Friday, May 27, 2011

Exhibitions Extended!

As the month of May draws to a close, two exhibits at La Luz de Jesus Gallery have been extended! The overwhelming response to Pop-Sequentialism: Great Comic Book Art of the Modern Age and Peter Shire's Hokkaido Story, have convinced us to prolong them through Monday evening on MEMORIAL DAY.

A lecture will be held on Saturday afternoon (MAY 28TH) at 2PM focusing on the great collaborations of writers and artists in comic books of the Modern Age. Then, on Monday evening, following the close of the shows, we'll be holding a Memorial Day after-party at Ground Control Alternative Karaoke at Jewel's Catch One (4067 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90019). 6:30-9PM will be happy hour with no cover charge.

One week from today, we open a new exhibit of paintings from Glenn Barr, coinciding with the early release of his new graphic album from La Luz de Jesus Press & Last Gasp Books. It's been three long years since Glenn's shown solo, and the work in this new show is well worth the wait. In the other gallery, we'll be showcasing a room full of new Lyle Motley paintings that incorporate hand brazed steel with with his oil on panel meditations of figurative abstractions. In other words, there will be two great reasons to head back into the gallery next weekend. We'll have our old friends at Sino Tequila mixing up the best margaritas in town while our new pals at Perrier supply the soft drinks –and we just might have a food truck or two nearby.
Here's a taste of what's to come. Click the images to access full gallery previews!

Monday, May 23, 2011

La bande dessinée: Pop-Sequentialism in France

Almost immediately after the Pop-Sequentialism exhibition opened, I ventured to Paris to cement international relations with a few, select galleries. To my surprise and delight, the exhibition and the show catalog were enthusiastically received and planning has begun for a European tour. This traveling, European version of the landmark exhibition of modern comic book art will include some of the pieces from the inaugural show, expanding to include more examples of original production pages from several of the same creative teams and a roster of new, landmark collaborations –addressing the slight differences in taste between American and European collectors.

By the time I packed my luggage to embark on this journey, the synergy at home had launched a media storm that could not be contained: Free Comic Book Day resulted in unprecedented "sold-out" status for more titles than ever before; the Frank Miller and Klaus Jansen Dark Knight splash page offered at auction by Heritage realized the record price of $448,125.00 (plus a 19% buyer premium); and Kenneth Branagh's blockbuster Thor movie opened to critical and public praise as billboards for Captain America and Green Lantern began popping up all over the nation. The Pop-Sequentialism exhibit garnered the pick of the week in the L.A. Weekly, and the blogosphere was lit-up with feature reports on Artlog, Newsarama, Gothic.Net, Comic Book Resources,, Campus Circle, ChinaShop, Spectrum, SupahCute, Crackajack, Forces Of Geek, Bleeding Cool, Wizards World, and a little over 11,000 other site pages!

The Pop-Sequentialism exhibition catalog is available now for a limited time. It's formatted like an 80-Page Giant and priced accordingly at $7.95. The print run of 1,000 copies isn't expected to last beyond this year's Alternative Press Expo. Wholesale and retail orders can be fulfilled by emailing

In preparing the catalog for publication along with Peter Shire's Hokkaido Story, I realized that the La Luz de Jesus Press website was well out of date. So I completely redesigned the front page to reflect greater consistency with the La Luz de Jesus Gallery website, and updated the book list to reflect the 25 titles currently available or in solicitation.

In the last two years we've published new art volumes by Dennis Larkins, Chris Mars, Scott Musgrove, Myron Conan Dyal & Jennifer Logan. Next month we'll be presenting a new Glenn Barr book and by the fall, we'll be publishing a massive tome to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of La Luz de Jesus Gallery. By the end of the year, there will be a new Daniel Martin Diaz collection and we'll be announcing new titles from past collaborators alongside a handful of print debuts. A work in progress, the new La Luz de Jesus Press site will soon be expanded to include a selection of antiquarian titles from Billy Shire's personal archive, an easy to use shopping cart, and links to signing events and exhibitions at other galleries featuring our roster of published artists. The gallery site will soon feature a comprehensive, artist search index and a revamped posters & prints menu. These improvements have been a long time coming, and it's my intent to present a better, more user-friendly experience for visitors both actual and virtual.

It's going to be a very exciting summer!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Comic Books Are Fine Art!

"It's incredible that the fine art world is finally taking (superhero) comics seriously. An exhibition like this would have been out of the question not so very long ago."
–Stan Lee

"With great power must also come great responsibility." –Amazing Fantasy #15

Few art forms have gone as unchanged and unrespected for as long as sequential art, and yet none has had as tremendous an impact as the superhero comic book. Veritable templates for inspiration, comic book superheroes are the post-modern mythology, encouraging generations of global youth while reflecting the society that spawned them. More than just dynamic illustrations on a page, the comic book is a medium that tells stories, and by presenting an exhibition that celebrates the collaborations of the greatest storytellers, my intention is to open a serious dialogue on the importance of this art form.

And this would seem to be the time for it.

This past
year, ten paintings by Andy Warhol – an artist who began his career riffing on the iconography of comic books, broke auction house records with realized sales surpassing one hundred, thirty-six million dollars. If there is a single bridge between post-war and pop art, it would have to be comic books. The fact that painted misappropriations of iconic comic book images command the respect (and extravagant prices) long denied to their source material is ironic in the truest sense of the word. Collectors of sequential production art have been privy to the biggest bargain in contemporary art for decades, making it all but impossible to organize a gallery sale of the absolute best. This show features forty important examples of modern comic book art from multiple, award-winning writers and artists, and there isn’t a single piece priced above three thousand dollars thus presenting a golden point of entry for patrons looking to diversify their Pop-Art collections with some of the most exciting creations from the pride of the genre.

This is the first important survey of comic book art from the modern era.

In years past there have been a handful of museum exhibitions showcasing art from comic’s Golden
and Silver Ages and there have been several shows dedicated to individual titles or imprints, but never before has such a landmark, and all-encompassing collection been offered for sale as part of a single, gallery exhibition. I started collecting some of the pieces for this show over fifteen years ago, and it became apparent very quickly that hesitation was not an option. Most collectors of comic book art are voracious readers and collectors of the comic books that showcase that art. As such, pages depicting pivotal events from popular titles become highly sought not only for the art, but for the significance within the cannon. Pages featuring main characters in dynamic action are among the most highly sought, but more so are the first and final appearances of new heroes and villains, and those in which the story changes direction or a character’s origin is revealed. Once purchased, the odds of them ever coming up for resale (affordably) is usually between slim and none. These pages represent more than just that which is pictured to the collectors who fondly recall all of the events of a series in that single page. To the comic book faithful, owning a Watchmen or All-Star Superman page is like owning the entire era in which those series were released, which also represents the rise of the comic book writer as media superstar.

All of the works featured in this show are from comic books released in the last 25 years. To some, this is the Copper Age, the Iron Age or the Dark Age, but to most it is simply the Modern Age. This era was christened by the back-to-back releases of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight and Alan Moore and Dave GibbonsWatchmen. These and other early masterpieces from writers Moore & Miller helped to shape all the relevant work that followed, including every piece highlighted in this focused exhibition of heroic fiction. I’d love to be able to claim that every signature collaboration released in the two and a half decades that have followed is represented herein, but that was simply not possible. Pages from modern masterpieces like Miller’s Daredevil and Dark Knight Returns or Moore’s Miracle Man and Killing Joke were snatched up long ago and routinely command peak prices on the rare occasions that they re-enter the marketplace. Bidding on a Dark Knight splash just opened at Heritage Auctions for $100,000.00. There are many others who have made tremendous contributions to the medium who are likewise not represented, due mostly to the unavailability of key pieces, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better collection of Eisner, Harvey, and Inkpot Award winning work from the last 25 years.

Beginning with Alan Moore
and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen (first published in 1986) and arriving at Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s Powers (still publishing, and headed for a television set near you), Pop- Sequentialism includes original artwork from the landmark series and quintessential collaborations that have crossed beyond comic book fandom into the Pop zeitgeist, changing the perceptions and preconceptions of the hobby, the format and the culture.

I've been collecting pieces for this show for more than 15 years, so clearly this is not a passing fancy of mine. And I while I may be preaching to the choir, it is my very strong belief that comic books are fine art. That this particular brand of fine art happens also to be commercial should be cause for celebration not condemnation. When I selected the show premiere date of May 6, 2011 (two years ago), this was the only event happening in the world of comic book art. When I handed out over 5,000 postcards at Comicon International last year announcing the line-up of artist and writers, the release date of the Thor film had not yet been selected and Free Comic Book Day was barely slated for the first Saturday in May. There was definitely no evidence to suggest that a Frank Miller Dark Knight page would be offered via Heritage Auctions or that it would sell for more than one hundred thousand dollars on the same weekend. I by no means claim credit for this convergence of events, but I thank the powers that be for this incredible synergy. There will be three separate film crews covering the opening night celebration. I will be releasing my first book, a catalog of this exhibition. That book is 80 pages from cover-to-cover and it's available now from La Luz de Jesus Press for $7.95 plus shipping. It was important to me to keep it comic book sized (prestige format, like Dark Knight) and to make it affordable like the 80-Page Giants that inspired it.

Many comic book pros, filmmakers, musicians and other kindred spirits will be there, and I invite all of you and all of your friends. Please RSVP to to get added to the guest list or to buy a catalog for the first Fine Art survey of Modern Comic Book Art. If this is a success, I'm sure that museum exhibitions will be next, and Pop-Sequentialism will become an ongoing event that can change focus by genre, process and other criteria that will keep the idea fresh while furthering the cause for increasing the respect for this criminally underrated medium.

Matt Kennedy, your brother in geekdom.

POP-SEQUENTIALISM: Great Comic Book Art of the Modern Age
May 6-29, 2011. Opens Friday, May 6th @ 8PM.

La Luz de Jesus Gallery
4633 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hokkaido Story Revisited: Previews Tomorrow Night!

"Mystical practical absurdism, amazing, astounding phenomena on a human scale and what is funny about the way we love and hate industrial what interests me." Peter Shire

I first met Peter Shire in 1991 when I was a register jockey at his brother Billy Shire’s shop, The Soap Plant, then on Melrose Ave. He struck me as a good-natured, gregarious fellow with a penchant for bad puns and a quiet, steady vocal delivery that almost invariably ended with a smile. I’m happy to say that twenty years later not much has changed. His amiability is as delightfully forthright as ever and his puns are even more groan-worthy. What has changed in the two decades past is the sheer volume of acclaim that his work has received.

Peter’s first public art commission in 1986 has grown to more than thirty worldwide. His teapots are ubiquitous and (along with his other ceramics and furniture designs) have caused something of a pop revolution. Whether fashioning delicate-looking flowers from steel or evoking monumental scale via fragile, hand-forged porcelain, his bright and eclectic color palette remains consistent with his colorful and playful personality.

If you’ve ever visited Shire’s Echo Park studio, located mere blocks from the house he grew up in, you’ll have been treated to a proper espresso, ground and brewed from a machine gifted him by his fellow Memphis Group collaborators. His graciousness as a host is a copacetic antithesis to the stimulation overload that doubles as his think tank, office, and work space. Once you’ve recovered from the organized chaos, keen observation will reveal a single pattern that pervades nearly all his multi-faceted work: succinct minimalism, redolent of Japanese flower arrangement. How a Sephardic Jew raised in a predominantly Latino neighborhood came to embody the essence of Ikebana is anyone’s guess, but Japanese Industrialists came to notice it.

The selection of pieces contained in this volume are the beneficiaries of a three-month 1992 design project in Hokkaido, Japan. Salvaged brewing factory materials were transformed into incredible, contemporary and fundamentally Japanese works of art. These sculptures remained on display in Japan until 2008, when they were rescued from receivership and returned to California. In November 2010, they were loaned to Santa Monica College and exhibited in the Barrett Art Gallery.

Now, in May 2011, on the 25th anniversary of Peter Shire’s first public art project –and nearly twenty years after these seminal works were first constructed, La Luz de Jesus Gallery is pleased to be the first commercial space to not only display these great works of art, but offer them publicly to private collections: Hokkaido Story Revisited.

It is perfectly fitting that Shire’s work should return to the neighborhood of his childhood, and personally gratifying that on the vigintennial of our first meeting, I get to be the one to present it.

Matthew Kennedy

Hokkaido Story Revisited: Late Spring

May 6th - May 29th
Artist Reception & Preview:
Thursday May, 5th 7-9PM