Redwood City, CA
Painter, printmaker and sculptor Robert Fried is best known for the psychedelic rock concert posters he created during San Francisco’s Summer of Love and its aftermath. Born in Brooklyn in 1937, Fried’s father was a master clockmaker who wrote several books on clock making, illustrated with his own technical drawings and those by his young son, whom he had instructed. Fried took drawing classes from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from age 11. He studied graphic art at New York City Community College, receiving an Associate of Arts degree, and worked as a commercial artist. Fried won a scholarship to attend The Cooper Union, from which he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1961. He taught at the Provincetown Workshop with Victor Candell (1903-1977), served as an assistant to Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), exhibited at New York’s Brata Gallery and became acquainted with Timothy Leary (1920-1966) and LSD. The recipient of a Fulbright scholarship, Fried and his new bride Penelope (b. 1942) went to Spain, ostensibly to study the Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664). They lived in Madrid for two years, a period when Fried painted several large canvasses. They moved back to New York City in 1965. Fried applied to the graduate programs at various schools, and was accepted by the San Francisco Art Institute. They drove across the country with their infant daughter in 1966. While studying at the Art Institute, Fried worked as a free-lance graphic artist and started creating screenprints again. Fried received his M.F.A degree from the Art Institute in 1968. Having noticed the appearance of psychedelic rock concert posters, he had become friends with poster artists Victor Moscoso (b. 1936, also a Cooper Union graduate) and Rick Griffin (1944-1991). The commission for Fried’s first rock poster came courtesy of Griffin, who asked Fried to create the third poster of a triptych for concerts at the Avalon Ballroom by The Charlatans in 1967. The poster featured a photograph of The Charlatans’ pianist Michael Ferguson (1939-1979) taken by noted photographer Herb Greene (b. 1942). From 1967 through 1970 Fried created at least 18 rock concert posters for promoters Chet Helms (1942-2005) of the Family Dog, Bill Graham (1931-1991) and others. As the demand for posters tapered off, Fried turned to painting and fine art prints. Many of his prints were sheets of supposed postage stamps, often with social criticism or political commentary. Fried enjoyed an artistic residency at Simon Frasier University near Vancouver, B.C. in 1971. He exhibited frequently in the Bay Area, and appeared in group shows at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha (1970), the College of Marin (1972), Santa Clara University (1973) and the Oakland Museum (1974). He also taught at the Art Institute and exhibited at its faculty shows. Fried received a purchase award for a print shown at the San Francisco Outdoor Art Festival in 1973 and a National Endowment for the Arts grant for printmaking in 1974. That year Fried and five other Bay Area artists (Gage Taylor [1942-2000], Robert Moon [b.1941], Bill Martin [1943-2008], Gerald Gooch [b. 1933], and Richard Lowenberg) were commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Art (now the S.F. Museum of Modern Art) to travel to Baja California for about a month and prepare materials for an exhibition reflecting their trip. The resulting exhibition (“Baja”) included paintings, watercolors, gouaches, sculptures, assemblages, photographs and films, including one of Fried’s “postage stamp” prints. Unfortunately, Fried suffered a stroke and died on January 9, 19795 at a hospital in Redwood City, Calif., on the same day as the opening night reception for the exhibition. (TNB 2017) Selected bibliography: Albright, Thomas. Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-1980: An Illustrated History, p. 277. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985. Grushkin, Paul. The Art of Rock: Posters from Presley to Punk, pp. 82-84, and works of at 111, 187, 240, 263, 273, 364. New York: Abbeville Press, 1987.
Bill Graham / Wolfgang’s Vault