Royse Contemporary's 'Retrospective of Fred Tieken' Honors the Late Phoenix Artist | Phoenix New Times

How One Scottsdale Gallery Is Paying Tribute to a Local Art Legend

Royse Contemporary is showing the work of the late Fred Tieken through the end of the month.
No Drone Zone, acrylic and found object on canvas.
No Drone Zone, acrylic and found object on canvas. Tieken Gallery and Royse Contemporary
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Phoenix artist Fred Tieken died at the age of 86 last April.

A prolific creator of mixed-media works, he left behind a sizeable artistic legacy, some of which can be seen — and purchased — at "Retrospective of Fred Tieken," through February 27 at Royse Contemporary in Scottsdale. (Royse will keep any unsold inventory for several months after the exhibition ends, after which the work will move to Larsen Gallery, also in Scottsdale.)

A longtime graphic artist after spending many years of his youth as a performing and touring rock musician, Tieken’s love of bold and vivid displays of his subject matter is undeniable in his work.

Artists like Georg Baselitz and Jean-Michel Basquiat were undoubtedly influential and can be seen in Tieken's extreme color palettes and in his consistent creation of scenes full of energy and motion.

A perfect example is the painting No Drone Zone. In this one, you feel the anguish as the bird named Uno — a signature Tieken character — walks a tightrope across a chaotic cityscape that presents a look at greed, war, and capitalism.

Pass the Mayo is a popular Tieken piece looking, with humor, at his kidney transplant surgery, when the donor of his new kidney was none other than his wife, Gail, who passed away less than two months after he did.

click to enlarge
Fred Tieken
Tieken Gallery
The Tiekens loved animals, and dogs were a regular part of their adventures. A piece like Walkin’ the Dog shows the joy in that simple aspect of the couple’s life together. Its cartoonish representation of them hanging outdoors with a dog jumping for its bone is lighthearted and tender; it shows their loving bond and makes light of an intense life experience.

Tieken loved immersing himself in different communities, including owning and operating galleries in Arizona and California to show his work and that of artists from around the world. They were involved in supporting arts organizations and charities and were often out about town at gallery and museum events.

This retrospective is especially touching for Nicole Royse, owner of Royse Contemporary. She worked extensively with Tieken over several years and hosted his final exhibition, "Art, Music, Life, Repeat," in October 2019, which featured mixed-media and digital art.

His expressive nature in life and work is a large part of what drew her to the artist.

“Fred’s work is genuine and poignant,” Royse says. “It captures his feelings, but also has the courage to say — through his paintbrush or pen — what we may be thinking about a certain topic or moment in time and not hold back.”

Tieken’s resilience is also a quality about him that still resonates. “His work radiates the passion he had for life and the humor that he used to deal with anything thrown at him,” Royse says.

As much as this exhibition is about Tieken's artwork, it is also a tribute to Gail. The two were an inseparable pair that had a balance that made things flow in life and business.

“I really hope people take away the joy and love Fred created his work with. I hope they see the originality, creativity, and fun that was Fred Tieken,” Royse says.

“Most of all, though,” she adds, “I want to celebrate and honor Fred and Gail Tieken. They loved art and this community — extraordinary individuals and a true power art couple.”

"Retrospective of Fred Tieken." 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 12:30 to 5 p.m. Saturdays, and by appointment, through Monday, February 27. Royse Contemporary, 7077 East Main Street, #6, Scottsdale. Call 602-810-3449 or visit
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