Pedro Friedeberg - Invaluable

Pedro Friedeberg - Invaluable

About Pedro Friedeberg

b. 1936 -


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.

Pedro Friedeberg was born on January 11, 1936 in Florence, Italy, as the son of German-Jewish parents.[1] His parents escaped from Europe at the beginning of the Second World War arriving in Mexico when he was three years old.[2] He remembers his grandmother marking names in European newspapers of family members which had survived the Holocaust. He says he does not talk about his childhood because it was “German,” describing it as “discipline,” “torture” and “punishment.” He was made to learn violin and speak several languages and he hated to be at home.[2] He was not raised Jewish but rather atheist. Once a servant took him in secret to a church to be baptized. He says because of these experiences, he has seven religions, one for each day of the week.[2]

As a child he express an interest in art early.[3] His mother said that when he was two he liked to sit in front of the Santa María Novella Church in Florence and try to draw it.[2] In his youth he was captivated by the Renaissance architecture of the churches and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. When he was older, he traced the images in the art books that belonged to his father, favoring the works of Canaletto, Piranesi and others from the 18th century. He also liked the perspectives of the drawings of M. C. Escher.[2][3]

He studied for a while in Boston and then entered the Universidad Iberoamericana in 1957 to study architecture.[3] He began to study architecture because of his own interest and pressure from his parents but made it only to the third year. His professors favored symmetrical architecture such as that of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed the Seagram Building in New York, which Friedeberg thought boring. He preferred the works of Antoni Gaudí, creating circular plans, and he began to design impossible works such as houses with artichoke roofs and skyscrapers topped by pears, which earned him failing grades.[2][4]

However, his time at Iberoamericana allowed him to meet artist Mathias Goeritz, who appreciated his work. Goeritz told Friedeberg to continue with his art and ignore his parents. During the summers, Friedeberg worked as Goeritz’s secretary, which included helping on artistic projects.[2]

Through family and friends he met surrealist artists such as Remedios Varo, who recommended his work to Galería Diana, leading to Friedeberg’s first exhibition in 1960 when he was only twenty two. From these connections, he began to meet other surrealist artists such as Leonora Carrington and Alice Rahon to become a member of Los Hartos (The Fed-Up), in 1961.[2] This group was based on Dadaist principles: the creation of anti-art for art's sake, rejecting political and social painting. This group’s influence led Friedeberg to believe in the autonomy of aestheticism.[1] Later, he and Javier Giron organized a “movement” called “Chinchismo” from the Mexican Spanish world “chinche” which means bug. They asked thirty artists to create bug words and called Pita Amor their muse, with the idea of ridiculing “-isms” or movements in art.[2]

Friedeberg’s reputation for eccentricity has been lifelong, not only linked to surrealist artist but other eccentrics such as Edward James and Antonio Souza.[5] Friedeberg has had a tendency to protect and defend those who have lost their fame and fortune, such as Pita Amor did in her old age, when she was ridiculed by elements of Mexican society.[6] He says he consults the I-Ching everyday, and has a collection of saints.[2][5] His biography on the Internet includes a passage that reads “I get up at the crack of noon and, after watering my pirañas, I breakfast off things Corinthian. Later in the day I partake in an Ionic lunch followed by a Doric nap. On Tuesdays I sketch a volute or two, and perhaps a pediment, if the mood overtakes me. Wednesday I have set aside for anti-meditation. On Thursdays I usually relax whereas on Friday I write autobiographies”[7] He says that the world lacks eccentrics today because people have returned to being sheep through the consumer culture and television which wants us all to be the same.[5]

Friedeberg has been married four times. His third wife was Polish Countess Wanda Zamoyska.[6] This marriage lasted twelve years which he describes at surrealist, a circus and crazy, but tiring.[2] His last wife is Carmen Gutierrez, with whom he has two children, Diana and David. He says Carmen is a very serious woman, unlike his other former wives. Having children changed his life because he could no longer travel around the world and stay up until 5 am drinking.[2]

He currently lives in Mexico City. When he dies, he says he hopes to be buried at the same Venice cemetery where Stravinsky and Diaghilev are, in a tomb with a white gondola and black feathers.

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