The talented and playful Mr. Friedman

Designer Julius Friedman’s resume is long — full of references to graphic design, photography and gallery ownership. You may know him as the grand old master of posters, with a borderline fetish for eggs, as in the Kentucky Arts Commission’s “Fresh Paint.” He’s now come ’round to his due, with both an exhibition and book encapsulating his career. And what a creative life it has been, as much a part of Louisville as Slugger and the Derby.

This two-part experience of all things Friedman shows his past, illustrates his present and gives glimpses of his future (he is certainly not finished). The show at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft concentrates on his recent photography. 

His wife, artist Cheryl Chapman, is a welcome partner in his photographic creations. She has given him “gifts” that were actually assignments: After literally shoving him out the door, he was set for the day, week, even a year of theme-related play. Many of those assignments are on display for the first time. 

At a recent presentation at KMAC, Friedman explained that he “uses the camera as a tool to what I’m responding to that day, just surface and texture, that interests me.” He strives for both “details and abstraction,” he said, and is intrigued by the graphics that surround our daily lives, found in such places as streets, walls and crosswalks. He also has a particular fondness for how outdoor advertisements end up changing over time — tearing, partially pasted over or aged by the weather. 

One can usually expect to see the actual face of the artist in a self-portrait. Not so with Friedman. His “metaphorical self-portraits” are photographs of water on asphalt. “I like to make photos of it, as if I was painting,” he said.

Another major source of inspiration is the family farm. Being outdoors is treasured playtime, full of “water, nature — in and out of focus.” 

His self-designed book, “Julius Friedman: Images and Ideas,” is really his retrospective. Maybe it’s better to say it’s a diary of sorts, the result of play dates over the years. It covers everything, from the familiar posters to photography, through car parts, furniture and rock sculpture.

If he’s lucky, he finds a playmate in other artists. Friedman likes to collaborate. Jean Bevier says in the book that one of Friedman’s favorite ways to play “(is to) grab a camera, gather a few friends, and go into the landscape to discover what each person responds to.”

Mark Beasley of Creative Time was in town to speak at the IdeaFestival last week. During his presentation, he said, “Artists who are doing their jobs correctly are playful.” Julius Friedman is proof. It is to our benefit that he continues to be curious and amused. 

‘2008 Images and Ideas:
The Photographic Art
of Julius Friedman’

Through Oct. 11

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft

715 W. Main St.