Fred Fleisher: Addressing the Cultural Noise Through Contemporary and Vintage Images

Fred Fleisher was born in Pennsylvania and lives in Brooklyn, NY. After an enlistment in the Army he earned a BFA and a BS from Penn State and an MFA from Queens College, CUNY.

His work is represented both nationally and internationally and has been included in numerous exhibits. He is an Adjunct Professor at SUNY, Old Westbury and Hudson County Community College, Jersey City, NJ.


Loren Kleinman (LK): Your artwork employs contemporary and vintage images and objects that allow you to address the cultural noise that surrounds our everyday lives. Can you talk about your artistic process from inspiration to implementation?

Fred Fleisher (FF): There is a noise that is in my head and a buzz that invades our cultural mindscape. Toys, commercials, movies, news, etc., almost anything is a part of that noise and can contribute to our outlook on life. These things are always there and I can't detach. Some things have the promise of being special, but a duality can exist, especially as we question that specialness over time.

All of this affects me and some time I project my emotional state into a work. For a recent series of paintings the expressions of similar characters changed with the change in my mood. For some pieces I play with the notion of duality by re-positioning plush dolls and figures with armature and stitching on rubber mask parts, among other things. My approach is to choose things from life and create new worlds as I go along.

LK: How has literature affected your process? What are some books that have influenced your art and why?

FF: Recently, I was discussing this with Brian Morris, of Brian Morris Gallery (he's a good poet as well). I think that it's impossible to escape the influence of good literature. A good work will hover in my memory. It comes down to a key thing that is shared with how I structure my own ideas in art and the literature that resonates with me. That key thing is the drama of being human. This is different than, say, Human Drama, often played to full effect by the media without ever arriving at a truth from an individual's point of reference. Whether I'm reading The Flamethrowers (by Rachel Kushner) or The Bhagavad Gita, there is a story of an individual navigating the path of life. To me, the Gita has the biggest narrative of all -- the true Self beneath the problematic Ego. Of course, Herman Hesse is one of the best authors regarding this sort of thing. Saul Bellow's books are compelling. Books by Arthur Nersesian and Jonathan Lethem about life in the city inspire me. Everything comes down to the challenge of the everyday and that can be quite grand.


LK: What colors speak to you the most and why? How do you use color to evoke a particular feeling or story?

FF: I like the vibrant colors used in plastic objects and this has been a motivation for me, probably my entire life. If I want to evoke my world it has to pop -- it has to be intense. As we can see, the ever-changing world continues to accumulate more of what humanity produces. Since I want the discussion to be about the drama of being human I believe all of the many colors used in this world of production allow the opportunity for me to evoke a feeling, to convey the image more completely.

LK: How do you express ideas of love in your art? What are the themes you address and why?

FF: I have a piece titled "I Want To Be Loved." This is coming from a perspective of the need to feel love, or be adored. So it does come up. I believe the world continues to disconnect from a face-to-face model leaving us with emotions that have developed over time and there are so many things to consider. Lack of power, loss of love, a need for hope, navigating social hierarchies and spiritual experiences are some issues that come up in the studio as I examine life.


LK: What's been the collection you connect with the most?

FF: I would say Herman Hesse's work for sure. The theme of an individual making choices on the path of life interests me. While on the path an understanding of some greater force emerges. I like that because we all face this sort of thing. Also, I found Bukowski's "Factotum" on the train so I finally added that read to his other work. I like the ebb and flow of life that he shares because we all have our particulars in the day to day.

LK: Respond to this quote from Woody Allen: ""Life doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad television."

FF: I agree. We tend to live the clichés of shit TV, or any other bad media offering that creates convenient norms. We come to expect the very thing we see on bad television (or wherever anything is viewed). We are just animals with big brains, but sometime it seems we have to struggle for enlightenment. So all of our headspace is filled with the offerings of all that culture has to provide and our lives reflect that same stuff. If it isn't good stuff then we won't have good moments. I do like many things I experience in life and it is possible to draw inspiration from many sources and, of course, I do this all the time.

LK: What's next?

FF: I'm looking forward to many things, especially working with people in the city and elsewhere. The possibility of working with curator Koan-Jeff Baysa is always exciting. I will be collaborating on multi-media installations with musician Cy Donovan of Modman Productions. There are a number of upcoming shows and I have solo exhibits planned next spring with Alexandra Rockelmann in Berlin, Germany and Kiyoshi Ike's Concepto Gallery in Hudson, NY. I'm also looking forward to working with Christopher Stuart in his new space in Chicago.