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Superheroes and geometry light up Laguna Beach’s new public art installations

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Oakland-based art duo Hybycozo designed “The Shape of Light” for one of Laguna Beach’s temporary art installations. The work includes a hexagonal sculpture and two quadrilateral sculptures.
(Courtesy of Hybycozo)

Superheroes will be busting out of a telephone booth and geometric shapes will be casting dancing shadows on the City Hall lawn in Laguna Beach’s latest round of temporary art installations.

On Monday, the red telephone booth on Forest Avenue will transform into a “Super Hero Changing Station” under the hand of local artist Robert Holton of Drizzle Art. Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman costumes will drape from clothes hangers inside the booth, above a replica of Captain America’s shield and Thor’s hammer.

One side of the booth will be lined with superhero quotes, such as Flash’s “Life doesn’t give you purpose, you give life purpose” and Batman’s “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.”

Holton said he hopes the installation will inspire small acts of kindness and an overall awareness that “you don’t need superpowers to be a superhero,” as one of the quotes reads.

A giant gloved fist punching through the top of the booth in superhero-like triumph is meant to represent “all superheroes, heroes in all of us,” the artist said.

“What I’m trying to say is, normal people can be heroes,” said Holton, a six-year resident of Laguna Beach and a presenter at the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival. “In a minute way, whether it’s helping somebody through the door, walking the dog. I think we need more of that in the world.”

The city Arts Commission will hold a dedication for the new installation at the phone booth at 5 p.m. May 14. Holton said he plans to invite children and families to show up in their favorite superhero costumes.

“I’m hoping people will step up and be a superhero,” Holton said. “You don’t have to do something death-defying or something to be a hero.”

Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl said the tradition of putting an art display in the red phone booth dates to 2013, a year after the public phone was deactivated.

Poeschl said the city chose Holton’s work, which will be on display for two years, from among 25 proposals.

The exhibits are part of the Arts Commission’s temporary sculpture program, which is funded by lodging establishments and the city of Laguna Beach.

This past Monday, an exhibition called “The Shape of Light” appeared on the lawn outside City Hall from Oakland-based artists Yelena Filipchuck and Serge Beaulieu, who make up the married art duo Hybycozo. The couple designed the trio of geometric sculptures from laser-cut metal and LED lights that cast shadows on the lawn at night.

Filipchuck said each piece has a distinct shape, but together they celebrate the universality of math and the beauty of proportion.

The hexagonal sculpture was inspired by physicist Garrett Lisi’s TED talk about “E8,” a theoretical mathematical explanation of everything. The way Lisi mapped the mathematical concept onto particle physics made for beautiful visualizations, Filipchuck said.

“It was this resonant feeling, like, of course the structure that makes up the universe would feel beautiful to us,” she said. “It’s an innate beauty.”

The two quadrilateral sculptures in the exhibit also stem from mathematical concepts, Filipchuck said, such as ancient Islamic geometry and the way math emerged from intricate drawings.

“Back then, there was not really a distinction between an artist, an artisan and a mathematician because they were kind of the same thing,” she said. “The way that they represented like a higher kind of understanding of the universe was through proportion and through what they thought were rules sent from beyond. When you divide a 9 by a 3 and it creates these amazing proportions, they thought that was divine intervention.

“To us, that is what is harmonious and beautiful about this type of art … it is almost meant to be created in these rules.”

The polyhedrons will be on display in front of City Hall through July 31, Poeschl said.

In March, the city brought Michigan-based artist David Zinn to scatter chalk art in various rocks and crevices around the city. Artist Scott Froschauer’s “The Word on the Street” exhibit of five road signs offering affirmative messages will be on display until May 15.

“We have really diverse programming and installations in process and reflects the commitment of the Arts Commission and City Council in elevating and evolving the public art experience,” Poeschl said.

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