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More Than 'The Egg Man': Looking At The Work Of Julius Friedman

Courtesy Julius Friedman

You’ve seen the poster: black background, “Louisville Ballet”  written in loopy script and a blush pink pointe shoe steadily balanced on a delicate egg. This iconic image -- a requisite decoration in area children’s ballet classes -- was created by Louisville artist Julius Friedman.

“Toe on Egg” is a defining piece, much like his “French Horn with Ice Cream” (the cherry on top of the heaping scoops of ice cream was always a favorite touch of mine) or “Fresh Paint,” which features a platoon of bright white eggs with three unbroken primary-color yolks front-and-center.

But Friedman is more than just “the egg man,” as he described himself in a 2007 WDRB interview. His work — including his popular pieces created from deconstructed books — has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the American Institute of Graphic Arts and in museums across North America, Asia and Europe.

It is self-aware, resonant and — most importantly — always developing, a trait that will be evident at the artist’s 50-year retrospective at the Frazier History Museum.

“Julius Friedman: Fifty Year Retrospective” opens June 24 and will run through Oct. 9.

“With his new work, he has created this multi-sensory experience, printing on metals and uses glass,” Andy Treinen, director of marketing at the museum, said. “There’s a tactile component to it. You’ll be able to feel things. You’ll be able to hear things. You’ll be able to see things.”

Recent local exhibitions have marked Friedman’s evolution as an artist, highlighting his departure from the work for which he was initially recognized. Take “Emergence,” a 2010 exhibition at 21c, as an example.

“Emergence” was Friedman’s first foray into figurative photography, rather than his posters or more abstract landscape work. These multilayered digital prints on aluminum were complex and ghostly. Figures enveloped in mesh or smoke blurred the lines of portraiture, rendering the nude models almost unrecognizable and therefore incredibly subtle.

Then there’s the 2014 Craft Gallery show “Ballet and Botanica,” which featured deeply colored, saturated prints of flowers and dancers. Gallery co-owner David McGuire says that the subtitle of the exhibition was “a show of beauty, grace and form.”

“I mean, the close-range that he could capture, the colors — they were just beautiful,” McGuire said. “It really was a show of beauty, grace and form. He picked that title and it was pretty spot-on.”

One of the points of a retrospective is to examine an artist’s consistent themes and notable departures, yet these are the traits that Friedman’s work has possessed for the last five decades — whether the subject is a ballerina’s foot, a magenta bloom or a spectral landscape.

More information about “Julius Friedman: Fifty Year Retrospective” is available here.