coffee, ink, and white-out — the psychedelic redemption of Jake Fried’s animated shorts


I don’t know much about Jake Fried, but his meticulously detailed animations of anarchic fever dreams, which lie somewhere on the border between the mystical aesthetics of an as yet undiscovered ancient civilization and the peyote-powered bubblegum drippings of a Brooklyn subway lunatic, are deliriously compelling.

His animation reminds me of the artwork of that genius stoner kid — always with the highest test scores —  who spent his time in the back of class filling sheet after sheet of college-ruled paper with a garden of chimeras powered by Ozzy, Frazetta, boredom, and Mendocino gold.  Except that while our proverbial stoner kid expands and amends his ideas by scribbling further and further from the center so that the changes in the work can be followed like an unfolding scroll, the transformations in Fried’s animation take place in a single claustrophobic space so replete with hyperactive unfurling that it’s like watching 100 years of forest growth crammed into the space of a minute, or looking at a slide full of bacteria under a microscope while the hot flame of a Bunsen burner churns it into activity.

Fried graduated from Boston University and the Maryland Institute College of Art and now works as an educator and community liaison at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.  It’s hard to know to what extent Fried’s formal academic training influenced the amazing Art Brut aesthetic of his work, but there’s no doubt that his animation would fit right in with the Collection de l’Art Brut housed in Lausanne.  Like some mad amalgam of the work of Scottie Wilson, Vojislav Jakic, Adolf Wölfli, and Madge Gill, Fried’s animations seem like they’re ripped straight from the jittery consciousness of an utterly unique set of mental coordinates.

The failure of stoner art always seems to be that it ends up meandering into nothingness, either loosing interest in itself, or simply running out of steam as the deliciousness of that huge bag of vinegar chips just looms larger and larger in the mind.  Fried’s work is the apotheosis of the doodling tendencies that define the stoner scrawl, the redemption of a style that has never been taken seriously and has always deserved a larger place in the outsider pantheon.


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