Pedro Friedeberg - Los Angeles Times

Pedro Friedeberg - Los Angeles Times

Improbable friendship emerges in the documentary 'Pedro' about the Mexican artist Pedro Friedeberg

In this image provided by Calouma Films, Pedro Friedeberg, left,
In this image provided by Calouma Films, Pedro Friedeberg, left, and director Liora Spilk in a scene from the documentary “Pedro.”
(Uncredited/Associated Press)

An unlikely friendship emerges between the Mexican plastic artist Pedro Friedeberg, born in 1936, and a twenty-something filmmaker during the decade of making the documentary “Pedro”, the first dedicated to the artist described as the last of the Mexican surrealists.

“Everyone tells me 'I can't believe that this man is still alive and that he didn't know who he was,'” said Liora Spilk Bialostozky, director of the film released this weekend in Mexico. “One of the goals of this film is to give it a face. His iconography is very well known, but there is no name behind it, it is not known who it belongs to.”

From the first scene of the documentary it can be seen that Spilk's intentions to conduct the conversation get out of control when her grandmother refuses to act and speak as she wants to remember her first contacts with the famous artist. Seeing works with the surreal, baroque and colorful world of Pedro in his grandmother's house had unleashed the fascination of the documentary filmmaker.

As if that were not enough, Pedro is unfriendly, first he refuses to be interviewed and then he allows him to get closer but he does not stop putting his hand in front of the camera to ask him to stop filming. Pedro is capable of fleeing to another city as long as he is not congratulated on his birthday.

Finally, he agrees to let me follow him to exhibition openings, tributes, the interior of his house and even on important trips. Spilk documents everything faithfully for years, but he feels that he cannot advance the story any further and finish it. He believes it so strongly that he returns to his grandmother to confess that he is on the verge of abandoning the project.

“At first I didn't want to, what a shame, all the (expletives) I said, all the (expletives) I did,” Spilk said. “When we started editing and my editor told me 'Liora, this story doesn't work without you'... We have to be honest, we have to accept our mistakes, we have to not take ourselves so seriously and there are no ways we can one has to get into it.”

Despite that surly side, Pedro manages to make Spik and the audience laugh.

Pedro is famous for his “Hand-Chair” presented for the first time in Paris in 1962, although it is a work that he now hates because it is so sought after and popular. He was born in Florence, Italy, January 11, 1936. As a child he emigrated to Mexico and studied architecture. His artistic career began in 1959 promoted by the artists Remedios Varo and Mathias Goeritz.

In 1961 he founded the group Los Hartos with Goertiz, José Luis Cuevas, Chucho Reyes, Ida Rodríguez Prampolini and Alice Rahon, who, according to their official website, “demonstrated against the pretension of the greatness of modern art in general. , exaggerated individualism and the signature of the artist who takes himself very seriously.” He was also part of the Rupture movement.

His work has been exhibited in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, England and at the biennials of Paris, Sao Paulo, Montevideo and Medellín. She has also been featured at the National Museum of Design in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, LACMA in Los Angeles, and at the Museum of Modern Art and the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.

Together with the artist Xavier Girón he founded the La Chinche gallery in 1979. In 2012 he was awarded the Medal of Fine Arts of Mexico. He is currently still working in his studio in the Roma neighborhood of the Mexican capital.

In the documentary he himself qualifies his work as “Neo Kitsch Baroque” and although his art seems digital, it is done completely analogously with a ruler, compass, brushes, ink and paint.

“There is an absolute congruence with itself and an incongruity with everything else,” Spilk said. “It is an impossibility that Pedro Friedeberg continues to exist in today's world.”

As an example of the popularity of Pedro's art, in the Corona beer factory in Mexico City, there is a work of his in advertisement format.

Spilk wrote the script and did the principal photography for his documentary, which was nominated for the Ariel Award from the Mexican Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the category of best first feature film.

His film premiered at the International Film Festival in Morelia. “Pedro” has also toured the Malaga festival and will soon arrive at the Mexican Film Festival in Rome, the Ibero-Latin American Cinema Festival in Trieste and the Hola México Film Festival.

Spilk was born on December 19, 1989 in Mexico City. She studied communication at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and initially worked as an editor of social documentary short films, fiction, video art pieces and music videos.

The exercise of “Pedro” has made him see Friedeberg's creations in a different way.

“Now I no longer feel like I'm watching a play, I feel like I'm watching him,” he said. "Instead of understanding the references, I see the story that Pedro tells when he painted that painting, I see the story that he is telling me, which is something that I did not see before... I hear his voice when I see his paintings."

Regarding mistakes and unforeseen events, “I think that the greatest learning that the film left me is to honor my mistakes, to laugh at myself and to value friendship as a treasure. And Pedro Friedeberg as a treasure.”

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