Set Seen: Matt Johnson Giant's Shell Swan, 2023

in Frieze Los Angeles , Frieze Projects | 22 FEB 24

For Frieze Los Angeles 2024, Art Production Fund will be presenting the on-site public program ‘Set Seen’, featuring works that speak to constructed environments and how they relate to our perception of reality and understanding of space. These projects are in dialogue with the rich history of set design in Los Angeles and specifically the role that set designers played in camouflaging the former Douglas Aircraft Company factory at Santa Monica Airport. This program is free to the public, and select projects will remain on view through April 7, 2024.

Matt Johnson, Giant Shell Swan, 2023 

Painted bronze

Made possible with support from The Ranch, Montauk, NY

Exhibition to be extended through April 7, 2024 in partnership with the City of Santa Monica.

set seen matt Johnson
Giant Shell Swan, Photo by Greg Kessler, Courtesy of The Ranch


Giant Shell Swan is an eight-foot-tall bronze sculpture depicting a classical swan made out of seashells. Similar to the trinkets one might find at a seaside tourist trap, Giant Shell Swan was originally constructed by the artist from found shells once inhabited by creatures of the sea. It was then enlarged to a scale that consummates a deity of the natural world. In the art of many cultures, the swan has often been seen as a symbol of wisdom, grace, fidelity, and strength. Shakespeare refers several times to the idea that although mute, they sing before they die. In Othello, Emilia says, I will play the swan, and die in music. Encompassing the beauty of it all, the birds’ presence symbolizes the fragility of life and the enigma of death.


Born in 1978 in New York, NY, based in Malibu, CA. Matt Johnson’s artistic endeavors delve into the human inclination to engage with the world through the lenses of science, mathematics, religion, art, and architecture. His exploration reveals our intrinsic yearning to connect with the cosmos, comprehend its mysteries, and exert influence over it. Unveiling poetic dimensions, his work taps into the potential of familiar objects, often presented through classical artistic approaches. Infused with instinctive humor and an appreciation for art history, Johnson's creations unfold within a spectrum of materials that seamlessly blend the modern with the timeless.