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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 media. 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, including 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 his growing involvement with 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.
As well as a massive archive of artwork, Andrew 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.”