j.frede creates fictional landscapes using old flea market postcards.

j.frede: Homeless – Cab Driver – Artist

j.frede creates his ‘Fictional Landscapes’ using old flea market postcards.

j.frede has gone from being homeless to being one of the hottest properties in the LA art scene.

Visiting art museums as a kid is probably enriching or something, but it can’t matter too much because j.frede didn’t visit any until his 20s, and this guy’s artistry has no limits. 

j.frede grew up in a small town in New Mexico. After leaving home at 15, he moved to Los Angeles where he battled homelessness, beat the odds, and built his career from scratch. He has seen the city at its most raw, but still holds it dear. “Los Angeles is truly amazing,” he says, “It’s possible to have a beautiful place to live here and not have to work 3 jobs to make ends meet. The light is incredible and the access to nature, culture and interesting people is unmatched.”

J. Frede has worked as an art handler, taxi driver, and musician. He found visual art by way of experiential music. He composed and performed his own songs, released CDs, records, and tapes, and toured extensively throughout Europe and the United States. It wasn’t until the naughties that he shifted his focus to sound art and sound installations before eventually moving away from sound all together. 

j.frede creates fictional landscapes using old flea market postcards.
Stop and stare for a moment.

Now, his preferred art form is sculpture. He explains, “There is something about objects that feel more precious to me than, say, a painting or a photograph alone.” He considers this series, Fiction Landscapes, to be sculptures. “Once I started making the Fiction Landscape work with shaped frames they became objects to me and feel as much sculpture as they are photographic work.” The series was born from an interest in flea market photographs and days spent sifting through his collection. “Often I’ll make an arrangement and hang it on my wall and live with it for a week. Sometimes it doesn’t even last a week before I take it down and take it apart, other times after a week I know it’s correct. It has to have some magic that makes me smile each time I look at it.”

The inspiration for j.frede’s work comes from what he describes as ideas that shake him. In his words, he is “blessed and cursed” with endless ideas and thoughts that he wants to share with people. The evolution of his work has been mostly in its form. He has long created work dealing will ephemerality, manifesting first in his music “I still explore the same ideas I always have: memory, chance, the temporary, mortality.”

From j.frede's heirlooms collection.
From j.frede’s heirlooms collection.

j.frede’s tales from his time as a taxi driver epitomise the ephemeral experience—that or a fever dream. It has been a decade since he worked as a cab driver in Los Angeles, but the people and their stories have not left him. He says, “You get a very interesting view into peoples lives, either through conversation with strangers or when they consider you invisible because you are in the ‘service industry.’ ” He remembers one young woman well: “One night, I picked up a young lady in her twenties at a seedy hotel downtown. We started talking, and she explained that she was a drug dealer and that hotel was her ‘office.’ We talked about various life stuff and chatted, and I dropped her off deep in South Central and she looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Honey, get out of this area as quick as you can after I get out. Don’t stop at stop lights or stop signs; just get your ass back to the freeway. These freaks will kill you.’ The concern in her eyes was more honest that anything I had experienced in years.” j.frede’s matter-of-fact delivery of this tale was confirmation of his badassery; don’t kid yourself that you wouldn’t have shit your pants in the same position. 

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