hands; some of these hands had bell-shaped bases and were three to four feet tall, with backrests or stools finished in natural wood or covered in gold leaf. These giant hands received the visitor in their palms. If one chose not to be seated, one could more discreetly make oneself comfortable upon the wings of a giant butterfly. Having been transformed into a table, this creature remained fixed as part of an alchemistical process.

There was no doubt that a visit to this exhibit was a necessity if one wished to access reality from the other side of the looking glass. Nonetheless, it would be wise to take care, for in witnessing Friedeberg’s transformation of matter into living things and life into art, one would also experience a metamorphosis in one’s own perception.





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