Friday, February 25, 2011

Fellini knew a thing or two.

Images from The Magic of Fellini (2002), written & directed by Carmen Piccini

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Drew Friedman Gets Freaky

Visiting Los Angeles in support of his latest collection of portraits, Sideshow Freaks, Drew Friedman joined New Texture's Wyatt Doyle at Book Soup for a book signing and conversation. Wyatt's introduction follows:

Friedman signs at Book Soup

That Drew Friedman is a remarkable talent is obvious; his flawless draftsmanship is without peer, and his images are often laugh-out-loud funny. But more than that, Drew Friedman’s art has consistently subverted expectations, from the beginning.

Much of his earliest published work (often created in collaboration with his brother, writer Josh Alan Friedman) focused on forgotten TV celebrities, B-picture has-beens and Z-picture never-weres, placed squarely in the spotlight. The Friedmans' comics dropped these famous faces into bizarre, absurd–and often absurdly normal–scenarios, affording them the kind of leading-role stardom most never achieved during their actual careers.

And in the same way a juicy Hollywood rumor can color the public’s impressions of a star, for a lot of Friedman fans, the comics added strange and intriguing new layers to the personas of celebrities they’d cast in them. So while the Friedmans had nothing to do with the initial success of names like Tor Johnson, Joey Heatherton, Frank Sinatra, Jr. and Ernest Borgnine, all now have very specific associations for loyal Friedman readers.

Before long, Drew’s illustration work moved into more mainstream venues and collaborations with his wife, Kathy Bidus. Satirizing contemporary notables, above-ground readers were introduced to Freidman via his "Private Lives of Public Figures" panels in Spy magazine and his work for Details. His illustrations for Howard Stern’s two bestsellers and a flood of editorial work–including his pieces for the New York Observer, followed (Drew’s provided front-page illustrations for the paper since 1994).

In a position to bring some labors of love into print, Drew released two successful volumes of portraiture: Old Jewish Comedians and More Old Jewish Comedians. Sideshow Freaks (Blast Books) is his latest labor of love.

Drew has been quoted repeatedly as preferring to draw “ugly” faces instead of “beautiful” ones, and Sideshow Freaks would seem to take that fascination to its logical extreme. But Friedman’s work runs much deeper than that, and Penn Jillette’s excellent introduction sets right those who would confuse the book with the kind of crass exploitation historically associated with the sideshows.

In these hypersensitive, politically correct times, it’s a real high-wire act, but Drew pulls it off, avoiding shock value and cheap sensation by always keeping his subjects' humanity at the forefront. Even when surviving reference photographs of these "freaks" suggest deer-in-headlights moments, Friedman's portraits have a warm and inviting quality, and a curious dignity; his affection for these one-of-a-kind faces and figures is indisputable. (For the real grotesques, you need only revisit his previous book, the collection of contemporary celebrities and politicians, Too Soon?)

And in much the same way that his previous work adds both fresh perspective and new dimension to our perception of celebrity, Drew’s gorgeous artwork in Sideshow Freaks quietly makes the viewer reconsider the unique beauty of the different, whether the viewer is consciously aware of it or not.

¡Viva Friedman!

text and photographs copyright © 2011 Wyatt Doyle

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Drew Friedman (and Wyatt Doyle) Get Their Freak on in Los Angeles!

TOMORROW:

Drew Friedman premieres his new collection, SIDESHOW FREAKS (Blast Books), at Book Soup (8818 Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood)! Join us TOMORROW, Sunday, February 20 @ 4 pm for a signing and talk moderated by NT's Wyatt Doyle.

Can't make the event? Contact Book Soup and ask about purchasing signed copies by mail!