Monday, December 30, 2013

Too Hot for Facebook: R. Crumb & Bill Ward

I posted a few days ago on Facebook and Twitter that we recently acquired a second Robert Crumb drawing for consignment sale. I was able to tweet the image, but hesitated to post it to Facebook, knowing that their draconian guidelines could result in an account suspension.

Many of our Facebook friends requested that I blog post it, so here it is:

Robert Crumb
"I Wouldn't Kick Her Out of Bed"
7 x 10.25"
Ballpoint on paper placemat
Feb. 1985
Inquire for price

Robert Crumb is the undisputed king of the underground comix artists, and drawings like this are generally auction pieces. The last piece we had sold for five figures within days of posting it, and this one is priced far below that range, so don't hesitate to get in contact.

We also have a few pieces that I added to the Black Friday page that didn't quite make it in time for that re-sale event. There are some Joe Coleman drawings, and some great Bill Ward, Robert Williams and Basil Wolverton art, as well.

Speaking of Bill Ward, here's an awesome Bettie Page color drawing from 1985. It comes with a hand-written letter that explains the unusual provenance–basically that this was done as a gift for the reclusive Miss Page and was eventually printed in World of Ward and the Bettie Page 3D Special.

Bill Ward
"Bettie Page: Martini and a Lariat"
11 5/8 x 14 5/8 in.
Gouache on paper

Contact gallery director Matt Kennedy for more info:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bruce Eichelberger In Hi-Fructose & Hey! Magazine

Hi-Fructose Magazine recently caught up with Bruce Eichelberger in his studio to talk about his current exhibition at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, Babel.

You can access the complete article here.

Bruce is also profiled in the latest issue of the French magazine of art of pop-culture, Hey!
Bruce is currently exhibiting alongside Krystopher Sapp in Gallery I, with Juan Muniz and Jennifer Jelenski filling Gallery II. All pieces purchased this month are available for early holiday pick-up.

Monday, December 9, 2013

December to Dismember!

  Last night's Elizabeth McGrath Pop-up Shop and Release Party for her brand new Incurable Disorder book was INSANE! We had Zombie Santas and Zombie Elves, multiple original art pieces from the incredible Liz McGrath, and a signature line that lasted all night.

Attendees were season greeted with free prints and buttons, and there was a limited supply of extreme X-Mas ornaments, gobbled up by ravenous collectors within minutes of the event's opening.

Mike Odd (from Rosemary's Billygoat) and Dookie Flyswatter (from Haunted Garage) were in character all night as crachety (undead) Kris Kringles–posing with kids all night to produce holiday memories that doubtless require years of therapy.

Winter Rosebudd and a rainbow coalition of undead elves handed out refreshments by Messy Monsters all evening, and Clint Catalyst closed the evening's festivities with a live reading of the poem he contributed to Incurable Disorder.

Liz got her start here almost two decades ago, and she remains one of our favorite guests!
More pics below, courtesy of Sean Hathwell, Wendy Sherman and our gallery director Matt Kennedy.

A Zombie Elf!

Zombie Santas Dookie Flyswatter & Mike Odd
Incurable Disorder -available now!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tonight: Miss Wu, Heavenly Bodies, and Crystal Radio Live!

As seen in the L.A. Weekly! Dr. Paul Koudounaris opens his exhibition, Heavenly Bodies, and signs his latest book of the same title (as well as his previous tome, The Empire of Death). The story behind the photographs in this exhibition seems custom made for the Dia de los Muertos. Admission is free, refreshments will be served (while supplies last), and the pieces are available for purchase by contacting the gallery director at (323) 666-7667 or info[at]laluzdejesus[dot]com.

Also opening a new exhibition is Miss Christine Wu, whose Coming Home is already more than half-way sold out. Christine's oil paintings capture people in transition, making a statement about the temporary importance of our fleeting lives. A few months back, Daniel Rolnick caught up with Miss Wu mid-collaboration with master print-maker Ryan McIntosh.

Performing live this evening will be musical guests Crystal Radio, featuring Daniel Martin Diaz and Paula Catherine Valencia of Blind Devine, whose sound is reminiscent of a haunted western about ghosts and dreams, as scored by Ennio Morricone and directed by David Lynch–which should compliment the evening perfectly.

Daniel Martin Diaz will be signing his own latest book, Soul of Science, on Saturday, November 2nd, 4-7 PM.

Signed and personalized copies of Soul of Science as well as Anatomy of SorrowThirty-One Drawings & Thirty-One DaysMysterium Fidei, and La Luz de Jesus 25 (which Billy and Matt will be happy to sign as well) can be pre-ordered by calling the bookstore at (323) 663-0122 or emailing sales[at]soapplant[dot]com.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Video of October Feature Artist Danni Shinya Luo

Last Gasp TV caught up with Danni Shinya Luo recently about her book Soft Candy and her upcoming exhibition Vanitas 13, which opens this Friday at 8PM–right here at La Luz de Jesus Gallery. For the first hour of the exhibition, she'll be signing copies of her super-limited edition Un Petit Catalog, which she debuted at San Diego Comicon. We wisely grabbed a couple boxes to offer to our patrons before she went down there and completely sold out. The gorgeous, album-sized volume (10.25x12 in.) features a spot-varnished cover and 45 full color pages, priced $35. This was an edition of 500 numbered copies, and there are not many left.

To reserve yours today, call or email the bookstore:
(323) 663-0122

A portion of her show preview is currently live, accessible here:

We're expecting a few more paintings, drawings and sketches, though, so be sure to email the gallery to get put on the preview list.

Van Saro will also be signing his limited edition, self-published art tome on Friday. Check back here for more info about his exciting new exhibition!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Coaster Closing Party Is Tonight!

It's been an incredible month, and it all comes down to one last night–and that's tonight! We've got over 700 coasters which have been elevated from mere bar accessories to fine art. Sales have been brisk throughout, but there are still some incredible pieces available. Starting at only $20 each, there are pieces as yet not purchased from internationally, museum-exhibited artists. Call or email, as what's listed as available may be sold by the time you get here!
(323) 666-7667

See you tonight! The show is open to the public all day, but the party starts at 7 and runs til 10 PM.

Here's a brief sampling of what could be yours:

Cathie Bleck

Stephanie Inagaki


Tasha Kusama

Dennis Larkins

Hui Tan

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Coaster Show Preview is LIVE!

September 6-29th!

We’ve all done it.
We’ve sat at the bar, drinking a beer and doodled on a coaster.
But most of us aren’t the extremely skilled painters, illustrators, animators, tattooists, sculptors or collage artists that are featured in this exhibition–that takes a love of craft brewing and elevates it to high art.

La Luz de Jesus Gallery partnered with the folks behind L.A. Beer Week to produce a custom canvas for some of our favorite gallery folks to do what they do best, and transform 4″ tondo coasters into museum-worthy exhibition pieces. And so BEER IS ART was born!

We opened this show up to international artists by personally dropping off coasters at Comicon and touching base with our friends at Dorothy Circus Gallery in Rome. There will be over 800 works of art on display this month. As you can guess, it took a long time to size and upload the images to produce the preview site (and it's going to take about three days to hang it all), so I'm going to keep this brief:

Check out the preview here and call me, or you will be kicking yourself until next year. Come down on Friday for a craft beer extravaganza and a peek at the vehicle that just set the classic car land speed record as Jeff Brock sets up a mini installation during Max Grundy's Ozone Schmozone show.

Here's a list of participants:

Susanne Apgar
Adamyan, Peter
Adcock, Amber
Addams, Jessicka
Almera, Marco
Anne, Caitlin
Apgar, Susanne
Araki, Mari
Bainbridge, Briana
Bakofsky, Lee
Bales, Christopher
Barr, Amy Burns
Barry, Dan
Bass, Chris
Bastian, Jeremy A.
Bastien, Alexandra
Batalon, Davidd
Beard, Dan
Shaun Berke
Bee, Syd
Bentley, J
Berke, Shaun
Bickford, Michelle
Blanchard, Sue
Blanco, Rick "Dienzo"
Bleck, Cathie
Boettcher, David
Bradford, Amber
Brewer, Winifred Johnson
Brown, Calef
Brown, Michael
Burckhardt, Marc
Bruckman, Nicole
Burrell, Erin
Cad, Simone
Calagione, Sam
Jessica Dalva
Campos, Alex
Carlino, Jeaneen
Carroll, Liz
Cermaria, Elena
Chang, Tanny
Chen, Eszter
Cheng, Frederick
Cherry, Adrian
Copper, Torii
Coronel, Edward Robin
Crane, Will
Daily, Steven
Dalva, Jessica
Darkonn, Ixie
Ditto, Leslie
Doherty, Andy
Dominguez, Sean
Egan, Mike
Bruce Eichelberger
Eichelberger, Brice
Eichelberger, Bruce
English, Ron
Eron, Keith Van
Escamilla, Sara
Fan, Evan
Fritz, Don
Gardiner, Lauren
Gillette, Jeff
Gleason, Mark
Goedde, Steve Diet
Gordon, Kim
Guerra, Amber Bradford
Guerra, Eva (age 10)
Guerrero, Max
Guion, Tamara
Haig, Sid
Hallis, Howard
Hammond, Brett
Steve Diet Goedde
Haro, Hanzel
Harrison, Ashford
Harrison, Derek
Hassold, Laurie
Hay, Chris
Hebert, Clare
Hebert, Mink
Herman, Brett
Hernandez, Andy
Hickerson, Buddy
Ho, Chi Kei "SAM"
Houlihan, Kelly
Hung, Leslie
Hush, Jeremy
Iannetti, Alessia
Inagaki, Stephanie
James, David
Jasinski, Aaron
Jelenski, Jennifer
Joaquim, George
Zoe Lacchei
Jonaitis, Susan
Jones, Mika Mae
Jun, Amy
Jung, Kowoon
Kallenbach, Brent
Kaminecki, Damara
Kayukawa, Yumiko
Keller, Shannon
Kent, Brooke
Kheel, Billy
Kim, Jaesun JK
Klu, Rick
Kono, Randy
Kortez, Michael
Kuo, Michael
Kurakina, Anastasia
Kusama, Tasha
Lacchei, Zoe
Landerman, Daniel
Nathan Ota
Larkins, Dennis
LaRotonda, Craig
Lau, Jon
Lebow, Dave
Lee, Jane
Lee, Soyoun
Levin, Matthew J.
Lin, Tory
Lindo, MJ
Lynch III, Thomas
Macellari, Dion
Maloof, Nicole
Manning, Colin
Marino, D.W.
Martinez, Horacio
Marutyan, Georgia
McGrath, Elizabeth
McMillan, Jeff
Melisande, Genie
Monroe, Brendan
Montes, Noe
Moon, Jiyoung Paige
Moore, Graham
Moore, Rick
Moulds, Alexis
Mount, Emma
Mr. Klevra
Murphy, Julie
Myers, Dustin
Nam, Joanne
Natale, David
Neutron, Cig
Norvet, Sean
O'Connell, Patrick R.
Oh, Yejin
Okamoto, Daisuke
Orozco, German
Osgood, John
Dan Quintana & Miso
Ota, Nathan
Otto, Nate
Palacio, Sasha
Parker, Jamie Lee
Parra, Kelly
Pascual, Ruel
Patti, Justin
Paulos, Cristina
Paz, Diego
Pedroni, Paulo
Penney, Lisa
Perrozi, Chistina
Peterpaul, Maya
Peterson, Ted
Pigors, Eric
Potocki, Gail
Powell, Stephen
Pamela Tu
Price, Matthew
Purcell, Anthony
Quake 86
Quintana, Dan
Quintana & Miso
Raffio, Natascia
Rich, Martha
Ritchie, Matt "136"
Rook, Luke
Rose, Ave
Salvador, J
Sandberg, Erik Mark
Sandelius, Corey
Sapp, Krys
Schoonover, Chad
Scott, Kim
Shearon, Sam
Sim, Junhee
Simon, Cassandra
Jasmine Worth
Sosnowski, Mike
Stebbins, Josh
Steen, Brandon
Stepanoff, Sean
Stickyrice, Lil-Tseng
Strieck, Rick
Stump, Anna
Sun, Deth P
Sy, Dexter
Tan, Hui
Tarascio, Marco
Templesmith, Ben
Todd, Mark
Tomeoki, Marie
Trelosky, Telopa
Treyfid, Treiops
Tu, Pamela
Kim Zsebe
Umana, Christopher
Velasquez, Christopher
Vitan, Maria
Walizki, Redd
Wang, Susan
Warshaw, Dave
Weldon, Casey
Willey, Marc C.
Worth, Jasmine
Wu, Christine
Zdan, William
Zhou, Misty
Zsebe, Kim

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Can You Handle the Truth?

If your submission is a notebook doodle,
I'm probably not going to take it seriously
I receive a lot of submissions.

New art is the lifeblood of any gallery so I'm happy to look at new work as long as it follows the guidelines posted on  the website (under Submission Policy, a drop menu under the Contact tab on the front page). For this past March's Laluzapalooza exhibition, I reviewed over fifteen thousand individual jpegs. Billy & I narrowed that down to about 227 pieces by 113 artists. Some of the art that didn't make it into this year's show would have been accepted in years past, and there were a lot of pieces that came very close to being included but space would not permit. We sold over two-thirds of the pieces exhibited, which is pretty damn good. Tightening up the curation process paid off, while ruffling more than a few feathers, and resulting in a lot of  defensive (and offensive) emails from artists who requested feedback but didn't get the type they wanted.

Curating is the most important part of my job as gallery director, and it's a job that many people think they can do. The sheer number of new galleries that open and subsequently close every year is testimony to the fact that they can't. The definition for "Curate" on is as follows:

verb (used with object), cu·rat·ed, cu·rat·ing.
1. to take charge of (a museum) or organize (an art exhibit): to curate a photography show.
2. to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation.

Many people acknowledge the first entry, but ignore the second. They specifically ignore the "sift through" part. Sifting inevitably produces disappointment in those not selected. Sometimes it's a tough call, but a lot of the time it isn't. If you do the math, 15,000 minus 227 leaves 14,773, and the vast majority of them were not close calls. In fact, most of them required little more than a cursory glance to pass on them. Some of them were so bad that they actually made me mad. In fact, I spent more time looking at the truly horrendous ones than the really good ones (which are also really easy to select).

A truly awful submission causes deep introspection in a curator worth his salt. Because on some level, whoever submitted that terrible finger painting or found art object assemblage saw something in one of my shows that made them think, "I can do better," which led to me staring aghast at my computer monitor and their "art."

The way the brain makes connections is a curious and complex process. If you've ever had a conversation with a friend or relative in which they suggest that two people with almost no similar characteristics or traits "look alike," you get what I'm saying. Sometimes the subject matter or color palette or materials are digested and regurgitated via the most left field criteria that an artist's occipital lobe can translate, and what they see as similarity remains unseen by 99% of humanity and 100% of curators.

Jean Michel Basquiat, Poedi, 1981, oilstick on paper,
12½ x 17
3/8 inches; Sold: £157,875 ($243,443)

And then there are the hard to explain nuances of primitive-looking works by notable artists in the self-taught movement–like the African American masters we included  in our Simply Iconic exhibition in 2011, or the many blue-chip artists whose work lacks realism. I'd wager that most people look at Jean-Michel Basquiat or even Jackson Pollack, and think, "I can do that," or worse, "My kid could paint that," and  judging solely by ease of mimicry, that might be true. But the historical significance of their work and the stories behind those pieces have played heavily into their demand and subsequent value. Whether or not abstract expressionism is as valid in 2013 as it was in 1956 is an entirely different argument, and whether or not high-concept-but-low-craft has a place at the table anymore is too. But there is no debating that copying a style that lacks realism with a lack of technique, discipline, color theory, composition and originality is not going to produce work on par with what it pretends to mimic.

And this leads to my conundrum:
If you've submitted your art and been rejected, do you really want to know why? Because on some level, the fact that you don't know is a problem, but without proper feedback you'll never know why. If you submit your work (whether solicited or unsolicited), you are inviting criticism. That means you are inviting negative criticism. If you can't handle that, don't submit. I can't tell you how many times I've been provoked to a critique only to get a very nasty response. Here's three words of advice: Don't do that. If you submit your art and get any feedback whatsoever, be thankful. Most galleries won't respond at all unless they want to work with you. Some will extend the uncommon courtesy of a rejection letter. Still fewer will offer a few words of advice, or specific criticism. If they do, don't write back except to say "Thank you."

The worst thing you can do is respond with an emotional, self-aggrandizing defense of your work. That's for art school, not for gallery submissions–and at art school the teachers won't put up with much of that either. You got rejected. Big deal! Suck it up and move on. Don't overstay your welcome. You submitted. They got it. If you didn't hear back, that should tell you something. If you did hear back, it literally did tell you something. Sometimes the feedback is cryptic, and if it is, that's because the gallerist was trying to be nice and let you down easy; either that or they had absolutely no clue how to help you improve. But it's really not their job to help you improve unless you paid them to critique your work and they guaranteed feedback.

Sometimes I send a form rejection letter. Sometimes I dig in and offer specific advice. I'm not doing that to make myself feel good by trampling your dream. In fact, most curators and gallery directors don't respond critically because your shitty art makes us feel even shittier when we have to tell you how shitty it is. Every once in a while I'll get a link from an artist who hasn't taken the initiative to look at the gallery website or look for the submission policy, and clearly they haven't looked at the past few shows to see what kind of art we are showing. That will automatically establish a bad first impression with me. Why would you even want to show at a gallery unless you knew something about it and felt that you fit into their aesthetic? If you haven't extended the gallery the respect of research, why should they extend the courtesy of a response?  Usually I do respond: with a link to our submission policy. If the art doesn't fit, I'll tell them so.

Don't PM me on Facebook, go to the website, read the policy and send a proper submission.

Often we get submissions from artists located outside the USA, and we rarely handle them because it's very expensive to return ship an exhibition to a foreign country–which is what will happen more often then not if we exhibit an artist with no local following. A gallerist has to curate for the space they have, not the space you wish they had, and that involves selling the art. It's what keeps the lights on: curating.

I very rarely send a harsh rejection letter, and when I do I usually let the artist know that the criticism I'm about to give them is going to be harsh. Why? Because some people have no business creating art for a living. Notice I said "business" and not "right." Somewhere along the line an unqualified person gave this "artist" some encouragement that was misguided and likely to eat up a great deal of their lives with dreams that will go unfulfilled. If I sense that there is no chance this person is ever going to sell a painting, it would be much more cruel not to tell them in spite of how uncomfortable it will make me to do so. It will also help keep clear my inbox of subsequent emails from the same rejected artist month after month. Except for maybe karaoke and sex, I can't think of anything but art that so many people are truly bad doing but which still gives them joy. I'm a fan of evident enthusiasm, but I'm not going to showcase bad art. A simple "this doesn't really fit with our program," suffices when the joy is obviously there, but the talent isn't.

I saved my pet peeve for last.

The sixth sentence of our Submission Policy states:
We showcase mainly figurative, narrative paintings and unusual sculpture. Our focus is not abstract expressionism and we are not accepting submissions of video or digital art, photography, edition printing or conceptual installations.

And yet I still receive (on a nearly daily basis) submissions of abstract bullshit, performance art, and highly conceptual, deeply personal photography. 

Just after that, I outline the specific file naming and jpeg size protocol. It's detailed info, but it's not rocket science. I can immediately determine how easy or difficult it will be to work with each artist based on their ability to follow instructions. We've got a lot of very talented people who are a joy to work with, so I don't really need to knowingly add stress to my life via people who can't get their shit together. How many submissions follow the guideline? Surprisingly few. What happens to those that don't? They get deleted. I don't even look at them sometimes. I receive somewhere upwards of 160 emails every day, so a reply to artists who can't follow directions isn't always in the cards.

Most successful artists are either versatile at social media and detail oriented or have someone who handles this for them. For those who don't have a support system in place, it means they'll need to develop these skills. Many successful artists aren't actually better than unknown artists, they're just better at presenting their work. That isn't always easy to hear, but it's the truth.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

Werner Herzog: The Best Video Art Piece of 2013

I worked on the home video releases of most of Werner Herzog's films when I worked at Anchor Bay Entertainment. The incredibly talented director has created a vehemently anti texting-while-driving PSA that is sure to make an impact among the target demographic of young people who will see it in their schools as part of an AT&T community outreach program. We've all done it, I'm sure. Luckily most of us have not had to deal with the consequences that would result from a fatality.

The film is 35 minutes long and sure to disturb. The film is titled "From One Second to the Next."

I don't claim to have permission of any kind to re-post it, but do so as a public service in the hope that video art this powerful is respected in the context of high art.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Our 5th of July Celebration Opens Tonight!

We know that most of you had your 4th of July plans set in stone a long time ago, which is why La Luz de Jesus Gallery put together a killer quartet for the 5th of July instead!

JASMINE WORTH's gothic oil paintings have amassed a rabid following that has resulted in three straight sold-out shows. She continues to explore the Cultus Sanguine concept in a mini exhibition that is sure to sell out again. CLICK MORT is presenting a collection of his remixed nostalgia sculptures that is so impressive, it's worthy of a swan song. The difficulty in locating pieces worthy of his impeccable taste and the growing collector base for his exceptional work may make this a last chance opportunity to add one of his amazingly affordable pieces to your collection. DEREK HARRISON gives us multiple interpretations of the women of Los Angeles in his L.A. Woman exhibition which is less objectification than outright worship. MEL WEINER elevates caricature to a high-concept statement about celebrity cronyism in his Esther Milkfat and Other Characters. These New Yorker-esque drawings are exquisite, and smart collectors will snatch up these inexpensive works from an important Echo Park original-I just hope they'll be willing to loan them back when museum curators request them in a few years. Pre-sales are happening now, so click the artist names above and get in touch with gallery director Matt Kennedy before the pieces you want are purchased by someone else.

For those of you who missed the pop-up show for RUBY RAY's California Punk Photo-show, From the Edge, I've got some good news: We'll be continuing to represent her iconic photography, so click her name above to access some of the pieces we currently have of Darby Crash, Sid Vicious, The Cramps, X and many of the punk rockers that helped establish the music and the scene that changed the culture.

Photo by Chris Cuffaro
Mid-month on Saturday, July 13th, join PATTON OSWALT in paying tribute to the greatest living author of juvenile delinquent fiction, HARLAN ELLISON. The feisty, prolific author reads and signs his Kicks Books releases, Pulling a Train and Getting in the Wind. The event, dubbed Harlan in Hollywood, insures to be an afternoon of pizzazz and vinegar with a true living legend. There are restrictions to what Harlan will sign, so call the book store at (323) 663-0122 for details. Mr. Ellison's public appearances are incredibly rare and the duration of this event will depend upon the audience size at the time of the author's arrival, so be sure to get there early! It all starts at 2 PM.

Friday, June 21, 2013

R.I.P.: Chris Pfouts

Chris Pfouts grew up in Los Angeles in the 1950s and 60s, in the relentless heat of the California motor and surf cultures. During the disco plague years he hit the road, criss-cossing America like a bug in a shoebox. After graduating from N.Y.U.'s journalism school, Pfouts clocked in for a career in magazines. He kept old titles alive and put new ones on the stands. He has edited “International Tattoo Art” magazine since its launch in 1991. He has written six books, including “Lead Poisoning: 25 True Stories from the Wrong End of a Gun,” “Hula Dancers and Tiki Gods,” and “Vacation from Reality: The Art of Anthony Ausgang.” But Chris's biggest accomplishment wasn't his career, but his ability to connect with people. Chris will be missed by his family and many friends. Some folks have asked for a way to contribute to his memorial. There is now a PayPal account set up for that purpose at

As Chris wrote "I go through life like it's a Chinese grocery Store. I didn't understand half the stuff on the shelves, but here and there I find some special, toothsome treasure to keep for myself."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Can Art Be Offensive?

When I first put together the line-up that comprises this month's show over a year ago, I selected three artists whose visual styles and conceptual goals were completely different. Mark Gleason is a mannerist painter whose works maintain a sense of whimsy even though his palette is often dark. Vicki Berndt is the original Big Eye revivalist, having resurrected the work of Walter and Margaret Keane on her cover for Red Kross' Third Eye album long before it became a staple of lowbrow tribute. And Dave Dexter's gift for utilizing pre-programmed imagery to turn stereotypes upside down is both high concept and highly controversial. While we knew that the public reactions to Dave's paintings had the potential to run the spectrum, we expected critical coverage to explain the tradition of visual agitation from which such art extends. Critical reviews were absent, however, and here's why:

Charles Kraftt's Nazi art is under fire
A few months ago, the work of Charles Krafft came under fire when an article by Jen Graves in Seattle's The Stranger weekly paper exposed Kraftt as a Holocaust denier, causing a boycott of his Nazi-themed art. Collectors and curators had for decades interpreted his work as a critique of fascism and bigotry rather than an advertisement for them. A series of rants on his facebook page revealed the accusations to have merit and institutions across the globe removed his work from museum collections and annexed his contributions from planned and ongoing exhibitions. A Rachel Arons article in The New Yorker points out that much of the art Kraftt produced predates his conversion to holocaust denialism and "That work is worth continuing to examine, even if we are disgusted by Krafft’s current personal beliefs and unsure exactly to what extent, or for how long, they have been informing his work. It should always be difficult to look at art about Nazis. Now that looking at Krafft’s art is even more difficult, we shouldn’t look away."

It has occurred to me that critical review of art with such power to polarize can become a proverbial can of worms for art critics, newspapers and the op-ed society that makes up the art world as we know it. I don't think this stems from cowardice per sé, since many critics revel in the idea of controversy, but there is a definite fear of winding up on the wrong side of history. Most critics wait to applaud challenging work until after the artist's sales attain a level of generally undisputed success, and by that point a healthy dose of critical backlash will only help build a provocateur's reputation.

From Dave Dexter's exhibit Round Eye and the Switch
In that respect, it shouldn't surprise me that painting's like Dave Dexter's Human Safari (pictured) didn't garner much local or even web coverage. Dave Dexter isn't Damien Hirst yet. And it would be a great disservice to compare Dexter to Kraftt, because Dave is not a racist and happens to be a really lovely man who utilizes such imagery to open a dialogue about corporate culture and confronting the skeletons in the American closet. Much of the subject matter presented in his art comes straight from the headlines not on page one, but on page 36, exposing a mentality still present and which deserves discussion, debate and revelation.

In the grand scheme of things, what does this say about context or irony? In other words, how does an inanimate object offend? What gives a work of art the power to offend if not the singular viewer's own perception? James E. Young, the director of the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, addressed such matters in an essay that accompanied a similarly controversial exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York back in 2002: 
"We have every right to ask whether such obsession with these media-generated images of the past is aesthetically appropriate. Or whether by including such images in their work, the artists somehow affirm and extend them, even as they intend mainly to critique them and our connection to them. Yet this ambiguity between affirmation and criticism seems to be part of the artists’ aim here. As offensive as such work may seem on the surface, the artists might ask, is it the... imagery itself that offends, or the artists’ aesthetic manipulations of such imagery? Does such art become a victim of the imagery it depicts? Or does it actually tap into and thereby exploit the repugnant power of... imagery as a way merely to shock and move its viewers? Or is it both, and if so, can these artists have it both ways?”
The bottom line is that no painting or sculpture is by itself offensive. A specific mindset is required, and that mindset is itself a bi-product of intentional indoctrination. Perhaps what disturbs us is the realization that as sophisticated as we might think we are, we are easily manipulated by symbols. Anger doesn't stem from the affront of the imagery or even the reaction it originally solicited; it's the power of all pre-programmed imagery against ambivalence that incites us.

If you haven't stopped into the gallery to check out this show, I really can't recommend highly enough that you do. This is the last week, and I don't know how long it will be before you get the chance to view something this stimulating in a gallery again. This is an exhibition that confronts you not only with the artist's point of view, but demands that you confront yourself about your own. It's one thing to manipulate a reaction, and quite another thing to stimulate the national discourse. History will be kind to Dave Dexter, hopefully without diluting the courage of his message, which is this:

We've come a long way, baby. Or have we?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bringing the Desert back to Hollywood

In a little more than a week, we'll be opening an exhibition for one of the Joshua Tree community's favorite sons, Bobby Furst. Bobby came to assemblage relatively late in lifeafter a celebrated career in photojournalism. Seeing his work now, fifteen years later, it's evident that this is what he was born to do. Furst's collectors are as many as his exhibitions are rare. Make no mistake: this is an event not to be missed. This collection of work, (titled, "Don't Push Me,") was hand picked by Billy Shire to recreate the look and feel of Bobby's desert studio. It'll be a veritable Burning Man reunion!

We'll also have a collection of customized Rat Fink statues and original Ed "Big Daddy" Roth art (and tribute pieces from like-minded individuals) along with original Fink toys, stickers and collectibles. It all happens on June 7th!