Friday, September 30, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Saturday, September 24th; 7-10 PM
Special DJ performance by Don Bolles
(The Germs, Celebrity Skin)
For centuries, religious establishments constructed decorated ossuaries and charnel houses from human bone. These unique structures which stand as masterpieces of art have been pushed into the footnotes of history; they were part of a dialogue with death that is now silent.
In 2006, Dr. Paul Koudounaris who two years earlier completed a PhD in Art History at UCLA, found a research topic which would preoccupy the next four years of his existence. Koudounaris’ interest in the bizarre and suspicious led him to an extraordinary charnel house in the crypt under the Church of Sts Peter and Paul in the Czeck Republic town of Melnik. Unlike the “Bone Church” in nearby Sedlec, it was gritty and dirty, not for tourists and even unknown by most locals, but contained an arrangement of bones that reflected both a beauty in artistic principles and an understanding of philosophy and theology. Upon discovering that the local hostel receptionist had no idea of its existence, Dr. Koudounaris set his sights on discovering how many more of these charnel houses might still be standing.
Dr. Koudounaris eventually visited researched and photographed charnel houses on four continents - plus countless others he found in historic documents, grande dames which had fallen by the wayside of the passing centuries. They are presented in the book The Empire of Death which, with detailed photos and text not only recovers their history, but the history of the religious movement which gave birth to them. This is not a book about the macabre or death. It is a book about beauty and salvation.
In this tour de force of original cultural history, Dr. Koudounaris takes the reader on an unprecedented international tour of macabre and devotional architectural masterpieces in nearly 20 countries. The sites in this brilliantly original study range from the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Palermo, where the living would visit mummified or skeletal remains and lovingly dress them, to the Paris catacombs, to elaborate bone-encrusted creations in Austria, Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and elsewhere. Koudounaris photographed and analyzed the role of these remarkable memorials within the cultures that created them, as well as the mythology and folklore that developed around them, and skillfully traces a remarkable human endeavor with 250 full-color and 50 black-and-white photographs in a beautifully bound leather covered book. Books are available for $50.00 each while supplies last.
Simply Iconic is the title and the words I would use to describe the current exhibition at La Luz De Jesus Gallery located on Hollywood Blvd in the quaint region of Los Feliz. The breathtaking collection of work from seven Southern-raised, African American artists hold such a pure and intuitive energy. The exhibition includes work from Purvis Young, Sam Doyle, Charlie Lucas, O.L. Samuels, Sulton Rogers, Roy Ferdinand, and Herbert Singleton. Each artist has an interesting story that describes their passageway into the art making realm. This art is extremely un-pretentious and brilliant, coming from people who decided mid-way through life to embark on their artistic journey. The work is so honest and moving, resembling folk-art, but speaking in a deeply soulful way that grabs the attention of the so-called “High Art” crowd. It’s actually quite refreshing to see work like this in the La Luz De Jesus, which is a gallery that seems to appeal to the art genre of Pop Surrealism or Low-Brow. However, upon speaking with the curator, Matt Kennedy, the Simply Iconic collection (owned by Gordon Bailey) seemed to be a perfect fit. It is art that makes a statement with the way in which it is made, not necessarily the conceptual aspect. That being said, just because a piece of art is not considered to be “conceptual”, doesn’t mean that it lacks depth. I actually feel that crafty art can speak in a very pure way. The work holds the essence of one’s personality or being, as if parts of the artist’s soul are transferred into the piece as they work. Heavy concept is written in the paint, in the wood, in the clay. To cite one of my favorite conceptual artists of all time, Yoko Ono, “The medium is the message.”
The first artist I would like to talk about is Sam Doyle (1906-1985), a man who considered himself more of a historian rather than an artist. He was interested in documenting events that took place in his home town of Saint Helena, South Carolina, by means of painting and displayed the works in his backyard, which became known as a sort of outdoor museum. His work is executed with the pure, unadulterated expression of a child, so in a sense it is very liberating to witness. The paintings are done on large scale pieces or tin or wood with house paint. There is an essence about the work that feels very touched and worked with, lived with, like a piece of old furniture that holds on to memories. In fact, the work seems to be replications of memories. As Doyle once said “I paint from, I would say, the mind’s eye”. In my opinion, Doyle somewhat paved a gateway for neo-expressionism. One of his biggest fans was the famous Jean Michel Basquiat, who, at one point, actually traded all of the work in one of his shows for two Sam Doyle paintings. Another appreciator of Doyle is Ed Ruscha, who created a body of work as a tribute to Sam Doyle, which was purchased by Edith and Eli Broad.
O.L. Samuels (b.1931) has some work in the center of the gallery that is quite mystifying. Dark animal figures accented by glittering rainbow colors seem to watch over the room in a haunting sort of way. Samuels began making work after he was in a life threatening accident in which he was hit by a falling tree trunk while working as a tree surgeon. After the accident he became incredibly depressed. One day the voice of his grandmother, who was a freed slave, floated into his mind. She suggested carving a spool as a means to get out of depression. He felt so compelled to create upon remembering this old advice given to him by his grandmother, and began carving dreamy figures out of wood. The three works that are displayed in this collection are “Dog”, “Horse” and “Ickitty Chicks” , all made in the 1980’s. Each piece is painted black and is textured and colored with a concoction Samuels cooked up in his kitchen out of glue, saw dust, glitter and paint. So his work has this beautiful dark magic vibe to it. Although the work was full of color, Samuels was in fact, color-blind. When people would ask him why he used such an intense gradient of rainbow hues in his work, he replied that he was only using so many colors to make sure that he got the right one. What I found most interesting about Samuels wooden friends, was that each piece seemed to actually have a soul. The eyes of each figure were very captivating in a human-like way. All the figures were carved out of wood, but he used different materials for the eyes. Some had amber-colored marbles for the eyes and some had raven stones, even some had beer bottle caps. I actually felt myself very entranced by his work, as if the observation wasn’t exactly one-sided. I felt his work observing me, looking into me. His creatures seem to be psychically connected to everything and everyone around them.
Sulton Rogers (1922-2003) displays a more light-hearted approach to the art of whittling, compared to the sultry depths displayed in the work of his counterpart, O.L. Samuels. Rogers was taught wood carving as a child by his father. His tool of choice was his pocket knife. His small to medium scale wooden sculptures are smoothly worked allowing viewers to get lost in the simple patterns in the wood-grain. There is a boyish grit to the work that is actually a bit humorous and endearing. His piece, “Devil Family” (1990’s) depicts a group of red devils with pitchforks, nude and lustful, with delicately detailed genitals and pubic hair to form the perfect family, mother, father, and two children, a boy and girl. The juxtaposition of something considered evil or lusty with the ideal of a loving wholesome family is pretty amazing. Although Sulton Rogers was making this kind of work in the 1990’s when he was in his 70’s, there is incredibly boyish nature to his figures.
Herbert Singleton (1945-2003) seems to take the role of the bad boy in this collection, an artist who spent many years in and out of jail, and suffered through serious drug addictions. In contrast to the dark yet heavenly aspects of Samuels work, Singleton makes work that is just plain dark and hellish, including themes of voodoo and disease. He used a lot of opaque primary colors on carved bas-relief wood pieces. The imagery is painful and characterized by religious symbols and themes. Snakes seem to slither their way into a lot of his work. Most of the work is pictorial, but there are also some interesting totem-like masks on the wall resembling tribal African art. The most chilling of his paintings is entitled, “The Old Religion”, in which a person holding bone is sitting in a black caldron over a wild fire, while a man comes in with an enormous snake. Singleton’s work is very narrative and tells a dark, creepy story. It’s a bit like witnessing a car crash or like watching someone have a nervous breakdown right in front of you. Something you feel like you shouldn’t be so enthralled by, but you just can’t help it.
On the same wall as Singleton is the work of the esteemed “Goya of the Ghetto”, Roy Ferdinand (1959-2004) from New Orleans. His work has been described as “Rap in pictures” by his appreciators. His medium scale drawings are actually quite unsettling. There are many factors that come together to create this effect. First and most importantly is the imagery itself, which is very graphic and even border-lining on violent, then the quality of line and texture, and lastly the proportions of the figures depicted in his works. The line-work is manic, particularly the cross-hatching. Each piece is sort of vibrating with a bi-polar sense of line and texture. Parts of the piece are rendered in a soft patient manner, and other parts are fast and neurotic. The scenes displayed in this group of work are very honest and real, showing people from the streets of New Orleans, and one piece that depicts a baptism in a lake near a Southern Baptist church. Ferdinand’s work makes a lot of sense on the same wall as Singleton. The two artists create work that speaks in a painful tone, and seem to relate to each other in similar ways.
Purvis Young (1943-2010), the romantic of the group was motivated to create work by a need to spread peace to the world. His work resembles early expressionism, and even seems to unknowingly take from artists like William DeKooning because of his visionary emotional nature. His work is a lovely contrast to the works of Singleton and Ferdinand. Young enjoyed painting dreamy, mirage-like, spiritual scenes on scavenged pieces of wood. One piece was even painted on a piece of wood that had once been a step in an old factory. His color usage is soft and vibrant with lots of sea-greens and turquoises with hints of warm yellows mimicking light. There is a lot of movement in his work as well, creating this feeling that you are witnessing a reunion of angels dancing in a celebration of peace. The imagery holds a warm transcendental, ethereal energy, while the scavenged wood holds the energy of life. So many hands have touched that wood before Young was able to paint on it, so the actual wood itself seems to tell a story. I found his body of work to be the most poetic and inviting.
Lastly, the work Charlie Lucas (b. 1951) is very playful and lively. Like Samuels, Lucas also suffered from a life threatening accident in the 1980’s, and decided to take up painting shortly after his recovery. Lucas strikes me as the type of artist who really just loves to explore mediums. His paintings and mixed-media works exude a sense of excitement and discovery. There is a simple yet chaotic nature to Lucas’s work that is a bit disorienting. The work is all pretty flat, but accented by textured surfaces, like shattered glass, for example. What I love about Lucas is the way he used the materials, with such enthusiasm! Every piece is a type of journey, a new territory for opportunities to use new kinds of media, texture, and color.
It is seriously such a delight to view this wonderful harmony of art in the same space. There is a perfect balance in this collection of work that shines a new kind of light out of La Luz De Jesus. Simply Iconic is a small exhibition that one will want to ponder for quite a while. There is so much soul to take in from each and every piece of this brilliant collection. The show is certainly what the title claims to be. Certain artists from this exhibition have inspired famous artists, such as Ed Ruscha and Jean Michel Basquiat. Perhaps it will be of inspiration to you too! The exhibition will be up until October 3rd. Come get lost.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
On the weekends of October 7th and November 4th we'll be celebrating our twenty-fifth year of groundbreaking exhibitions with a show including almost everyone who's ever been featured here. Billy Shire has masterminded and organized a monumental group show featuring over 250 artists, each of whom have contributed one new piece and a written anecdote about their experience with the gallery. This is La Luz de Jesus Gallery's first survey, featuring three generations of the most important artists working today. There will also be a book –a companion to the show, chronicling the rich legacy of La Luz de Jesus and the movements it helped launch.
The full exhibition roster is below, organized by date.
A full index for both exhibitions can be found here.
Opening October 7 & 8
Friday & Saturday, 8–11 pm
Scott G. Brooks
Glen C. Davies
Alfredo de Batuc
John de Fazio
Gerald de Jesus
Alex de Leon
Daniel Martin Díaz
Myron Conan Dyal
Don Ed Hardy
Norbert H. Kox
Brad "Tiki Shark" Parker
Francisco Rodriguez Maruca
Daniel "DX" Segura
S. Clay Wilson
Opening November 4 & 5
Friday & Saturday, 8–11 pm
Ray Martin Abeyta
Carrie Ann Baade
Wayne Martin Belger
Torii B. Cooper
Patrick "Star27" Deignan
José Rodolfo Loaiza Ontiveros
Danni Shinya Luo
Mark Atomos Pilon
There will also be altars in each of the two exhibitions featuring original art work from several of our fallen comrades:
Rev. Howard Finster
Some pricing and images forthcoming. Some works are already sold.
Contact gallery director Matt Kennedy for availability and purchase info:
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
"The function of the imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange." –G.K. Chesterton
In the past fifteen years, the character Emily the Strange has risen in popularity from a seemingly random illustration on a skateboard deck into a generational touchstone for tween girls (particularly the non-Barbie crowd). At this point, the licensing of artist Rob Reger's signature character has become a cottage industry for future goths; one that includes comics, an apparel line and soon a major motion picture starring current teen it-girl (or should I say Hit Girl), Chloe Moretz. As this latest news was lighting up the showbiz wire, Reger was quietly opening his first major Hollywood art exhibit, called The Encyclopedia of Hallucinations. Part of that exhibition involves a contest, so alert your little sister (details at the bottom of this column)!
It's always a challenge to impact the fine art world in a significant way, but for toy designers, comic artists and character licensors that challenge is different and perhaps more difficult. On one hand, the familiarity of their best known work enables them to reach an established audience, which can be an incredible asset for selling original art work. But on the other hand, that familiarity can remain unchampioned by art critics and highbrow patrons who might dismiss those works as kitsch. So while it may not be very hard for a commercial artist to enter the gallery world based on the success of their strongest brand, reaching that next level (cover features in respected art publications, auction house representation and ultimately museum exhibition) is difficult if not impossible. For every Murakami, there are hundreds if not thousands of lesser known designers fighting to maintain relevancy while introducing new product lines and simultaneously working to realize lofty, artistic goals. Enter Rob Reger.
Rob's art aesthetic and his design house, Cosmic Debris, grew from a tangle of roots joining the DIY punk scene of the 1980s with guerilla art, surrealism, and nostalgia for the psychedelic 60s. Emily the Strange came to life in the early 1990s and became a beloved counterculture icon all around the world moving quickly from a sharp-witted T-Shirt sloganeer to the subject of gift books, comics, and ultimately a series of novels for young adults. She continues to be a voice for individualism, but in a greater context has become an icon of non-conformity. In many ways, Emily the Strange is the Mr. Natural of the middle school set, and like Robert Crumb (who also found fame in the Bay Area), Rob Reger must walk a tightrope between the two very different worlds of fine art and pop-recognition. Unlike Crumb, Reger is incredibly accessible, business savvy, and plugged into a network of friends and colleagues who have already reached that next plateau; people like Tim Biskup, who successfully charted a course of pop-sensibility, fine art acceptance and overall success. While neither yet has attained the kwan of Murakami, Biskup's art is personally collected by museum curators, gallerists, other artists, celebrities and captains of industry, and it's only a matter of time before an extra set of zeroes suffixes his current price points (which are none-too-shabby as is). And Reger's influence over two generations of young girls could easily follow the purchasing trends of Baby Boomers who grew up in the original age of Pop Art, eventually setting record purchase prices for Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons. If the history of the twentieth century has taught us nothing else about marketing and collectibility, it has at least taught us that children become adults who make enough money to buy back their childhoods. Now, in the twenty-first century, that process seems to have expedited; millionaire twenty-somethings are blowing a lot of loot on nostalgia from the previous decade (exemplified by Justin Timberlake's recent purchases of Michael Jackson memorabilia).
With The Encyclopedia of Hallucinations, Rob Reger has taken a handful of elements from his best-known work (bats, cats, and Emily) and produced a series of paintings that can be viewed from multiple angles, welcoming an abstract element to his mainly figurative work. He also priced everything quite affordably, reflecting the current economic climate but also welcoming early collectors, much like Keith Haring and Yoshitomo Nara did in the formative years of their exhibition cycles. Reger has created a body of work with maturity and sophistication that embraces the recognizable without catering to easy money. Investment-minded parents would be wise to buy now and bestow later. What a cool graduation present one of his paintings will make some day for your eleven year old daughter. I'm not saying that it will help pay off her college loans, but it might...
Rob Reger's Encyclopedia of Hallucinations opened on September 2nd and remains on view until October 3rd at La Luz de Jesus Gallery. Attendees (both onsite and online) are asked to write a short description of what they see in Rob's paintings. The best of these writings will be documented here, on the ArtOfficial Blog, and promoted on Reger's website as well, offering at least fifteen kilobytes of fame to enthusiastic little sisters everywhere!
Also check out Lauren Gardiner's Misfits of the Forest exhibition in the same space, which wrangled the Art Pick of the Week in the L.A. Weekly's Events Calendar (in both print and web editions). In fact between the two of them, the press has been quite extraordinary:
Beinart International Surreal Art Collective
Radio Baby Tattoo
On Stage Los Angeles
Los Angeles Times
Fine Art Magazine
and there are a whole lot more, so come on down and see what everyone's talking about!
La Luz de Jesus Gallery, 4633 Hollywood Blvd., LA, CA 90027
Hours: Sun. 12-6, Mon-Wed 11-7, Thur-Sat 11-9.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
by Martin Olson
Book Signing: Saturday, Sept. 3, 6-9PM
What do Lemmy, Coop and Ben Vereen all have in common? They're here!
A tour de force of darkness, Encyclopaedia of Hell is a manual of Earth written by Lord Satan for his invading hordes of demons, complete with hundreds of unpleasant illustrations, diagrams, and a comprehensive and utterly repulsive dictionary of Earth terms.
Since the customs and mores of humanity are alien and inconceivable to demons, Satan wrote this strangely poetic military handbook for the enlightenment and edification of his demon armies. A masterpiece expressing Satan's hatred for humanity and himself, the Encyclopaedia includes "Techniques of Stalking and Eating Humans," "Methods of Canning Human Pus," and "Dicing and Slicing Orphaned Children."
Why the invasion? During the last century in particular, Hell has become seriously overcrowded. Satan needs more land mass for the damned and to use the human livestock to feed his hungry demon invaders. Since this book is the 666th commemorative edition, this Encyclopaedia contains special commemorative material.
Martin Olson's savage wit provides the firepower for a preposterous literary feat unaccomplished since Mark Twain passed—channeling the real voice of Satan. Over the past fifteen years, Olson has written and produced nine comedy specials, inflicted on the populace via CBS, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and A&E.
"[An inferno] is probably just where Martin Olson was sitting when tasked with translating The Encyclopedia of Hell. How he learned to speak demonic is anybody’s guess. What’s more puzzling is where Olson got the nerve to actually translate the text in the first place. After all, it is An Invasion Manual for Demons Concerning the Planet Earth and the Human Race Which Infests It. Hardly the kinda thing one wants to bring home to baby. Maybe Olson’s a demon himself. If you wanna learn how the evil see us, this Encyclopedia is all you’ll need."
– SunPost Weekly July 28, 2011 | John Hood
“The Encyclopaedia of Hell” – written by Martin Olson, illustrated by Tony Millionaire and Mahendra Singh. 2011. Paperback, 240 pages in English published by Feral House, ISBN-13: 978-1936239047
About The Author
Martin Olson has written and produced nine comedy specials, inflicted on the populace via CBS, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and A&E. As a composer, he has been honored with a 2010 Emmy Nomination for Songwriting, a 2009 Emmy Nomination for Primetime Songwriting, and a 1997 Annie Award Nomination for Songwriting in an Animated Series. This is his first book.