UCDA is saddened to hear that our good friend and colleague Julius passed away peacefully on July 16, 2017. Our thoughts are with his family, countless friends, and fans.

Julius Friedman is an internationally known artist and award-winning graphic designer and co-founder of Images design studio in Louisville, Kentucky. Friedman’s work has been featured in major design journals and exhibited in museums nationally and internationally. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of Poster Art in Warsaw, Poland, and various corporate and private collections. He is a recipient of the Kentucky Governor’s Award in the Arts, and also owned a gallery in Louisville showcasing contemporary artists.

His posters and books have received worldwide recognition. He has always focused on design for non-profits and has a strong commitment and support for the arts. Beyond graphics, he is a photographer, gallery owner, sculptor, and furniture designer. Julius creates images that are stunning in their beauty. He does this year after year and has created an amazing body of work. The University of Louisville—where he studied graphic design—is home to the Julius Friedman Collection, a comprehensive collection of his work. His creative mind is always seeking the next essential image as a way to better understand the world he finds himself in.

A great friend and honorary member of the University & College Designers Association (UCDA), Julius is also a UCDA Award recipient. The UCDA Award, created in 1995, is presented by the UCDA Board of Directors in recognition of those who have donated their valuable time, service and support to further UCDA’s goals. Individuals receiving this award have significantly contributed to this organization’s success. In 2013, UCDA presented the award to Julius Friedman. Julius accepted the award during the annual UCDA Design Conference—28 years after he first was a guest speaker at the same event. (See video presentation of Julius and his work from 2013 award presentation.)

Left: Julius Friedman accepting the UCDA Award at the 2013 UCDA Design Conference in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. (photo by Matt Lester) Right: Julius Friedman with arrows portrait. (photo by Jean Bevier)

Julius’ book Images & Ideas features many of his works ranging from black-and-white photos of lacy, intertwined tree branches to surreal, otherworldly photos of water, ripples and reflections. “I didn’t want a story about me,” says Friedman. “I wanted the images I created to be the book.”

Images & Ideas lets us walk through the natural world with Julius,” friend Jean Bevier once said. “Seeing how he sees and interprets it.” Jean continues, “We’re offered a look into his incredible farm and studio, nestled in the gorgeous Kentucky countryside just east of his hometown of Louisville. We’re also treated to images of one of the ways Julius “plays” at his farm: his many stacked rock sculptural pieces appearing in the fields around his country home like ancient and mysterious cairns.”

Julius’ studio on his farm in the Kentucky countryside just east of his hometown of Louisville.

A few of Julius Friedman’s stacked rock sculptural pieces which he has named “Rockopolis.”

Much of the book is dedicated to his posters, for which he is renowned, and includes extensive work he has done over the years for arts organizations and nonprofits. “I was lucky enough to build a national and international reputation for work I did essentially for free,” he says.

Some of Julius’ posters, included his “Fresh Paint” poster, featuring three egg yolks in the primary colors, and “Toe on Egg,” his famous Louisville Ballet poster of a dancer’s shoe balanced on an egg.

Before photos were snapped on phones and editing was done with a click of the mouse, Julius was creating images the old fashioned way—with his hands, his imagination, and lighting. In 2016, for the first time, over 200 of Julius’ awe-inspiring collection were on display.

The exhibit at the Frazier History Museum, Julius Friedman: Fifty Year Retrospective, was a celebration of life and featured the iconic posters that have become a part of the international arts and culture community. “Two of his best known posters were included, “Toe on Egg,” his famous Louisville Ballet poster of a dancer's shoe balanced on an egg, and his “Fresh Paint” poster, featuring three egg yolks in the primary colors.

The 2016 exhibit Julius Friedman: Fifty Year Retrospective at the Frazier History Museum featuring photographs printed onto aluminum and silk. (photos by Tadson Bussey)

Julius stated, “[the exhibit] is much more than art on a wall.” According to the museum’s website, “the multi-sensory exhibit, inspired by the movement and emotion of nature, provided visitors a visual, audio, and tactile experience that delves into the mind of Friedman.”

The 2016 exhibit Julius Friedman: Fifty Year Retrospective at the Frazier History Museum. (photos by Tadson Bussey)

“The multi-media exhibit uncovered some of his inspirations in creating the images that are now recognized around the world. It also broke new ground with a contemporary show featuring photographs of life and the natural world never seen before, from the perspective of one of the arts most discerning eyes. Visitors saw Julius challenge conventional backdrops like paper and canvas as he presented new photography on aluminum and cloth.”

The 2016 exhibit Julius Friedman: Fifty Year Retrospective at the Frazier History Museum. Left: Sculptural pieces from The Book project. Right (top): Julius explains the printing on aluminum process. Right (bottom): One of the many walls covers with Julius Friedman posters. (photos by Tadson Bussey)

Julius seems to especially enjoy collaborating with fellow artists. While attending rehearsals of The Louisville Ballet, he was captivated by the skill and grace of dancer Erica De La O. He asked if he could photograph her, and the result of their year-and-a-half-long collaboration is an ethereal series of images charged with energy. When a group of musicians approached him about doing a poster for a concert, the result was “Tin Can Buddha: Eighty Eight Shades of Blue,” featuring a grand piano set ablaze. Julius was also recently portrayed in a PBS documentary called Kentucky Muse.

Images showing dancer Erica De La O.

Julius’ most recent project is The Book. “The project was inspired by Gail Gilbert, the art librarian at the University of Louisville Library, when she gave me a bag of books she was discarding. She thought I could tear them up and make collages or an art project. I told her I was not a collage artist and, being a book designer, I could not tear them up. After months of them sitting in my basement and Gail saying, “Do something with them,” I made my first deconstruction and collage.”

The Book project.

Julius continued making them for fun and it grew into a body of work. “I looked at the book from its beginnings to the current and emerging world of the Kindle and other electronic tablets, intuitively keeping in mind the sacred word, censorship, holding an object, its tactile way, even the smell of a book, etc. That is how it began.”

Milton Glaser said, “Julius Friedman has done what I think are an extraordinary group of posters.” And Stephen Heller recalls, “Friedman’s posters add a fourth dimension to an otherwise three-dimensional medium.”

Julius first shared his vision with UCDA in 1985 as a presenter at the annual UCDA Design Conference. “What a special friend,” says Jody Zamirowski. “I’ve known Julius since I called to invite him to UCDA in 1985. He fit so well with our group and we went on to do amazing things. One of my favorite people. I think we all changed our way of being in the world, and it started with him.” Julius said of the experience, “that was the right decision to accept the invitation. I do not like to lecture in front of large groups, but UCDA changed my life. I have made so many friends that have taught me so much by seeing life through their eyes.”

Julius with friends and UCDA Hot and Now workshop leaders Jody Zamirowski, Jean Bevier, and Chris Klonowski. (photos courtesy of Jody Zamirowski)

Julius continued speaking or judging the UCDA Design Competition over the next few years. It was in Saratoga Springs in 1991 that the concept for UCDA’s Hot and Now workshops was developed. At dinner one evening, Jody Zamirowski, Chris Klonowski, Julius, and Jean Bevier discussed the need for creating a forum that would get designers out of their offices and away from their clients to rediscover what they loved about design: the joy of visual and conceptual exploration. They had a grand time facilitating the workshop with UCDA members for 14 years and were always astounded at the images that were created during those weekend adventures. Happily, the workshop lived on for another five years as Insight, a digital version of the same concept.

(See An Interview with Julius Friedman from UCDA's Designer magazine, Fall 1993)

Some of the beauty in nature as seen by Julius Friedman.

“I have never met anyone who felt as comfortable as Julius does wherever he is at,” said Chris Klonowski, “whether it be a downtown Chicago reggae bar, sunset in Abiquiú, or the backcountry of the Catskills mountains. His true genius not only lay in his art, but in the transcendence of that ‘comfortableness’ to whomever he meets. With his down-to-earth humorous demeanor, everyone feels at home with Julius.”

“I met Julius at a time when I was struggling with confidence in my photography. He challenged me to trust in my own creative point of view and taught me to rethink how I was looking at the world around me,” said Richard Jividen, UCDA Foundation president and attendee at many of the Hot and Now workshops.

“A true creative, Julius has a tireless passion and drive for all things artistic. He has forever influenced my work, personally and professionally. And I’m quite sure he's done so for many others within UCDA,” Richard continued. “I am so proud, and thankful, to call Julius a friend!”

Tadson Bussey, UCDA executive director agrees. “As a UCDA member at the time, after attending my first workshop with Julius, I was hooked. It became an annual trek for me whether my institution would cover the cost or I had to. 22 years later, Julius continues to inspire me: the way I shoot, the way I view the world, and the way I experience life.”

Some of the beautiful images by Julius Friedman.

Julius claims he has often wondered if he was adopted or left on the doorstep by a mysterious stranger. His father was a druggist by trade, and young Julius was not exposed to the arts at home. Julius, however, has exposed the arts to UCDA members and countless people worldwide by giving them the joyful experience of seeing the world through the eyes of an artist who never fails to see the beauty of the everyday.

Cheryl's Paint Box, portrait of artist Cheryl Chapman, close-up photograph of her painting palette (three from a series).

Cheryl Chapman may state it best: “In an art world where creative purpose often seems so esoteric, I have learned from him that the search for beauty in all its elusive forms is reason enough in art making. In some languages there is no word for art because it is so inherent in the culture. So it is with Julius... art is life and life is art.”


Many of the UCDA friends Julius has connected with over the years, meeting them at a UCDA Design Conference or during a Hot and Now workshop. (photos courtesy of Jody Zamirowski)

Participants of some of the Hot and Now workshops including the Catskills (top left) and San Antonio (center). (photos courtesy of Jody Zamirowski) Top right: Visiting the Frazier History Museum exhibit: Jerry and Jody Zamirowski; Richard Jividen, Jean Bevier; Julius Friedman; and Linda and Tadson Bussey. (photo courtesy of Tadson Bussey) Bottom right: UCDA Foundation president Richard Jividen and UCDA executive director Tadson Bussey visit Julius and his giraffe in Louisville, Kentucky. (photo courtesy of Tadson Bussey)


In addition to those above, below are just a few of the thousands of images and work created by Julius Friedman, courtesy of the artist. All rights retained by Julius Friedman.


Julius Friedman Website

The Veil (video directed by Julius Friedman and Richard Van Kleeck with music by composer Rachel Grimes)
One evening, Julius and Richard invited two talented ballet dancers, Eric De La O and Roger Creel, to improvise inside a multi-media experience titled “Rebirth” at The Frazier History Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. A fantasy unfolds. This short captures their creative commitment to ballet, the human form, free improve dance, theater and music. We leave the viewer free to imagine the story line. The giant screens featuring multiple images of moving water beautifully compliment their dancing. Also available on Vimeo.

Convergence (video directed by Julius Friedman and Richard Van Kleeck)
Two talented veteran ballet dancers and two rising hip hop dancers have a chance encounter which evolves into a celebration of differences and common artistic bonds. American street art meets classical Western European art. Understanding, appreciation and acceptance triumph over fear and alienation of “the other.” Also available on Vimeo.

The Frazier History Museum (Julius Friedman: Fifty Year Restrospective)

Kentucky Muse (Kentucky Education Television, PBS)
Documentary on Julius Friedman

Images & Ideas (Butler Books)

The Book (Old Stone Press)

An Interview with Julius Friedman (from UCDA’s Designer magazine, Fall 1993)


All images courtesy of Julius Friedman or respective photographer.
All rights retained by Julius Friedman.

Article compiled and provided by UCDA.

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