Backwards Cars and Giant Swans: Art Production Fund at Frieze Los Angeles

Los Angeles's history of set design informs Art Production Fund’s “Set Seen,” with projects by Sharif Farrag, Ryan Flores, Derek Fordjour, Pippa Garner, Matt Johnson and Cynthia Talmadge

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BY frieze in Frieze Los Angeles , News , Videos | 02 MAR 24
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During WWII, Hollywood set designers were employed by the Douglas Aircraft Company to camouflage its factory from the air on the site that is now Santa Monica Airport. They built a whole fake suburb, complete with actors playing the parts of its residents: locals were apparently quite saddened when it was eventually removed. This history of disguise is one of the inspirations for Art Production Fund’s onsite public program at Frieze Los Angeles this year. “Set Seen” features works that reference our perception of reality, space and environment. Pippa Garner’s work toys with ideas of beauty, identity, contrived personae and even—in the case of her automobile work Haulin’ Ass! (2023)—complete directional reversal. Elsewhere, Matt Johnson blows up a throwaway seaside trinket to mammoth proportions in Giant Shell Swan (2023).

Executive Director at the Art Production Fund, Casey Fremont noted: “Art Production Fund is honored to once again partner with Frieze to present this ambitious on-site public art program. This year’s dynamic presentation builds upon the success of Frieze Projects 2023 and will be on view during the fair and beyond. Through supporting the program, Frieze and the city of Santa Monica demonstrate their commitment to public art and its accessibility. It is truly an honor to be a part of this incredible gift to the city.” 

Here is the full program:

Sharif Farrag, Rat Race, 2024 

Ceramic sculpture, modified radio-controlled cars  

Sharif Farrag, Rat Racer #75
Sharif Farrag, Rat Racer #75, 2024. Sculpture-modified R/C Car. Courtesy the artist

Los Angeles-born of Syrian-Egyptian heritage, Sharif Farrag considers his car more than simple transportation. Working in food delivery, Farrag spent many hours a day in his vehicle, coming to see it as an extension of his soul, a second home, a reliable friend and a survival pod. This palimpsest of identities is reflected in his work Rat Race, which employs two very different kinds of making—ceramics and radio-controlled model kit cars—to explore different facets of the human experience, from the delicately decorative to the flat-out competitive. It invokes our unity with technology and the relentless capitalist cycle of survival, work and money that people endure. To further make this point, Farrag will organize races with his creations on the central sports fields during Frieze.

Races will happen on the central fields on VIP Day (Thursday February 29) and Saturday March 2. 

2024 Maestro Dobel Commission 

Ryan Flores, Rising from the Garden, 2024

Ceramic  

Ryan Flores in his studio
Ryan Flores in his studio. Courtesy the artist

Native Angleno Ryan Flores’s four spire-like sculptures takes inspiration from Antoni Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Adorned with mosaic tiles and vibrant glazes, they continue his practice of repurposing elements traditionally found in still-life painting: fruit, flowers and vegetables. The work also relates to his heritage, and the crops found in the Southwestern United States and Mexico: such as corn, strawberries, grapes and calla lilies, as well as referencing a famous LA landmark created by an outsider, Sabato “Simon” Rodia’s Watts Towers. Flores will also be creating a limited number of ceramic Dobel tequila cups specifically for Frieze which will be distributed to the public at the fair.  

Light Pole Artist Project

Derek Fordjour, PROCESSIONAL, 2024

Site-specific banner installation

Derek Fordjour No. 69, 2019
Derek Fordjour, No. 69, 2019, acrylic, charcoal, cardboard, oil pastel and foil on newspaper mounted on canvas, 76.2 × 61 cm. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Daniel Greer

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Derek Fordjour’s Ghanaian heritage informs his work on the cultural tropes of the US. He began his “Player Series” in 2013, drawing inspiration from wanted posters, athletic trading cards, police mugshots and yearbook photos. Fordjour’s serialized portraits criticize institutional systems: prisons, auctions, sports and education. Notions of capitalism, history, aspiration and autonomy converge in the sequential repetition. For Frieze Los Angeles, Fordjour’s banner work PROCESSIONAL will be installed on 33 light poles along Airport Avenue and Donald Douglas Loop. 

Pippa Garner 

Born in 1942 in Evanston, Illinois and based in Long Beach, California, Pippa Garner has offered deviant solutions to everyday problems for more than five decades. Her work spans everything from cartoons to mail-order catalogs, classified ads, custom cars, tattoos, garments, and performances on the streets and on TV. In the mid-1980s, Garner began gender hacking, viewing her body as a commercial product that could be modified and refined. Embracing pleasure, kink and mass-market perversion, Garner imagines ways to restructure the everyday, and parodies the contradictions of the consumed and the consumer. 

Pippa Garner Hauling Ass!, 2023
Pippa Garner, Haulin’ Ass!, 2023, 2003 Ford Ranger pickup truck, truck nuts, bumper stickers. Commissioned: Art Omi; fabricated: ARCANA. Courtesy: the artist and STARS Gallery, Los Angeles; photograph: Gregory Carideo 

Haulin’ Ass!, 2023  

2003 Ford Ranger, super-sized truck nuts, bumper stickers 

Originally commissioned by Art Omi, Haulin’ Ass! (2023) revisits Garner’s first major conceptual automobile, Backwards Car, a 1959 Chevy whose bodywork was rotated through 180 degrees and which the artist drove across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in 1974. This new iteration is a fully functional 2003 Ford Ranger pickup truck that appears to be permanently driving in reverse, its front/back adorned with super-sized dangling testicles (or “truck nuts”). Haulin’ Ass! continues Garner’s exploration of gender and masculinity amid the US’s rampant commodity fetishism. 

The car will be activated and driven onsite throughout the fair.  

Art-in-the-Box, 2024 

Wood, acrylic paint… guess what else?

Pippa Garner, Art-in-the-Box, 1995. Courtesy the artist
Pippa Garner, Art-in-the-Box, 1995. Courtesy the artist

Garner originally sketched her idea for Art-in-the-Box in 1995. In the drawing, she describes the piece as a public-art concept, an “over-budget objet d’art shrouded until deficit is paid.” Garner quite literally encloses her work inside a box—a cereal packet, a car trunk or a coffin (though featuring a strategically placed peephole for prying eyes that cannot wait for its deferred unveiling).  

Beauty 20001992 

Printed fanzine

Pippa Garner, Beauty 2000, 1992. Courtesy of the artist and Art Production Fund
Pippa Garner, Beauty 2000, 1992. Printed fanzine. Courtesy of the artist and Art Production Fund

Following her satirical mail-order catalogs of the 1980s, Pippa Garner’s Beauty 2000 targets the absurdity of the beauty industry with surreal skincare and cosmetic routines. Originally created in 1992, the zine is a tongue-in-cheek exploration of unconventional glamor hacks (“moss patches,” “wig-in-a-can,” “face fixative”) complete with detailed diagrams and user instructions.  

The zine has been specially published and printed for Frieze Los Angeles 2024, as part of Frieze Projects: “Set Seen” curated by Art Production Fund and is free to the public. The zine was digitized by artist Megan Plunkett in 2021. With many thanks to Sara O’Keeffe and Julia Meyer.

Matt Johnson, Giant Shell Swan, 2023

Painted bronze

Matt Johnson, Giant Shell Swan, 2022. Photo: Greg Kessler, courtesy of The Ranch
Matt Johnson, Giant Shell Swan, 2022. Photo Greg Kessler, courtesy of The Ranch

Malibu-based Matt Johnson’s Giant Shell Swan is an eight-foot-tall bronze sculpture depicting a swan made out of seashells—a blown-up version of the kind of trinkets you find at a seaside tourist trap. As such, it occupies many identities, including the swan’s place in myth and legend, its symbolism as a creature of wisdom, grace, fidelity, strength and mute beauty, alongside the layers of association with the nostalgic keepsake, and the innate artificiality of a living animal constructed from the shells of dead ones and its eventual borderline comic realization as an eight-foot outdoor sculpture. 

This exhibition will be on view until 7 April 2024 in partnership with the City of Santa Monica

Cynthia Talmadge, Class Gift, 2022 

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) coated with polyurea and natural oxides, and acrylic, aluminum and resin inserts

Cynthia Talmadge, Class Gift (detail), 2022, polystyrene (EPS) coated with polyurea, natural oxides and acrylic, aluminum, resin inserts. Courtesy: the artist; 56 Henry, New York and Carl Kostyal, London
Cynthia Talmadge, Class Gift, 2022. Polystyrene (EPS) coated with polyurea, natural oxides and acrylic, aluminum, resin inserts. Courtesy the artist; 56 Henry, New York and Carl Kostyal, London

Cynthia Talmadge’s Class Gift poses as a large public sculpture of the kind often found on college campuses. In her hands, this looming biomorphic abstraction becomes a bulletin board, adorned with detritus from collegiate activity: sticky notes, flyers and a streaming roll of toilet paper, hinting at waste, and the unfulfilled promises both of academic institutions and our often-aspirational view of them. The work continues the New Yorker’s exploration across paintings, photographs and installations of the darker, more romantic aspects of contemporary Americana.

Further Information

Frieze Los Angeles returns to Santa Monica Airport, February 29–March 3, 2024.

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Main image: Matt Johnson, Giant Shell Swan, 2023. Painted bronze. Courtesy: The Ranch, Montauk, NY; photograph: Greg Kessler

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