Friday, June 23, 2006

Featuring Jeffrey Freedner

Painterdog responded to my last post with a comment warning artists to rethink their positions, if they find themselves approaching 40 and still aren't making any money with their art. Being, of course, a self-absorbed artist who takes a heightened interest in people who take an interest in me :-), I checked out his website. And now I am dedicating this post to explaining why I think his art is pretty great.

"Rembrandt's Carcass," oil on canvas, 18"x 24"

As you can see, this guy has done his classical-tradition homework. This is often looked down upon, or completely dismissed, in today's 'hip' art scene; I think the assumption is that it is not an innovative response to the modern world, but rather a reiteration of anachronistic forms to generate a recognizable 'art product' that may look good on a suburban wall, but doesn't make a statement beyond that.

And indeed, artists who do this often make a better living than those who don't, and aren't represented by a Chelsea gallery; retro art is much easier to sell to the masses. Witness the number of tourists in Soho who gobble up pseudo-Picasso prints as fast as they buy photographs of the Statue of Liberty.


"Distant City," oil on board, 16"x 10"

Jeffrey, however, is not one of those artists. First of all, anachronistic copy-artists often ape a technique, rather than mastering it; they churn out stuff that sort of looks classical, but lacks the bang-on drawing, rich luminosity, or sophisticated, complex color composition of, say, a genuine Rembrandt or Bosch, which are two of the artists that Jeffrey's work brings to mind at first viewing.

But from what I can see of these paintings, it looks to me like Jeffrey has not only mastered drawing, luminosity, color composition and texture, he is using them to express a seamless, modern vision of his own. His figures may seem Bosch-esque, but they're neither literally depicted nor ripped-off from another artist. They feel directly observed, filtered through the lense of strong emotion and masterful technique, and conspire to create both a powerful visual image and a cohesive emotional affect.

And Jeffrey is doing this at a level of complexity that few painters can pull off. Look at "Rembrandt's Carcass." He has included at least eight different qualities of luminosity within the same painting, without making it feel completely chaotic; there is reflected incandescent light on the tile in the lower left, bright fluorescent searchlight in the center, sunset on the horizon, fire in the background, blue smoke picking up the searchlight, different qualities of interior light in the windows, and areas where all of these lights reflect in different ways off the figures and objects.

Folks, that is nothing to be sneezed at. I know at least one Chelsea painter who claims to 'do light well,' whose paintings sell in the five-digit range, who is incapable of this.


"Victim 2", oil on wood, 18"x 12"

Moreover, Jeffrey is using his technique to evoke emotions which may be timeless, but certainly aren't irrelevant to modern society. They're not just mindless, flat depictions of angst, either. In this painting, 'Victim 2,' the intense blue background provides a sense of simultaneous institutional displacement and a possible hope for transcendence; used to highlight an image of anonymous brutality, it is nevertheless purely beautiful in its essence.

My only complaint, in fact, is that the images on Jeffrey's website are only dated through 2002. Have you stopped painting, Jeffrey, or have you simply not updated your site?

I admit that many of these paintings would be difficult to live with, given the dark emotions which they express and the power with which they express it. It seems to require the power-politicking of a Chelsea dealer to convince collectors to purchase paintings like this, but it can certainly be done. I have visited the inside of one Park Avenue collector's house, which was full from basement to attic with angst-ridden, aggressive work by young artists that to me, would be much more difficult to look at every day than one of Jeffrey's paintings.

So anyway, Jeffrey, I don't know what to do about the fact that you seem to be producing gorgeous work that's having trouble finding its market. I can only say that it seems to me that you haven't been wasting your time.

18 comments:

painterdog said...

Serena,
I can't believe you did this... very nice of you to write what you did.
I am flattered.
Do you write statements?

rembrandt's carcass is in someones collection, don't know who as the gallery I was in at the time was wierd about giving up the info...

The reason the site is not updated is that did a large body of work.
I kind of work like a writer does.
I think of themes, a lot of energy gets spent, many studies etc. Well anyway I had this show after making all this work, did not sell a thing.

I was spent, and for about 6 months after it was hard to work. Well it kind of developed into a kind of creative black hole. Not unlike writers block. I just could not stand the site of my work.


So part of the reason for the lack of updates is I did not produce any work I liked.

Then I just stopped making work.

Then I moved and lost a studio, stuff in storage for months and all that. I am staring to work again, although the dark work is kind of over, I have done drawings that are in this vain.

I paint from life or at least from observation, I have been doing some landscape based work.

So we shall see...

Thank you for the boost, its good the get fresh incite.

danonymous said...

Because of Serena, I went to J. Freedner's web site and looked at drawings an dpaintings, then back to Serena for an art class, modern style. WHAT a freebie. Thanks to both of you. It's nice in the middle of a hectic day, a hectic life, to have a stopover in two other peoples' worlds.
And of course, Jeffrey, knock off with the advice stuff. A lot of people would rather "throw their lives away" when it means this kind of work is the payoff. I don't think it is by accident . They do it...like you...by choice. And it looks like you made a good choice.

painterdog said...

ok no more advice...
must have been my Dr. Phil moment.

serena said...

I've been through that kind of 'black hole' after putting my all into an exhibition and getting no sales or feedback whatsoever. It's called 'despair,' and it is the true enemy.

It's important, I think, to acknowlege the truth of what you're going through, and to be gentle with yourself.

Once you've got some distance on the event, sometimes it's possible to see the merit and the great energy that went into the work, and also get some real-world perspective on why it didn't sell. As I pointed out in the post, people are less likely to buy dark or difficult work unless they have a very charismatic dealer persuading them to do so. Also, since your work IS genuinely original, it doesn't fit into the average viewer's paradigm of what 'living room art' is supposed to look like.

Thus it seems to me that you feel into the crack (or the huge abyss) between kitsch and commercial success as a genuine artist.

I look forward to seeing the new stuff, whenever you decide to display it.

painterdog said...

thanks,
in my case it went on for 3 years...
Also i live in Boston which is not the greatist city for being an artist.
I will admit I let it get the better of me.
And yes the work is dark, a little to dark.

So I am thinking of lighten up...

Its so expensive you might as well be in NY.

danonymous said...

Painterdog, you are forgiven the Dr. Phil moment...but only because you recognized it. Otherwise I would have something scathing...but supportive....to say.
And while I am at it, I may as well go into a rant. None of the following is the truth. It is just what I decided is the truth and then modeled my actions after.
Having said that.
Painterdog asked Serena if she writes statements...I suggest very strongly that painterdog write a statement and when ready, Serena permitting, post it on this site.
WHy??? I think a statement is very trick and there should be some hints as to what to write. The statement is by the artist for the artist. (remember, I said this was not the truth...but one could choose to make it so.) It is the creation that becomes a verbal mirror and when done reflects the artist to the artist him/herself.
You know when it is done becasue it takes your breath away in a moment of realization.
It took me 6 weeks to write my first statement....and then...I got it. The second statement, well, I worked on that for 5 years.
Oh well. BUt I got it. Not the statement....but what was in the statement as an understanding of what I do, why I do it.
HAving someone else write a statement for you is nice in that it takes care of the PR thing a little but then you might as well have some else paint your paintings for you too. If you get my meaning.
Black holes, Serena and Paiunterdog, are a normal part of the process and especially about the learning end of the process...why I am this way...did I let this happen? ...did I make this happen? and on and on...They are an opportunity to learn from oneself.(Not the truth, again, but the truth I choose).
You may consider, both of you ( I am bringing in the previous Serena post of advice and support) that the work didn't sell...because....
You do the work becasue you have chosen to do it. And you have chosen to do it the way you have.
If you painted it to sell, then you are an abject failure. If you painted it because...you have both succeeded. QUite well, in fact.
But one cannot bundle it all up into a ball and get a one size-fits-all answer. When we do that, look for the answer, we remain frustrated for years.
So maybe the next black hole while only be two years, or better, one year, or even better a couple of weeks.
I've gone from 12 months to two weeks over a period of 30 years. It has taken a change of tactics in my psyche. If I didn't change, neither would it have.
The greatest injustice that perhaps we inflict on ourselves is wondering what is wrong, what is wrong with me? and the like.
There is never anything wrong. Things just are. We may be disgruntled by what we encounter but that is just a distraction...especially when we allow it to have a say.
Dr. Phil says......50 art pushups.
Painterdog.....do twenty ... 10 inch by 10 inch paintings of a leg and call when you are done.
with love

painterdog said...

danonymous I was not asking Serena to wright my statement.
She writes well and I was asking if she did this for other people.
I have friends who are recent immigrants and they are always strugling with this. I sometimes help a few with editing but I'm dyslexic and writing is a big pain in the brain for me. it was an aside.
Please do not make assumptions.

Anyway statements are such an overrated thing brought on by the post-modern art system. I do them because its necessary.

Now for my Ralph Cramdon moment:
RIGHT TO THE MOON ALICE...
You then go on to give me, wait for it... a-d-v-i-c-e!

So lets recap, I was about to have "something scathing...but supportive" hurled at me messing up my new "mark kostabi art suit".

I had offered up my experience as Serena's post was on advice and support, and I thought why not relate my experience, no harm done.

Maybe some people can relate, maybe not.
Sometimes when the donkey is tired it needs to rest. That was my drift.

I never felt I waisted my time doing my work. I do it because I like doing it. Painting to me is a hard process, and it takes a lot out of me both mentally and physically.

Commercial success:
Now I wish I had the common sense to be at the right place at the right time, but alas this was(is)not to be. No one owes us anything, some make it, some do not. Some of us have trust funds, That's life.

I could try to make work that fits into the current scene, as one artist I know who is doing very well forhimself did.(trolled the art mags) and came up with a style that is working very well for him. Why NYC painter likes it!

I'm not that smart, so its back to the drawing board for me...

We all want some kind of recognition on some level to justifiy our time and boost our sense of worth.

Unless you have rhino skin and and everything just bounces off.

Well I just got my Mark Kostabi "How to Succeed in Art" Kit in the mail from amazon and I need to bone up on the how too's...

later

serena said...

Dano, I'm going to support painterdog on this one--about 'painting to sell.' Of course no genuine artist does this. (At least 'genuine' in my book, and in yours.)

But the fact is, we've all got to pay our bills. And if you're putting the kind of full-time energy into your artwork that great art requires, having to earn the money to survive in some other way can very well break your spirit. My biggest fear is drudgery, particularly drudgery in my old age. It's a real fear, because I've worked a lot of drudgery jobs, and they've driven me close to very real nervous breakdowns.

I think it is counterproductive and unrealistic to suggest that artists shouldn't be concerned about issues like their work failing to sell. Earning a small but viable income with one's art can make the difference between having the 'freedom to create' without worry, and not having any freedom at all in the long run.

Oh, and no, I never write other people's statements. I am happy to take a look at them, copyedit, and ask leading questions in order to help them clarify their thinking, however.

painterdog said...

This was my original point.
I'm getting close to 50 and I can't sell enough to make ends meet.
I don't have the fantastic teaching job with benifits. Its a worry, and all I do now is adjunct teaching. Some semesters its good and some its real bad as they only offer you one class.
That's $3500 for 15 weeks of work.
You can't say no as your out, gone.

I need a real job drudgery an all.

danonymous said...

Wellllll......
harumph Mr. Paintergod. First of all I do apologize for any assumptions. BUt I can't quite apologize for what I said because here I get a response from you that makes me stand upright, smiling and with a bit more wind in my sails to boot. Nothing wimpy about response and your stand.
I keep having to face the mirror and remind myself that I am here in whatever circumstances because of my choices.
So whatever it was that may have offended you, again I apologize.
But based on my assumptions, how can I not assume things, wrongly or rightly, is a lot more of a stand and a lot less of a complaint.
I think your work is great and it was hard to look at the images and match them with your first set of words.
If I am wrong, then I'm wrong. Sorry.
BUt in thinking about what I said, I then had to turn around and start a small seriez of pieces because I couldn't tell you to do something like that and then not turn around and do the same. Sort of like a high tide raises all ships type thing. So thanks for that too.
BUt I go back to what you said about "throw their lives away" and I can't get past that comment.
So we have a dialogue (trialogue?) or a contentious dialogue....but it's good either way....so far....I think.

And Serena, I agree with you about artists' concerns but I stop at the point when the risk is that we moving away from our art instead of toward it. The time/money issues are both real and not (yech...zen) but the greater we are susceptable to their presence and strength, the less energy we often have to counteract that phenomena.
ANd of course I never have an answer other than stay the course.
Again, thanks to both of you. I did not take your comments lightly.

painterdog said...

I was not deeply offended, as you can see by my tounge and cheek responce.
You did assume though, but that's ok. Its easy to make judgements in this medium as we are not face to face in conversation.

I think the issues of money is a real one and as you get older it becomes more accute.

A relative of mine was very ill with cancer. She had insurance but they would not pay for her treatment.
She almost went bankrupt and was to sick to handle all the crap.

Lucky for her she has an amazing family and they came to her aid.

People came up with money, helped her with the bills, and care, and she is in reemission.

Now that just made me think as she is only a year younger than me and you know one does have to think: what if?

I don't have a large family like she does nor 2 millionares for a step- brothers with a big hearts.

So I would be up the creek if had a serious illness.

Health is an issue which means money and choices...

Your right about making choices and being accountable for them.

painterdog said...

danonymous
I just read your thread on Ed Winkleman's blog, as it is in line with this topic I thought I would comment.

You are right about being more creative in tring to find ways to market and at least get something out there.

But when Keith Haring was around you could rent a store front in the Lower East side for 400 or 500 a month and put on a show.

You can't do that anymore.
Not an excuse its just the world has become a lot mor conservitive with a capital "C" money does not go as far as it did then.

being a creative person does not mean you know how to market your work. Doe not mean you shouldn't but its not an easy thing to do. Is this an excuse, well no, but it does all still come down to money and time.

danonymous said...

Just like life......Painterdog, I just sent you a very long and very personal post.....poof....blogger error...gone.
That is so perfect. It helps me to remember how meaningless so much of what we do and say is while at the same time it is soooo meaningful and important to us.
I wouldn't dare try to recreate what I said because it was personal and would only be a "redramastization" so to speak. So in essence only.
I am sort of a nice-guy jerk.
I create my reality out of what works to move me forward. I stopped looking at all the credible aspects of life because the end product was less work.
i.e. when you talk about age, money, health, I understand that...but for me I look the other way because it makes it hard to continue working with that non-stop distraction.....or any other distraction.
definition i heard:
rationalize...to tell rational lies

I love that.
So not to negate what you said , I have to steer clear of it (at 56).
Maybe it's like trying to paint with dry pigment and a hairless brush?
Trial and error and non-stop working help me tune up my thinking and directions. Working in collaboration reminds me of how important other input can be...and I suck it in occasionally.
These dialogues are really good for me becasue they make me review my thinking and be affected by others.
I totally get what you say about real fears and circumstances. And every once in awhile I have panic attacks and just have to breathe them away and continue.
But (REALLY IMPORTANT IN HOW I THINK AND FUNCTION) I look at them as excuses. Not for you but for me. If I look at them as excuses, I can then get myself back to work. If I look at them as real, they become insurmountable and I can no longer work.
So I have to create a reality consistent with my goals of functioning.
I think about control. I build the way I think so that I can get control over myself and my actions (not always effective of course)so that I can proceed intentionally.
So when I say I look at some fo the things you say as excuses,,,that does not mean I discount them as not real. It is reflective on me that if I stop and think about them, I would probably freak and do no more art. So I relegate them for myself to the excuses pile and keep working.
Just like mastering the brush, the pigment and the colors and application I guess.
I do think of how you work as a blueprint for what could work in life process.
I decided that the most important goals for me are to create work and to show my work.
I have gotten to the point of working non stop for 6 years running ( I think you may smile at that, it's really a nice place to have gotten.....lots of blood and guts of course, but who cares). And I exhibit non-stop as well.
I do a series of anonymous outdoor work in Brooklyn. Pieces that range from maybe ten by ten to a couple of hundred feet. Anyone who passes , will see them. I had to drop the "selling" aspect of my work. Oh well. But it was important for me to drop the "selling" aspect in order to succeed at the other two. That may or may not be permanent.
I noticed that I have work in every major institution in the world. The next time you go to a museum....look up the work of "anonymous". (Sort of funny...and at the same time, what a lineage to be part of, huh?)
I have enough money to go out and do anything I want.....as long as it is for free. or maybe a couple of( as in $2) bucks...and then I cringe.
I think I better shut up now and go to work.
Thanks for engaging in the dialogue, and thanks for taking little offense.
By the way, thanks for mentioning the dyslexia. I know that is an issue and quite a big one at that.
I know a bunch of people with dyslexia and ADD. What always amazes me is their brilliance, creativity and ability to think where most people fall off the tracks. Some of them are amazingly effective. SOme of them are brilliant and suffer.

painterdog said...

I'm a little confused.
You dropped the selling aspect?
What does that mean? You hang your work on park benches, on tanbles on the street(aka:outside the Met.Museum of Art)
I gather you do work as some a way to make yourself feel better, a compulsion of sortes.

Do you exhibit in alternitve spaces?

I gather from your post that you live on a fixed income.

I am impressed by your tenacity and focus.

I don't have enough of it(tenacity and focus).

I get side tracked by job hunting and(which is what I am doing now)

I'll not ask how you support yourself as its a personal thing.

At 56 you have probably been around the block a few times and you sound like you have found some kind of balance.

I alas am still not sure what I'm am doing, I can paint but the art world around me tells me its not good enough or in vain with(for) the current aesthetic.

I have hard time right now dealing with people in the art world as my BS meter is getting more acute as I get older. Soooo, that's it in short order. It's not to bad I did some good work now I need to do something else.

danonymous said...

Good morning painterdog....that's a lot to answer. I tried last night and couldn't. Probably for the same reason that my comments sound the way they do. Whatever I wrote was pretentious and irrelevant even though well meaning and just plain stupid.
IU finally figured out that the answer is in the same vain as our dialogue. There is a lot of chatter in talk, and in art work (general) that weakens the conversation or weakens the work , respectively. I keep looking in my life to see what that chatter is and then turn down or eliminate the volume.
So the only things I can respond to sincerely and with a sense that there is value in sharing them are:
1. Tenacity and focus are key....and that for me means disregarding lots of things including money as an issue.
2. ANytime I meet artworld resistence of any kind, I decide I have to up the level of my work. While not necessarily producing artworld results, it always makes me work harder and at a higher level. Hey...what a win. It works for me.
2. I think age helps in producing a balance, but there has to be a target to aim at. And then practice, lots of.
3. Finances...I work my ass off for about $15m a year. Separated. Work for my wife to help support the family and have an 800 foot studio (sculpture) that goes back and forth from her business needs to my studio space depending what we need to do. But I am pretty convinced that if I had all the money and space and time, I would probably do poorly as an artist.
S..T. I wish it wasn't that way, but it seems like if I am producing....everything I do is part of that chemistry and if I change an ingredient, everything could change as well. I am not smart enough to pick the ingredients. I can only tell...it works..it doesn't work.
well ..that's about the only way I can address your inquiries...
4..oh yeah...I forgot...EVERYTHING is my fault. So I am responsible. That is my favorite.
P.S. couldn't find anything on your blog but an entry page.Sorry

painterdog said...

You make 15 million a year!

Is this a typo and you mean 15k?

No matter but if I made 15m a year I would not advertise it on the web.

This address is my new blog which is just one page as its only a few weeks old.

http://jeffreyfreedner.blogspot.com

Well it sounds like a balance, and 800 sq foot studio is a nice size.

I used have a 500 sq foot one and that was large. Nice to have space.
But I gather you only get the space when the Dutches of Fife(wife)is not using it. How does that work?
If your in mid strid you hae to stop and put everything away?

I now have a small room in a house.
Not sure this was good idea, but its done.

danonymous said...

I think I will leave the confusion between 15K and 15M alone. Sort of like the parallel vaguery that works so well for the MOna Lisa.

leslie.kain said...

Jeffrey I am so sorry you no longer paint the incredible works that you did in ~1995 and thereabouts. I bought your magnificent two-panel (72x40 combined) work in 1996 (or was it 97?) at the Boston Museum School sale - I call it "Scenes from the Edges of a Maniac's Nightmare" (with homage to Tom Waits). I believe you may have called it "the Pointer", due to its focus on a crazed looking Pentecostal clutching a Bible pointed heavenward, other hand pushing on a frightened woman's head to baptize her in the shallow brackish water, while behind are all manner of bizarre & disturbing characters (KKK, black man with white-X'ed out eyes, a short painter reminiscent of Hitler with his buxum red-headed whore, a rag-tag band playing, etc.) against a backdrop of boxcar & smokestacks, which always makes viewers think of New Orleans. I bought the painting because I was instantly drawn to its fine painterly craft, its dark & bizarre content, and the fact that it reminded me of the evangelical evil of my upbringing, which I have grandly overcome. It has travelled with me as I've moved to five different homes in four different states. It has never ceased to strike awe and conversation among my house guests. It hangs in my dining room, and many a dinner party has included lively interpretations of its meaning.
I miss the man you were. I'm sorry you lost your power somewhere in the bottom of that black hole.
I see in your current art the stuff of Hallmark cards and that which appeals to tourists.
I am truly saddened.