La Luz de Jesus Gallery begun in 1986 and is located on Hollywood Blvd in the heart of downtown Hollywood. The gallery is the self-reputed brainchild of gallerist/art collector Billy Shire. Ascribing to the uncanny decadence and surreal imagery of outsider art practice, the gallery has become a showcase for the best underground art being made today. La Luz describes their mission as “showcasing mainly figurative, narrative paintings, and unusual sculpture. The exhibitions are considered post-pop; the art content ranges from folk to outsider to religious to sexually deviant. The gallery's main objective is to bring underground artists and counter culture to the masses.”
Walking through La Luz is much the same experience one might have wandering through a flea market for the dispossessed, a circus sideshow or a strange macabre carnival where artist Dale Sizer's small paintings of dog heads appear more like images from Rod Serling's famed seventies television show Night Gallery where selected paintings came to life, presupposing allegories and weird circumstances. Still other of Sizer's works show an Elvira-like woman French kissing a man, yet staring, disturbingly doe-eyed out at the viewer, her gaze either imploring our help, or implicating us within our own voyeurism. The gallery shies away from nothing and no subject matter seems taboo. Much of the work they show is purposefully sexually explicit, salacious, even downright deviant, and judging from the number of folks who attend their often riotous, always exciting openings, they may very well be the hottest alternative art space in town.
La Luz de Jesus is also unusual in that it exists within the even more alternative setting of Whacko, a store that sells anything from rubberized rats to fart toys to screaming nun dashboard Jeanies. You want it, they got it; the only criteria is that it must be “whacked out”, weird, fanciful and fun. Originally begun as the Soap Plant in 1971 located on Melrose Avenue, the store kept expanding to include weird memorabilia, gift cards, and what can only be termed odd eccentricities for the young at heart (scented bath soaps included). Now in its third decade, Shire has given rise to a new school of art, indeed a new breed of artist that include the likes of Joe Coleman and Manuel Ocampo, who began as unknowns and are now considered luminaries in today's competitive art world.
Shire has a keen eye not only for great art, but for the business of art. Many galleries have long since hung up their shingles in the face of financial hardship, yet Shire persists, having formulated a system that works, i.e. open a gallery inside an already tried and true thriving business and there you have it: instant art sales, or if not, then at least you have a built-in audience and a lot of activity. It seems to work, and many other galleries might take note of his success: low-brow (some might even go so far as to say “I would never show MY artwork in such a consumerist's haven. God Forbid!”) is the way to go, especially in today's slumped economy where people are renting four to a room like they did back in the nineteen thirties. Perhaps the breadlines are right around the corner, and if so, do you think they'll be serving baguettes?