Sign Song: Hobo Signs & Mixed Messages

Scott Boberg
Hobo Signs (Nos. 1 – 50)
Gouache and metallic acrylic on paper, frames

Semantics Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio presented Sign Song: Hobo Signs & Mixed Messages, an exhibition of new work by Scott Boberg on view in 2008. With imagery and words drawn from hobo code symbols, song titles and lyrics, text messages, and personal writings, Boberg made the work in this exhibition using a wide range of materials, including a classroom world map, full-length mirrors, movie marquee lettering (on loan from the American Sign Museum), paperback books, sandwich boards, text on a toaster, and paint on paper.

Boberg states "Signs are inescapable and invisible. Signs welcome and refuse. Signs reflect and obscure. Signs clarify and confuse. Signs protect us. Signs sell us. Signs warn us. Signs speak to everyone, a hidden few, just one, or no one. We reduce our emotions to signs, signal our intentions with signs, hide behind signs, lead our lives by signs, and mislead others and ourselves with signs."

The centerpiece of the exhibition is Hobo Signs (Nos. 1 – 50), 2008, a series of fifty gouache and metallic acrylic paintings on paper, presented in the exhibition as a single grid of black- framed, one-foot-square units. Often associated with the Great Depression's scattering of America, the symbols are drawn from a code used throughout the 20th Century and in modified forms today. The series includes symbols for "a man with a gun lives here," "hold your tongue," and "religious talk will get you a free meal."

-Excerpts from the gallery press release

Click here for translations of "hobo sign" images