photographs by manfredi Bellati
New York: AIGA - Dan Friedman Radical Modernism Exhibition. The Dan Friedman retrospective Radical Moderism on view at AIGA National Design Center, until January 9 is organized and designed by AIGA Medalist Chris Pullman and Laura Varrachi of LVCK Environmental Graphics with support from Dan Friedman's brother Ken Friedman. This vibrant and inspiring exhibition spans Dan’s career from “traditional” graphic designer to avant-garde designer in graphics, furniture and objects. It is amazing to see how contemporary and fresh his design still are, nearly twenty years after his death. I first met Dan in the late 1970’s early 80’s and remember the meeting well, I was invited with Pinky and Dianne, to the newly opened English design studio, Pentagram for lunch. They had their own very private cook and a table was set up running the length of the studio office, lunch was delicious. And though at that time he was working in a creative corporate job, Dan was extremely hip. Over the years we became good friends, he was a family friend, and would always stay with us in Milan where I introduced him to Alessandro Mendini, Alessandro Guerriero, Enrico Astori of Driade for whom he was to design furniture. In New York he introduced me to Keith Haring, Tseng Kwong Chi, Tony Shafrazi – we had good times together and I miss him greatly. Gradually Dan evolved into the artist he was to become. “An eccentric” he wrote, “is one who devotes his or her entire persona to willfully, creatively and positively expanding our view of the world.”
Dan’s Radical Modernist - #1. Live and work with passion and responsibility; have a sense of humor and fantasy.
Dan’s Radical Modernist - #2. Try to express personal, spiritual, and domestic values even if our culture continues to be dominated by corporate, marketing, and institutional values.
Janet Kear and Ken Friedman
Dan Friedman Radical Modernism. Designer, artist, educator and writer Dan Friedman (1945-1995) moved seamlessly between the disciplines that made up his dynamic, though abbreviated, career. From studying at Ulm and Basel to teaching at Yale, and from high-profile corporate design to one-off experimental commissions and AIDS activism in the East Village art scene, Dan pioneered New Wave design while encouraging young designers to live and work with passion, responsibility, humor and fantasy. Inspired by the autobiography and companion exhibition Dan created near the end of his life, the installation is structured around the diverse phases of his career, fully exploring his eccentric and inspiring journey to recapture the idealistic roots of modernism with postmodern flare. When Rizzoli, New York asked me to write New Italian Design, one of the clauses in my contract was that Dan design the book. I am so proud of the book. Dan brought to life the Next Generation of the Milanese Design Scene, of the late 1980s. Through the book he became friends with King Kong’s Stefano Giovannoni and Guido Venturini. I offered a copy of the book to Brighton University, my son Barto's, alma mater, they said “thank you, but we have already bought a copy”, and as I was to find out later, it is on the bookshelves of most of the design and architectural institutions. The book is important not only for it’s reference to an era but also for it’s colorful, fresh and innovative graphic design. It was a difficult job for Dan, because we didn’t have a budget for photography and the designers themselves had to produce photos or sketches of their work. As you can imagine, the formats and the quality varied tremendously, making it a bigger challenge. Executed magnificently.
Dan Friedman Radical Modernism. Disillusioned by design that catered solely to the interests of business, Dan dove into the art culture of the East Village. There he was accepted into a group of like-minded “eccentrics” whose energy and diverse creativity enriched his own ideas of what design and art could be.
Above. Katy K., Keith Haring, Carmel Johnson Schmidt, John Sex, Bruno Schmidt, Samantha McEwen, Juan Dubose, Dan Friedman and Kenny Scharf, Tereza Scharf and Tseng Kwong Chi taking the photo.
Dan’s Radical Modernist - #3. Choose to remain progressive; don’t be regressive. Find comfort in the past only if it expands insight into the future and not just for the sake of nostalgia.
Ken and Elinor Hiebert, David Vanden-Eynden and Steff Geissbuhler
Dan Friedman Radical Modernism. The books Dan designed in the 1980s and ‘90s for Keith Haring, helped making Haring a household name and, coincidentally, assured him that his skills as a designer were just as valuable in his new world as in the old corporate one. A few years later, his catalog collaborations with gallerist Jeffrey Deitch for the “Artificial Nature” and “Post Human” exhibitions, he created a whole new genre of visual essay.
Dan’s Radical Modernist - #4. Embrace the richness of all cultures; be inclusive instead of exclusive.
Jeffrey Deitch and Laurie Mallet
Dan’s Radical Modernist - #5. Think your work as a significant element in the context of a more important, transcendental purpose.
Dan’s Radical Modernist - #6. Use your work to become advocates of projects for public good.
Cliff Abrams photographing the Truth chair, 1987 for Neotu, Paris and Susan Grant Lewin
Dan’s Radical Modernist - #7. Attempt to become a cultural provocateur; be a leader rather than a follower.
Dan Friedman Radical Modernism. After Dan’s death in 1995, his friends Keith Godard and Ronnie Peters taped a tour of his apartment as he had left it. Dan’s apartment was his “painter’s canvas” it was an amazing visual experience and in all it’s craziness and color, it was extremely elegant.
Above. Ronnie Peters, Chris Pullman and Keith Godard.
Dan Friedman Radical Modernism. Untitled Sconce – c. 1987. Dan was very fond of using raffia in his designs.
Dan’s Radical Modernist - #8. Engage in self-restraint; accept the challenge of working with reduced expectations and diminished resources.
Peter Rittmaster, Romina Djelosevic and Bartolomeo Bellati
Dan’s Radical Modernist - #9. Avoid getting stuck in corners, such as being a servant of increasing overhead careerism, or narrow points of view.
Gavin Wassung, Scott Santoro and Abigail Canary
Dan Friedman Radical Modernism. In 1994, near the end of his life, Dan offered this 12 point “radical modernist” agenda for life and work, as wise, optimistic and relevant as it was 20 years ago.
Dan Friedman Radical Modernism. Citicorp Fetish Assemblage from Dan’s apartment – c. 1986.
Dan’s Radical Modernist - #10. Bridge boundaries that separate us from other creative professions and unexpected possibilities.
Christine Hiebert and Josh Pindjak
Dan’s Radical Modernist - #11. Use the new technologies, but don’t be seduced into thinking that they provide answers to fundamental questions.
Bob Seng, Lisa Hein and Paul Hein
Dan’s Radical Modernist - #12. Be radical.
Dan Friedman Radical Modernism. Born in Ohio – announcement for an exhibition at the University of Akron – 1991.