Andrew Frieder (1959–2014) was a self-taught but well-read artist whose works conflate mythological or biblical scenes with the conflicts and dramas of everyday life. Like the tarot cards they resemble, his drawings and paintings each contain only a few elements, with every symbol, gesture, or character clearly readable.
To make his pieces, Frieder would first lay down a field of scribbles, generally in pastel yellows, pinks, and blues, on a piece of paper. This he would hang in his home, living with it until a picture emerged from the chaos. Once he had picked out the image as a simple line drawing, he would erase or paint over the surrounding scribbles, leaving stocky, rudimentary characters, filled with swirling color, who seem melded with each other and their surroundings.
In Untitled (Demon Tackles Archer), 2008, a ghostly presence stands behind a bowman about to release his arrow, enveloping him with oversize hands. The demon’s hold on his victim is horribly intimate and almost sensual, linking the piece to the late-medieval artistic genre of the danse macabre. In other works narratives are buttressed by text, as in a 2008 depiction of an angry man menacing a kneeling child, which has a caption reading, “The boy believes; his father doesn’t.” It doesn’t take long to see in it the power of the universal and the wonder—and pain—of individual experience.
A version of this story originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 104.