The Los Feliz-based La Luz De Jesus Gallery’s 10th annual group show, “Everything But The Kitschen Sync,” opened on March 2.
The exhibit is a collection of unconventional art by various artists who display provocative religious, sexual and social images, as well as some comic book style pieces.
The show’s rebellious and colorful images are refreshing and with a certain charm, but hardly the decor for the average living room.
The style is called “Lowbrow art,” said Billy Shire, gallery founder and art enthusiast. “(The show is a) pop culture surrealist collection.”
Shire’s calm transcendent air clashes with the underground pieces of the show, which he describes as “supermarket of pop art.
He used to be “the only game in town” with a modest beginning in his original La Luz de Jesus Gallery on Melrose Avenue, Shire said. By now, the early appreciators of Lowbrow art have grown and can afford to splurge on his shows.
“Business has become profitable,” Shire said. “I’ve built myself a niche.”
Some of the early clientele of La Luz de Jesus is contributing to the gallery in other ways. Elizabeth McGrath, one of Shire’s longtime clients, is currently exhibiting her work at the Billy Shire Fine Arts Gallery in Culver City.
“As a teenager, she would come to my gallery saying that one day she would show her own work,” Shire said.
Shire, who is a self-taught gallery owner, refers to himself as a craftsman. His 30-year career has included selling soap, designing belts for Elton John, printing T-shirts, while also providing a forum for some of Los Angeles’ most unconventional artists.
The group show is an outlet for artists of varying techniques.
“The Eyes Have It,” by Ian Strawn, is a portrait of a woman with a bruised face whose green eyes shine through, making the piece one of the show’s most powerful images.
Lance Richlin, an artist who teaches painting at Laguna College of Art and Design, made two portraits that are among the show’s more conventional pieces.
One portrait is of a pale irish woman with soft hair and peaceful expression on her face portrayed against a light dreamy canvas.
“(This is) the next big art movement that is not cold and confusing to people,” said Richlin, who paints most of his work in front of his students..
Fantasy is a prevalent theme throughout the show. Tim French’s “Social Vat,” one of the show’s most eccentric pieces, displays colorful mutating comic figures with horns and numerous droopy eyes.
The show’s eccentricity has not won over every patron.
“It’s post-pop showing a break down of humanity saying we’re all so oppressed with nothing better to do,” said patron Richard McDowell.
The gallery accepts submissions for the annual group show. They prefer smaller pieces, which must be submitted by the second Friday of January.
Shire personally decides what pieces make it to the group show, a process that can take up to two days of continuous work. Perseverance is the key to getting in the show, Shire said.
La Luz de Jesus, which is Spanish for “the light of Jesus,” started as a soap shop founded by Shire and his mother in 1971. The gallery, which hosts a new show every month, was added to the store in 1984.
The show includes more 200 pieces by 120 artists and will be on display all of March.