Louisville artist Julius Friedman dies at 74

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Julius Friedman – a Louisville-based graphic designer, photographer, artist and design-studio owner who was one of Kentucky’s most influential artists and an invaluable part of the Louisville arts community – has died after an illness.  He was 74.

He had been ill lately with acute leukemia and had been in palliative care.  In the end, he had been refusing all medication.

Julius Khourt Friedman had been the co-owner of now-closed Chapman Friedman Gallery, 624 W. Main St., which represented contemporary regional, national and international artists.  He founded the design business Images in 1971 and single-handedly nurtured the studio for decades.

The Frazier History Museum featured a 50-year retrospective of Friedman's work that ran for several months last year.  It included 230 posters, a new film and two installations.

The Frazier said of the Friedman exhibit that it was "a celebration of life" in that it featured "the iconic posters that have become a part of the international arts and culture community, including 'Toe on Egg,' his famous Louisville Ballet poster of a dancer's shoe balanced on an egg, and his 'Fresh Paint' poster, featuring three egg yolks in the primary colors.

"The multi-sensory exhibit, inspired by the movement and emotion of nature, will provide visitors a visual, audio and tactile experience that delves into the mind of Friedman."

One of his most recent efforts was a project simply titled "The Book."  It was inspired by Gail Gilbert, the art librarian at the University of Louisville Library and contained 130 beautiful Friedman photographs.

“Growing up in Louisville in the 1970s and ‘80s, I always knew of Julius’ work," Courier-Journal Arts reporter Elizabeth Kramer said. "But I only met him after moving back to the city and began covering he arts here as an adult. What struck me from the first meeting was his energy and his undeniable passion. He had a generosity to work with other artists and organizations characterized not only from the posters he produced earlier in his career but those artists whose work was shown at Chapman Friedman Gallery, which he and his former wife, Cheryl Chapman, had for many years at 624 W Main St. Even last December, he opened his historic home Hampden Court to artists to sell their works for invited holiday customers.”

He was well-known for his creative advertisements for the Louisville Ballet and Louisville Orchestra.  And he designed a Kentucky Derby Festival poster.

Friedman's works are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. the National Museum of Poster Art, in Warsaw, Poland; and the Dansk Plakamuseum in Aarhous, Denmark.   It also has been displayed by the Brown-Forman Corp., and the Marriott Hotel Corp. as well as at the Margaret M. Bridwell Art Library at the University of Louisville and at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville.

Friedman, who had a home on Hampden Court off Bardstown Road in the Highlands, had lectured extensively on design, including at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.   In 2004 he received the Kentucky Governor's Award in the Arts for Business.

According to a profile of Friedman that ran on Kentucky Educational Television, Friedman said that at times he wondered if had been "left on the doorstep by a mysterious stranger."

The profile said that Friedman’s father was a druggist by trade, and that growing up Julius was not exposed to the arts at home.  "Yet, he ended up an internationally renowned artist, producing a massive body of work that ranges from innovative corporate designs to stunningly beautiful fine art pieces, sometimes blurring the line between the two," according to the KET profile.

It added, "His iconic posters have gained worldwide recognition and traveled to galleries in Tokyo, Paris, Poland and Denmark, not to mention New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C."

But, while his work has been displayed worldwide, KET said that "Friedman keeps his roots in Louisville. He describes the River City as a great place to live, though it is sometimes" -- in his words -- "a hard place to make a living as an artist.”

His 2010-2011 exhibit at the 21c Hotel in Louisville featured traditional nude photographs printed with a modern and innovative technique. "The images, sometimes double exposures, are printed on raw aluminum, giving them a transcendent and surreal quality," according to one critic's observation.

One of his posters was selected for the UNESCO International Poster Exhibition held in Paris and San Francisco, and another was chosen for The Graphic Imperative Show, 1965-2005, a traveling international poster show for peace, social justice, and the environment.

According to his online biography, the work of Friedman, who maintained a 200-acre country estate, had been featured in the following periodicals and publications: Communication Art; Print Magazine; Art Direction; STA 100 Show; Graphis; Idea Magazine (Japan); Printers Industry of America; Photo Design; Kodak's International Photography Magazine; Nikon World; Letterheads: A Collection from Around the World; American Photography; and World Graphic Design.

Public Works, a book of posters by Julius Friedman and Nathan Felde, was published in 1980 by Hawley Cooke and Orr. 

Friedman was selected by the special assistant to President Ronald Reagan to create work for inclusion in an exhibition of 100 posters advocating peace. This exhibition was presented to the government of Japan on Aug. 6, 1985, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and was held at the Hiroshima Museum of Art.
 

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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