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by Przemek Pozowski 2010

He grew up in Los Angeles, in Portland edited an international glass magazine, on to New York, then fled from Reagan where in Paris the door reflected the different galleries. Finally, Frederick Abrams, an artist from the United States, went to Wroclaw, and has been in our city for 14 years. His restaurant, Abrams’ Tower, has become the most iconic spot on the map of the city.



 Q. How is it that an artist from Los Angeles moved to a European city that is completely unknown in the United States?


First of all, because I am curious about the world. Morever, before coming to Wroclaw I spent quite a lot of time in Barcelona and later wanted to return to Europe, but, of course, I never imagined that I would travel to Poland. To me Poland was part of an unknown world, located behind the Iron Curtain. As for coming to Wroclaw, it began with a visit from a Polish man to Los Angeles in the name of cultural exchange. He was presented to me by a friend who was a journalist as this man was seeking artists who would like to come to Poland and spend time in Wroclaw.


Q. You came to Wroclaw in 1989 as in Poland the age of communism ended and capitalism began. What impressed you about the city?


It was the fall and everything was gray. The first evening the man who invited me picked me up at the train station and took me to a planned exhibition of Czech art. Unfortunately, the border guards did not allow the paintings to be transported from Czech to Poland, so finally only picture frames were hung on the walls. Then I thought: I’m in a fantastic location.


 Q. At that time, however, you had not yet decided to stay in Wroclaw and came back to the States. And like all memories of living and being educated in Los Angeles, why is this where you decided to follow your artistic path?


I have always wanted to experiment with unusual media. In my room as a small boy I made various installations. Later I studied sociology and contemporary culture at the University of California at Berkeley. I was afforded an unusual opportunity to experiment in Poland.


 Q. Later you were an educator with a magazine called “Glass”.


Yes, I was the editor and artistic director of a magazine about contemporay glass art, which was read abroad. Before I was the editor, I went with the magazine’s publisher in his van to the Northwest where a lot of new glass companies began and where there were many glass artists. I made material from this for his magazine.


Q. Then there was New York in the ’80s where there was a lot happening in the world of art, not to mention the names of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.


Yes, at that point I decided to present glass, not only as a craft, but also as conceptual art. My biggest inspiration was Marcel Duchamp, who spent years working on “The Large Glass” and I created a variation on this theme. After several successful art openings in California I came to New York, but the local scene then counted on young artists who, as I recall, brought into the galleries all that was found on the street. But really, what inspired me to come to New York is the legend of Andy Warhol’s “Factory”.


Q. And what about the signs of the Ronald Reagan era: yuppie stockbrokers from Wall Street. Can this be on the streets?


This is one of the reasons that I ultimately went to Paris. I wanted to be away from the Reagan reforms. I came from the intellectual-hippy era and what happened in the U.S. in the eighties was in contradiction to all of my ideals.


Q. And hence, Paris?


I suffered a banal American dream, as derived from Hemingway’s books, going to Europe where there is cafe society, good wine and that you can create something special.


Q. You spent time in Paris during the years….


It was also a struggle to show work to their art galleries. There, in contrast to New York, all of the gallery directors were very polite, but I soon learned that it was just an act and it brought a lot of bitterness. In a sense I missed New York’s rudeness and immediacy.


Q. But you didn’t return to New York and for a few years went to Barcelona to show your work during the Barcelona Olympic Games.


It was also a lesson. I was invited to show my work there made in glass that is based on a Paris Metro map. However, during transport by ship the work was damaged. Finally I had an exhibition, but after the Olympics. In Barcelona I met with many wonderful people: directors of museums, galleries, renowned architects and foreigners. Unfortunately, due to a financial crisis, many of these people lost their jobs and I soon went on a permanent basis to Poland.


Q. How did this happen?


I got a chance to show my work for the WRO Media Festival [a international festival in Wroclaw held every two years]. It was a great challenge for me. I worked on an experimental project with young musicians, both classical and rock. But apart from the sound we focused also on the visual aspects of the project. We played a concert at the Academy of Music then at Ujazdowski Castle [The Center for Contemporary Art] in Warsaw. I spent one year working on this project in Wroclaw.


Q. But ultimately you have been here for fourteen years, and now you are n Wroclaw connected with the restaurant, Abrams’ Tower, which is in the historical tower near Old Market Hall.


Yes, but I do not feel right with the title of “businessman”. My plan was so naive that I just sell people good food and wine, and based on earnings from that I would organize various interesting exhibitions and concerts. However, I came across a number of bureaucratic obstacles the likes of which I have never seen before I created a restaurant inside of a medieval tower. In any case, I have tried to use this space to show people things that are new or unknown. As Andy Warhol said: “Good art is good business.”


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