Fred Vetzenhauer, born 1942 or 1943 in Vancouver or Montreal according to various sources, died 1984 in New York City, was a Canadian Minimal Art and action painter who lived in New York for most of his life.
It is unknown if Vetzenhauer ever visited a school or had any education in general or in art techniques.
His technique was to paint uni-sized blocks in a grid. He invented a device called the Blockbrush which he used to create blocks of paint which where uni-sized.
His work «Traffic Sign», painted in 1974, is one of his most prominent paintings. It was created within the late period of the Vietnam War. A few critics which were familiar with his rather small body of work acclaimed «Traffic Sign» as a direct critique on the use of biochemical weapons during the war, such as Napalm and Agent Orange. Rumors are that the numbers of red and green blocks represented the exact relation between hazarded and remaining land. Other sources claim that it’s mistaken as an artwork, in fact it might be used as a base in Vetzenhauer’s car garage he was running while staying in Trona, California. In fact, there remains doubt that Vetzenhauer knew what Vietnam actually is.
The colors of his painting «Traffic Sign» where enriched with a luminous paint containing radium and some organic material, probably gastric acid. The work remains missing and is (according to an anonymous source) likely to be swapped for a half-full pack of cigarettes by his mother, Sina Vetzenhauer, who was a reported LSD consumer and regularly tried to infiltrate Andy Warhols Factory studios but would be denied on the front door most of the time or would not find the entrance to those facilities while observed by the inhabitants through the windows of the second floor. Gerard Malanga is reported to have commented on one of those scenes in 1967: «I never saw a person so degenerated, drug-corroded and unattractive than her. I felt like killing her and all what ever did fall out of her crotch.»
According to various sources, Clement Greenberg was a visitor of Vetzenhauers only exhibition in the apartment of Vetzenhauer’s step-father in West 55th Street, 10 Ave, Manhattan in 1978. Greenberg’s official reaction is not conveyed, though it was reported that he wasn’t feeling very well and was examined by a paramedic in front of the house and later by an eye specialist in his apartment. One of the visitors is reported to commit murder on his family and commit suicide afterwards, two hours after he came back home to his brownstone house in Yonkers, upstate New York.
Around Christmas 1983, Vetzenhauer left his apartment in Queens, New York, for the last time. His corpse was discovered floating in the Hudson river on March 1984, his congealed hands holding a recent issue of the PC Magazine.
Here we have Vetzenhauer setting up one of his early pieces, the «GlassBox».
The picture above shows Vetzenhauer presenting his sculpture «apple assemblies».