FUCK YOU ALL Los Angeles 2002
This incarnation of the FUCK YOU ALL exhibition was one of the most thorough to date and was the last time the laminates would be shown. In addition to the usual set of prints that have been seen traveling around the world there were over a dozen new images in various large formats, as traditional, Iris, and Lambda prints, made up to 35″x46″.
A video monitor was constantly running with two different GEF programs. The interview/documentary film “FUCK YOU ALL” about Glen and his work that was filmed in 1999 in Rome, made by the Fluid Video Crew from Italy. And the eMpTyV Sports special “Athletes & Art” that Glen was a big part of.
Also on display for the 1st time were the FUCK IT! poster “Visual Arts Sampler” film proofs – 1997-2001 These highly detailed proofs were the 50% size direct film prints of the proposed 40″x60″ double-sided poster that was made as a ‘special project’ by Friedman for MO’WAX ART but never released.
Check out the text below of “ALL GO” – the Program/pamphlet that was given away by sixspace during the exhibition.
A PERSONAL APPRAISAL OF THE WORK OF GLEN E. FRIEDMAN
by Jon ReshIT’S BEEN ABOUT 20 YEARS SINCE I FIRST SAW GLEN FRIEDMAN’S PHOTOGRAPHS. The fact is: I’m still recovering.Like most other hopelessly skewed, out-of-step kids at the beginning of the 1980s, I took to skateboarding and punk rock pretty readily. So it was inevitable my eyes would eventually collide with Friedman’s images, whether through Thrasher magazine, a friend’s borrowed copy of Friedman’s zine My Rules, or various album covers.His pictures were impossible to miss. Beyond the fact that his subjects were among my favorite bands and skaters, Friedman’s photos somehow encapsulated and conveyed the raw immediacy of the moment. Brutally realistic (the subjects, sweat, blood or bad teeth are as sharp and apparent as the cracks in the concrete or the grime on the amps), his pictures captured real human energy – physical, creative, emotional – both latently and at its peak, beautifully and honestly.He did so without visual trickery or artificial enhancement; to aptly quote an old skate ad: his work was all go, no show. Even his most unassuming pictures – Tony Alva leisurely grinding a pool in the ’70s, the Bad Brains relaxing in a graffiti-covered CBGB’s after a gig, a near-sublime promo shot of LL Cool J – always seemed tinged with something soulful, even vaguely political, charged with an intensity, whether moving or still, that conveyed action.So, in the ’80s, given the amount of time my friends and I spent looking at these photos (what else do you do when you’re 15, ugly, unpopular and stuck in the suburbs?), they became nothing less than icons to us, displaying the potential for freedom, innovation and joyous mayhem available to even pathetic dorks like us.
We’d scan every detail, pondering any given photo’s subjects (“Who is this Steve Olson guy?”), situations (“Does Minor Threat hang out on this porch all day? And what’s with that antique lawnmower?”), and, above all, the photographer (“How could that skateboard not have hit his head?”).
Aside from a willingness to take a deck in the skull for a good shot, what set Friedman apart was his combination of technical mastery, insider perspective and creative energy. While Friedman was a part of the subcultures he documented, most professional photographers were outsiders, and thus couldn’t attain the crucial shots, intuitive vantage points or relevant subtexts as he did. And very few photographers in the punk, hip-hop and skate scenes – and certainly none in all three scenes – possessed his meticulous technique, innate ability, or highly developed aesthetic vision and sense of composition.
By 1994, as Friedman’s work began to appear in many mainstream avenues, his first book, “Fuck You Heroes,” was published. Having secured a copy, I cracked it open and soon found myself dizzy from the visuals. Here were some of the most evocative pictures I’d ever seen – potent images of truck-crushing grinds, eye-bulging punk vocalists in mid-scream, hard stares from dead-serious rappers – in chromatic, brilliant succession. Flipping through the pages, it immediately dawned on me: I’ve got to meet this guy.
I got my chance through Sean Bonner and Caryn Coleman, old friends who (like me) had moved to Chicago from Florida. Sean was working as an art director at an esteemed hardcore record label in town, while Caryn was opening a gallery called sixspace, focusing on artwork of a more unrefined, fun nature, work that was otherwise neglected in Chicago.
Both had established contact with Friedman – Sean for photos on a Bad Brains re-issue, Caryn for an exhibition of his work – and they generously hooked me up with an interview for a bookzine I published.
Meeting Friedman in Manhattan was intimidating – not because he’s unfriendly, but because the intensity of his work is plainly reflected in his character. In person, he’s as powerful a presence as his images are on a page; I can truly attest that the intense nuance of his photos comes as much from the individual behind the lens as the subjects in front of it.
He was a nice guy. A serious guy. Forceful, direct, a bit caustic. Funny, interesting, poignant. Very uncompromising, and unflinchingly honest.
About a year after the interview, Caryn secured a Friedman show for the debut exhibition at sixspace in Chicago, and Sean assisted with many on-site logistics. Word got around fast; the show was expected to be highly attended for opening night. Friedman flew in, and every conceivable detail was nailed for the evening’s exhibition.
Every detail, that is, but one. Summertime heat in Chicago can be as severe as the cold in winter, and on this particularly sweltering night, seemingly every air conditioner in the city was working at maximum capacity.
Hence: blackout. Massive electrical failure. Not everywhere in Chicago, not even on every block – just on the strip with the art gallery housing the coolest opening of the year. Naturally.
With the lighting, air conditioning and security system in sixspace down, people came nonetheless (though most had to walk outside every five minutes for air before returning to the gallery, lest they puke or faint from the heat). Large flashlights with giant batteries were hastily purchased and strategically placed, weakly illuminating the room in a dull glow, just bright enough to view the images on the walls.
At the start of the evening, when the blackout initially hit, Friedman was understandably a wreck. If ever a low-level calamity spelled doom for an art event, this was it. In his words: “This is categorically the most fucked-up shit ever.”
To me, the blackout, though an accident, created a setting and atmosphere wonderfully representative of the photo subjects. The gallery really felt like a punk show, a hip-hop concert, a deep skate session: hot, dark, close, crucial – a place where only the most dedicated deserved to stay. In this context, the power loss made a great deal of sense.
By the evening’s end, hundreds of people attended, many staying until closing (albeit outside) – a testament, if ever there was one, to the strength of Friedman’s work, given the circumstances.
Later in the evening, I, along with Sean, spent the night on the gallery’s hardwood floor in my work clothes in 100-degree heat, to ensure nobody would break in to steal Friedman’s framed photos. (Exactly who would steal pictures of skaters, rappers and punks now eludes me – I’d applaud the good taste of anyone who tried – but by that point in the night our thinking was, to say the least, less than clear.)
Thus surrounded on all walls by the likes of Henry Rollins with mike in mouth, Run-DMC giving me the finger, and Steve Caballero flying backside above Lance Mountain in a nighttime pool session, I’m surprised I was able to fall asleep.
The next morning, with resumed electricity, Friedman asked me to guide him around Chicago’s major art museums. Though still achy from a bad sleep and smelling like shit, I of course agreed.
Bolting behind him through each exhibit, striding down halls in two vast buildings over the course of six hours, I witnessed the following three traits in Friedman’s observation of art:
1. He’d pass many paintings and pieces with barely a glance, walking past (and thus dismissing) at least 90 percent of a collection. When something really caught his eye, however, he’d stop dead in front of it in near-awe, analyzing the details for up to five minutes, and say: “This right here – this is fucking amazing.”
2. The pieces he really went nuts for were, for lack of a better term, “classical” in origin – Renaissance paintings, realistic drawings, few of which were less than three centuries old. I admired this because, to contemporary vanguard tastes, such pieces are considered wholly uncool.
How they were viewed by anyone else meant nothing to Friedman. “Think of how much work this artist put into it,” he’d say.
3. Conversely, he seemed to sneer at a lot of “modern” pieces – especially artwork that was heavily conceptual, ironic or appropriated (and therefore hip). This was equally impressive to me. Rather than allow himself to be backed into believing a questionable piece had merit solely because it sat in a museum, or because it reflected current exalted trends in the art world, Friedman chose to disregard it altogether.
“How did this crap get in here?” he’d say, then might concede: “Well, I guess I can see why somebody would like this… but it just doesn’t speak to me.” And off he’d go to survey the rest, stopping only when something indeed spoke to him.
That day permanently affected how I view art. I’ve come to use Friedman’s gauge as part of my own personal criteria: Disregard the bullshit. Gravitate toward what speaks to you. Allow it to do so. Make no apologies.
Such an ethic has certainly proved fruitful for Friedman. With the release of the film Dogtown and Z-Boys (in which he appeared and co-produced), and with his photo work taking an experimental turn with the publication of his third book, The Idealist, his career continues to evolve, as he visually records other forms of concentrated energy in previously unexplored spaces.
So too has a new phase begun for Caryn and Sean: it’s through their diligence that they’ve brought the “Fuck You All” show here to Los Angeles (having left Chicago last year) in sixspace’s new, grander incarnation.
As for the photos themselves – after all these years, they still knock the shit out of me. Perhaps now more so, given that the cultural significance of Friedman’s work – in the subjects he covered, the manner in which he covered them, and the influence he’s had on the current generation of young D.I.Y. photographers – has only increased.
Upon seeing Friedman’s pictures as a kid, they inspired me to go out and set the world on fire. To this day, they still do.
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Jon Resh (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a graphic designer in Chicago and the author of “Amped: Notes from a Go-Nowhere Punk Band” (Viper Press).