Press release, October 2018
It is a great honor for Last Resort to present a memorial exhibition for Freddy Fraek.
In Denmark, most associate Freddy Fraek with his years as an admired entertainer; beloved musician and actor. Abroad he was solely known as an internationally recognized sculptor. Not without reason, as he had a more than 50 year career as a visual artist, with countless exhibitions at different larger institutions, large commissions and representation for many years by one of the world’s leading galleries.
Freddy Fraek (b. 1935, Copenhagen) was a student at The Royal Danish Academy of Art from 1960 to 1966. From 67 to 79 he was an associate professor at the same institution, at the department for spatial art, as well as creating the department for metal works. His interest in metal was sparked by his father, who worked with machines and taught Freddy how to forge metal. He became an apprentice at a machine workshop in Copenhagen after he had graduated from school in 1952, around the same time as he founded his first jazz band. The music took a lot his time during his years at the academy, but from the late 1970’s he wished to solely focus on making art, and when he received the three-year work grant from The Danish National Art Foundation in 1983, it became possible to live this dream.
For more than 20 years he divided his time between Paris and Copenhagen together with his wife, Gun Gordillo. They met each other as colleagues at the art academy in 1974. The apartment in Paris was their sanctuary for creating ideas, and where they had their daily life with their gallerist, Denise Rene, and the numerous star artists that she represented. In Holbergsgade in Copenhagen, they had their combined apartment and studio as well as a metal workshop. Here they would create the works that did not demand that they worked on an industrial scale as in ship yards and quarries etc, while making exhibitions and commissions around all of Europe.
Fraek’s work is both humorous and earnest. Formal and informal. They have a subtlety and are based on research in earthly materials, as stone and metal, but can also be noisy: by their enormous dimensions and literally when they have sound.
The play with dimensions, materials and contradictions became key elements in his work and he could make massive works, weighting several tons, seem playful, dancing and light. Many will recall his enormous rulers that measured their surroundings in a playful way and often changed the dimensions. Or when he challenged the classic geometry with new dimensions that would challenge the eye.
It was a crucial experience for Freddy Fraek, to see the pyramids in Egypt, which he visited seven times from 1973-1985. The fascination of the incomprehensible dimensions, the geometry and the sound from the sarcophagus, became key elements in his work. He also found great inspiration in the artists Olle Bärtling, Leon Polk Smith, Donald Judd and John Cage, as well as the musician Thelonious Monk.
Freak attended the drawing school at Ny Carlsberg 1958-60 and at the academy his focus was prints and drawing. The printing follows him for many years, where the subjects are often humorous, absurd and some times observations with formal qualities. This could be, how you perceive an enormous ferry sailing past, when you see it from the end of a long street: You will only see bites of it and only your imagination can create an image of the complete ship. The perspective creates and distorts the dimensions.
This fascination of the playful interaction with dimensions continued after his encounter with the pyramids, where the ruler subsequently became a dominant motive in prints and sculptures. Dimensions were set on fixed sizes such as public squares and train stations, but also abstract dimensions like speed and free play. He even created a measure of styles through art history.
In 1984 he discovers the stone Diabase that both he and Gun Gordillo worked with for several years. The stone has the special characteristic that it is the world's hardest rock (after diamond) and with this material, he creates several stone and iron sculptures in the following years. A motif that often repeats itself in his diabase sculptures is the sarcophagi in a minimalistic and formal mode of expression. The sarcophagus is also the inspiration for his first sound sculptures, which is based on the sound he experienced from an open sarcophagus. The first sound sculptures were presented in the Cisterns in Frederiksberg in 1998, created with steel frames or beams in combination with spring steel and electromagnetic motors. As Freddy Fraek’s health deteriorates by the end of the 2000s the physically demanding work, as his artwork often were, was abandoned, but he continued to work with wood, bakelite, resin and steel reliefs up until his death despite several strokes. These were made in a scale that was more manageable to work with, but the playfulness in his work remained.
The main focus of the show at Last Resort, is Freddy Fraek’s sound sculptures and his work with reliefs and smaller sculptures from his last years. The sound sculptures are yet another of Freddy’s contradictions; where he created magnificent tonal music with his banjo, he created a kind of non-tonal anti music with his sculptures. They play individually and unpredictably and create a common resonance that fits nicely into the 20th century art history, side by side with Dadaism and Fluxus. They are minimal in their expression, almost introverted, and the soundscape moves between an individual touch on an instrument to the sound of a blacksmith's hammer. Each body has a tone of its own, which applies to the sculptures.
In 1965 Freddy Fraek was asked why he closed his eyes when he played music. His answer was that all the blues musicians he admired were blind. With the sound sculptures he created something rare. Sculptures that his blind heroes also could have enjoyed. Freddy could master the impossible, which he in some way does from his grave with this show.
Freddy Fraek (November 22nd, 1935 – October 24th, 2016, Copenhagen).
Graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, 1960-1966, Associate Professor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, 1967-1979. Residing in Paris from 1988-2005. Married to Gun Gordillo, 1974-2016.
Selected solo shows: Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Lunds Konsthal, Wanås, Leopold Hoesch Museum, Århus Kunstbygning, Cisterne and several shows with Galerie Denise Rene, as well as participation at Art Basel and other renowned artfairs around the world. Commissions at Hammarsbykaj in Stockholm, Stockholms subway, Bispetorvet, Copenhagen.
Welcome at the opening.
Opening: Wednesday, October 24th, 5 - 7 p.m.
Exhibition period: October 25th – November 24th, 2018.