Phil Frost was one of the featured artists at Ace Gallery, Los Angeles. There were 18 pieces showcased in “Solace of the Sword,” and I was instantly captured by the vibrant colors and the tribal patterns that appear in every one of his pieces. He repeatedly paints large white mask-like tribal faces layered on top of neon geometric shapes and occasionally the work will include objects glued to them, such as toy cars or scraps of metal cans.
“Tournquet” was his main piece in the gallery and largest of his work showcased. The scale of the painting immediately attracted me to it, and as I got closer, the level of intricate detail and the use of an assortment of media caught my attention. It was interesting to notice that there were almost an infinite amount of different faces one could find in just one painting. In addition, the way Frost layers the geometric shapes creates a 3-dimensional effect where some faces pop out at the viewer and others fade to the background. He included several 3-dimensional objects in his work, including tops of metal cans, small rocks, and other unrecognizable parts of objects. This piece seemed to be an ode to the “internal struggles” involved in painting, which he mentions in his current artist statement in relation to this exhibition. It also relates back to the title of his exhibition, “Solace of the Sword.” In his statement, he mentions the struggle with solitary confinement that is required in order to successfully create. To me, this idea is conveyed through the white masks creating an obvious barrier to the chaos of colors and shapes that are behind. The colors in the background are similar to the unbounded creativity that the mind needs to access in order to create artwork.
Frost repeats this theme of white masks on top of a vibrant background in another piece, “Untitled,” 2013. This piece is much smaller (3’ x 2’), however the colors he uses are even more vibrant than in his larger works. There is one large mask that is the central focus surrounded by smaller dull brown masks fading into the background. This was my favorite piece from the exhibition because of its vibrant colors and the figures in it played with the issue of space. I was instantly drawn to the contrast created by the opaque white paint layered on top of the colorful neon background in this one in particular, because it seems that the background is more exposed to the viewer, with only one large mask covering part of the background, unlike the rest of his works. In addition, many of the smaller masks are falling away and fading in the background; this could symbolize a barrier in the creative thinking process being knocked down as ideas begin to flow in.