Scott Froschauer: Of Signs and Gunpowder

Fros at Wallspace

Scott Froschauer is a wanted man these days. Wanted as in sought after. The Smithsonian Institution wants a piece of his Burning Man installation artwork for their No Spectators, The Art of Burning Man to be held at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., in 2018. And next Saturday, July 15th, as part of the group show Sizzle at Wallspace Gallery on La Brea, Froschauer will be exhibiting a number of signs from his “The Word in the Street” series.

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And he had two powerfully political pieces in the just-closed OCCA show, Art as Protest. His “Old Glory” depicts the American flag in rich brown sepia, a gunpowder print on canvas; while his “Resistance Ahead” road sign features an upraised fist.
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His work isn’t even restricted to this continent. He is headed to Paris to install a dazzling large-form aluminum sculpture, the 40-foot “The Droplet,” a commissioned work he fabricated at his shop in Los Angeles.
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Los Angeles-based,  Froschauer considers himself an experimental artist. His background and education in engineering and theoretical linguistics plus practical work in fabrication and design, are all visible elements in his eclectic, highly memorable works.  We see linguistic ideas in his sign art, engineering at play in his Burning Man structures.

Whether he’s burning images in canvas with gunpowder – sometimes more than one kind – or crafting strong messages both political and spiritual in the form of iconic street signs, Froschauer describes his work as  “an exploration in emotional connectedness.”

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Indeed it would be difficult for a viewer to not be engaged with the artist’s work, which is both bold and haunting.

“Some work is about revolution, particularly considering that our culture considers being connected to oneself as a revolutionary act,” he notes, but asserts that his main focus is exploratory. He says he is always “exploring new spaces and techniques for communication.”

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Signs are certainly one way to communicate, and Froschauer makes strong use of the medium. His “The Word on the Street” series includes “Peace Signs,” which emulate DOT parking signs. The signs, posted in a vertical row, begin with the directive “If there is to be peace in the world/there must be peace in the nations” and concludes with “If there is to be peace in the home/there must be peace in the heart.”

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The yellow diamond street sign “Relax” is a directive to do just that, one which Froschauer displayed as guerrilla art in DTLA. His “One Way Heart” is a one-way sign in the shape of a heart. Smart, savvy, and packed with meaning, the artist’s sign work may be his most accessible and fun; its sentiments hard to argue with.

Of his upcoming work – including an outdoor installation of “Peace Signs,” Froschauer notes “There’s something about putting up a sign in front of people walking down the street. Something about the feeling from taking the work out of the hidden darkness and into broad daylight. I’ve imagined this sign being on the street in LA, but I never imagined it in front of a gallery that I admire as much as Wallspace. I certainly didn’t think that I would have pieces in the gallery as well.”

The artist may be humble, but that’s okay – his work is anything but, with messages that are clear and design that vibrates with meaning.

The artist’s “Gunpowder Gutenberg” series is more overtly political than “The Word on the Street.”

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Take “Old Glory,” a large-scale gunpowder print on canvas created, as the Froschauer describes by “detonating Hodgdon H322 Gunpowder into canvas. This gunpowder is found in .223 caliber ammunition for the AR-15 assault rifle, which stands at the center of the debate about gun ownership in the United States.” He notes that this currently legal weapon was designed for military use solely to murder, yet is also revered as a “primary instrument for the protection of the United States and it’s Freedoms in foreign conflicts.” The piece poignantly and pointedly indicates the gun violence that continues to devastate the U.S.

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His “Visitors Welcome” is even more powerful and political. This gunpowder on canvas work shows the 1956 school welcome sign from Sandy Hook Elementary School recreated. Froschauer describes the piece as printed by “detonating Hodgdon H322 Gunpowder into a canvas. This particular gunpowder is used for .223 caliber rounds which would be found in the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle used by Adam Lanza to fatally shoot 20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adult staff members. on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut The incident was the deadliest mass shooting at a high school or grade school in U.S. history. I ask that you take a moment to consider the notion that in 1956, when the school was founded, visitors were welcome in schools such as Sandy Hook.” If viewers get chills from this work, all the better – the medium of gunpowder is in many ways truly the message here. 

The Fleur de Lis pattern in ” The Veve of Madame Corazon,” is eerie in a different way.  The piece serves as a kind of elegy to Madame Corazon  a Loa, or spirit, of the Voodoo family Guédé. Created with what the artist calls “a personal recipe of black powder, smokeless gunpowder and ground sage. This alchemical combination both charges the image and purifies the line.” It’s both beautiful and strange; an emotional and spiritual work that reminds viewers of the elaborate tombs and cemeteries in New Orleans.

In short, when it comes to Froschauer and his art, all you have to do is read the “signs.” There are many reasons why he is indeed a wanted man.

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  • Genie Davis; Photos courtesy of the artist

 

 

 

 

The Nature of Things: Magical Takes on the Physical World

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Recently closed at the Mike Kelley Gallery at Beyond Baroque in Venice, The Nature of Things explores the alchemy of nature in three separate solo shows connected with an aura of the magical.

Artists Lillian Abel, Tracey Weiss, and Karrie Ross each presented their own unique takes on life and nature.  

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Abel’s “Energy” is comprised of vivid, layered oil paintings that depict wild landscapes with the juxtaposition of limited color palettes in each piece.

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Abstract yet beautifully composed – as if a sunset, a mountain, or a seascape were viewed through a veiled lens, the artist notes that “The overall look is landscape, the desired outcome is the deeper sense of the energy of nature…” Enigmatic and rich, these paintings shift and shimmer as viewers take them in.

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Weiss offers “Metamorphosis,” beautiful, 3-dimensional wall and free standing sculptures utilizing mixed media of 35-mm slides, slide carousels and slide film.

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Weiss creates dazzling and delicate butterflies, patterns that leap from the walls, shapes that seem to dance from their surfaces. Slides themselves may be an outdated medium, but as crafted into dazzling, delightful sculptural forms by Weiss, they are undergoing their own metamorphosis.

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These ‘found objects’ have found a new, fanciful, exuberant lease on life.

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Ross looks at the passionate pull of art itself and art in nature with her “Balance & Flow.”

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Here she looks at a variety of ways to perceive the world, from a 3D installation depicting the Five Elements to delicate, intricate, abstracts that employ a variety of textures and flowing patterns, liquid and in motion, images captured and ephemeral, some with highlights of gold that add to the mystery and dimension of the works.

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Viewing each artist’s work on a different floor of the gallery space created an inherent sense of rhythm, moving from Abel’s evocative, thoroughly modern and thickly layered abstract landscapes to Weiss’ graceful and perceptive found-art sculptures, to Ross’  sculptural and painting works both mysterious and whimsical.

  • Genie Davis; photos: Genie Davis

Taking Wing Flew High at the Neutra

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While the exhibition Taking Wing has flown from the Neutra, the four artists that created the exhibition last spring are every bit in flight. Featuring beautiful and very different works by  Wini Johnson Brewer, Gwen Samuels, Sheri Neva, and Susan Savory, the stellar exhibition was a strong introduction to each artists’ work.

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​Wini Johnson Brewer’s art focuses on the nature of bees and how important they are to our environment. ​“I talk about their troubles, encouraging the public to plant bee gardens, refrain from pesticides, and consider having their own backyard hive,” Brewer explains.
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She describes the chaos found among bees as similar to that of our own society, claiming that the bees have lost their way in the world and are confused about their roles in their own hives.  Her “Artificial Light” depicts bees circling a light bulb, but unlike moths, bees are not attracted to artificial light. But she has depicted them doing just that, going toward a manmade light and dying, perhaps an analogy to humans and technology and social media. ​There is an ancient European tradition known as the “telling of the bees,”  in which a bee keeper shares with the bees important life events such as births and marriages. The belief is that if this tradition is omitted, then the bees would die. Brewer’s art is the continuation of the telling.

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​Gwen Samuels’ art is based in an early passion for fashion and patterns. Her background as a textile designer adds strong design elements to her work. Samuels shaping and rearranging of her photos creates an additional imagery from her depiction of delicate insects. ​“My love of the handmade made the needle the natural tool to pull the pieces together. I left the threads hanging as evidence of the process. I arrange them slightly off the wall with straight pins to permit shadows to interact with the forms,” the artist relates.

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Her dedication to craft, time, and intimacy takes viewers on a journey that shows what you see may be more than what is first observed.

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Much like Samuels’ art, Sheri Neva focuses on the patterns of nature, giving the viewer an intimate look at the world around them. ​Neva’s own world view changed in 2005, when she went to the Delta College Microscopy facility. It was there that she discovered a microscopic world, a fascinating mix between science and art that reveals the intricate detail and beauty of life. She now studies the structures of the world with the help of her scanning electron microscope.

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​“I never know what I will find when I put a sample in the microscope,” Neva says.

“Seeing the microstructure of a mosquito wing or the grooves and pits in one single grain of sand from the beach I live on still amazes me after seven years.”
​She uses science to create art, and combining the two to show the viewer what the world contains in its most minute exploration.

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While Neva’s work points toward the future, Susan Savory’s art takes viewers back in time to our past. ​A collector of vintage mementos found in flea markets and yard sales, she uses photographs, letters, and books in her mixed media works. ​“I remake these with collage and paint, listening to the ghost voices of my subjects and piecing together narratives for them as I go,” she explains. “The use of materials with existing histories enforces the awareness of a connection to the transient nature of all things.”

Her inspiration refers to ​an old Mexican adage that suggest people die three deaths. One when the body ceases to function, another when the body is lowered into the ground, and a third and final death when there is no one left alive to remember. And much like Brewer’s tradition of the “telling of the bees,” this is Savory’s way of giving back to life, preserving and creating visual stories.

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​On every one of her collages lies a moth,  a Chinese symbol of a deceased individual’s soul.  ​“As the connection with nature is imperative, the possibility for a loved one’s soul to take the form of a moth is a relatively common belief. This embodiment is rooted deep within Taoist beliefs, and offers a poetic explanation of common encounters with moths at funerals or shortly after one’s passing.”

​Watch for more winged things – art that soars – from each of these artists.

  • guest post by Kevin Norman along with Genie Davis
  • photos provided by the artists

The Oaks at Ojai

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The Oaks at Ojai is a splendid retreat, an inclusive spa and fitness destination, and an intimate space that lends itself to a variety of getaways. From mother/daughter duos to best friends weekends, and couples, as well as the solo traveler, the resort has a refreshingly cozy, welcoming quality.

A pretty, shaded pool, a strong series of exercise and yoga classes, full meals and snacks, and evening entertainment, keep guests busy – if they want to be. The large, relaxing, Spanish-style rooms and peaceful, tree-lined grounds of the intimate resort are equally enjoyable for simply relaxing. And of course, a full compliment of spa services includes pampering massages, facials, and skincare.

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One of the most delightful aspects of our stay were the recently revamped accommodations themselves. Beautiful updating didn’t hide the romantic and artistic 1930s era features of the property.

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Original architectural touches such as these alcoves made for a private dressing area, above; historic tile work below remains a part of an otherwise thoroughly modern bathroom.

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A favorite feature: colored lights emanated from jacuzzi jets in the tub. A definite ahhh moment.

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Bedding is comfortable and rooms quiet: while the spa is nestled in the heart of Ojai’s hip California boutiques, and just a stone’s throw from the terrific art at the eclectic Porch Gallery,  the spa has a calm and drowsy vibe making early morning fitness classes easy to attend. Sure, you can go out in the town, visit a wine tasting room, listen to jazz just down the block – but you may prefer to stay in.

The graceful lobby area makes a terrific place to relax and read.

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The small gym space is flooded with light.

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Yoga, exercise, meditation, and more – the Oaks’ rejuvenation schedule is happening from morning to night in a spacious studio.

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We tried Pilates, restorative yoga, and stretching. The weather rained us out of aqua aerobics, but other guests with linger stays swore by the fun. In town strolls and area hikes are also on the schedule. Classes were well run and attended; geared toward both newbies and a moderate level of exercise.

With three meals a day plus tasty snacks such as soup and juice smoothies, guests truly never have to leave the grounds. Options for vegetarian and special food requests are easily accommodated, too.

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The spa focuses on meals that are filling yet healthy, keeping calories low and an emphasis on fresh and organic fare. No alcohol is served; but meals are often multiple courses, with salads or soups, entrees, and deserts such as chocolate covered local strawberries.

Our meals included a truly good mushroom barley burger, an amazing green drink featuring pineapple, parsley, coconut, and cucumber, and a well seasoned tofu  stir fry.

Spa treatments were lovely and generously timed: it was my boyfriend’s birthday so he received the pampering facial, neck, and hand massage. He loved the experience – and proved that while The Oaks has long been known as a destination for women, it makes a lovely retreat for couples, too.

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The spa shop offers the opportunity to purchase the delightful creams and scrubs used in the spa, along with clothing and sundries.

An inclusive and relaxing space, The Oaks has the vibe of a retreat center, and the spirit of renewal in a space homey enough to list classes and meals on daily handouts and serve butter-less popcorn while showing DVDs of recent films after dinner.

Low key is the ultimate accolade here. There’s no pressure to exercise  – although there are plenty of classes – or even partake of the spa’s  signature services – guests just come to relax and renew even if that means reading a book by the pool.

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With reasonable  pricing, weekend or week-long stays, and everything but spa services included, this is a chance to get away and maybe leave behind a few extra pounds, too. Or at least the weight of daily stress.

  • Genie Davis; photos: Jack Burke