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Terry Schoonhoven (aka Member of the Los Angeles Fine Art Squad)


Son's of the Desert Charcoal

Graphite and charcoal on paper
25.125 x 33.25 x 1.25 in.
Gift of the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation

This is the original sketch for a ten-by-twenty-seven-foot oil and enamel painting on linen, commissioned for the 1975 exhibition Terry Schoonhoven: The Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad Paints a Mural for the Newport Harbor Art Museum. The subject matter is quintessential Schoonhoven, and this time-shifting pop-surrealist implied narrative summons up many questions: what apocalypse left this ambiguous vista in its wake? Are there any survivors to discover the knowledge in the remaining books? Is the abandoned interior a repository of rarefied cultural treasure, or a terrarium succumbing to an onslaught of environmental forces that will inevitably overwhelm it?

The Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad was founded in 1968 by Schoonhoven and Victor Henderson. The group subsequently expanded to include Leonard Koren and James Frazin, then contracted again, until after 1974 Schoonhoven proceeded on his own.

Sons of the Desert is a genuine evidentiary document, in that it is one of few surviving examples of this influential group’s mural activities, which helped make Los Angeles at one point the world capital of outdoor murals. The ravages of environmental exposure and defacement destroyed most of the group’s works.

Schoonhoven remained devoted to the beauty of entropic degeneration and accepted the ephemeral nature of his art. He was philosophically opposed to the concept of “restoring” his pieces. The Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad aimed to circumvent the typical museum/gallery/collector system. Their public works were freely surrendered to the unpredictable actions of the community at large and the forces of nature.

We aren’t radicalized politically,
because we all come from
the universal middle class,
source of the world’s greatest fantasy.
—Terry Schoonhoven

C. R. Stecyk

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