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For the Record

Entrepreneur Gary Freiberg sees albums as wall-worthy works of art.

December 06, 1999|EDWARD J. BOYER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gary Freiberg wants you to hang your loved ones.

He wants you to dig them out of the dusty attics or the cobwebbed garages where they may be buried and put them up on the walls of your living rooms, dens, bedrooms and offices.

Freiberg, 50, never saw a record album he could throw away, and he is betting that there are thousands of people like him who would like to frame their most-loved albums and display them like art.

He is a collector who never sold or gave away any of his 3,000 albums. Long after he had tossed his turntable, he was still attracted to the album covers.

"I asked friends who own a frame store if they had anything to display them," said Freiberg, a Los Osos investment advisor. "Nothing."

So Freiberg and his wife, Mary, decided to do something about it. They formed a company called the Rock Art Picture Show and developed an acrylic record album frame that comes with its own mat and a saw-toothed hanger on the back. Their frames cost between $18 and $20. (Unmatted frames can be found at some frame stores and Web sites.)

"It takes about 30 seconds to slide an album in and have it framed and matted," Freiberg said. "We can appreciate the creativity in an album cover, but we can also relate to it. Music is the link to chapters in our lives."

Whether those chapters were written by Jimi Hendrix or Judy Garland, Miles Davis or the Mamas & the Papas, that link is what has captivated so many.

"The albums have sentimental value," said Harry Warner, 41, a Santa Monica illustrator and record collector. "They're like heirlooms in a way. I think the covers are lost art."

Warner said he is drawn to kitsch and cool, from Jayne Mansfield on the cover of an album called "For Men Only" to jazz saxophonist Zoot Sims on his album "Stretching Out." He has framed albums hanging in his living room, hallway and dining room.

"You could call it rediscovered art," Warner said. "The frames are great. The best thing is I can slide the albums out and play them."

Jay Hughen, an Internet music company marketing director, first saw Freiberg's frames at last summer's Rhino Records Retrofest in Santa Monica, where they won best exhibit in the "Vinyl as Art" category.

Hughen, 31, had long thought about framing some of the albums in his collection, and the Rock Art frame solved his problem.

"I don't think people realize how striking album art is until they see it in context with a piece of framed wall-hanging art," he said.

At A Better Groove Record Store in Lomita, owner Nina McKee has Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan and Arlo Guthrie, among others, gracing her walls in Freiberg's frames.

"Ninety percent of the people who call or come in have stored their records in boxes," McKee said. "This frame gives them a chance to show off those they like. In the '60s and '70s, graphics on albums were outstanding. Customers who have bought frames complain that they don't have enough room to put up as many as they would like."

Howard Mauskopf, whose Westwood-based Live Media Events Inc. organized the Rhino Records Retrofest, said Freiberg's frames have universal appeal.

"The size of the vinyl allowed for a lot of art," said Mauskopf. "You can't do that with a CD."

Freiberg believes the album cover, more than any other art form, "represents what America was all about from about 1950 to 1990. Fashion, entertainment, social values, politics, racial views are all found on album covers."

And more and more of those covers are finding their way into his frames.

Rock Art Picture Show frames are available at 20 independent Los Angeles-area record stores or at http://www.rockartpictureshow.com. Information: (888) 644-4567. Aaron Bros. has unmatted black frames for about $14. And unmatted Plexiglass frames are sold at http://www.albumframes.com for about $40 for three.

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