Pedro Friedeberg believes art should be anything but functional.
Growing up in Mexico as the child of German Jewish parents who fled the Second World War, Friedeberg’s childhood was filled with pragmatism and discipline. His family had art books filled with works by artists like Rembrandt and Velasquez, which he found uninteresting. He found these artworks drab and mundane, evoking no emotions in him. Instead, he found a fascination in architecture. He spent his days drawing the gothic architecture of churches and exploring perspective drawings.
As a natural progression of his interest in architecture, Pedro Friedeberg decided to learn architecture. He enrolled at the Universidad Iberoamericana, an esteemed university in Mexico, in 1957. Friedeberg’s passion for architecture came from wanting to liven up the cookie-cutter buildings he saw in Mexico at the time. Instead, he found himself thrown into a world of modernist architecture at university. His fantastical designs for structures were rejected by his professors, who preferred order and symmetry in architecture. Disillusioned and dejected, Friedeberg decided to quit architecture in his 3rd year.
It was around this time that Pedro Friederberg became acquainted with sculptor and artist Mathias Goeritz. Goeritz found Friedeberg’s work fascinating, and encouraged him to take up art seriously. With Goeritz’ support, Friedeberg started painting more, putting his eccentric concepts on canvas. He surrounded himself with various prominent artists, discussing ideas and discovering inspiration. Soon enough, Friedeberg’s works started gaining traction. His artwork, sculptures and designs started getting exhibited in galleries in Mexico, followed by places like New York, Portugal, Canada, Barcelona and even Israel.
Friedeberg’s art was a mix of surrealism and architecture. He painted kaleidoscopic designs, filled with architectural designs and religious motifs. However, despite the prevalence of religious elements in his work, Friedeberg was anything but religious. Brought up as an atheist, he slowly developed an interest in the mythology and themes of various religions. These interests turned up in his designs in the form of tantric symbols and patterns.
As Pedro Friedeberg strongly believed in creating art for its own sake, his works rarely served any practical purpose. The design that his name became synonymous with was indeed a creation like this. The hand chair was designed by Friedeberg to keep Goeritz’ favorite carpenter busy, as per Mathias Goeritz’s request. Leaning more heavily towards sculpture than furniture, the hand chair became one of his best known pieces. It is available in several materials, including gold, silver and plastic, and is highly sought after even today. In fact, to Friedeberg, it is the most ironic piece of all. It isn’t something that he considers among his best works, but it is what he is famous for.
According to Friedeberg, art and design should be whimsical. It should be something that makes people happy and takes them on a magical journey. And he has indeed succeeded in doing that. Take a look at any of Pedro Friedeberg’s works, and you would feel as though you’re caught in a surrealist dream.