If the Orange County art world recalls 2006—at all; that was a lot of pinot grigio—this'll maybe be remembered as the year that Juxtapozbroke. In many, many ways, but chiefly at two locations: Dana Jazyeri's late, lamented Subject Matter gallery/boutique at the Lab, and the eponymous J. Flynn Gallery—both of which sprang up in Costa Mesa to showcase the type of work previously seen almost exclusively in Jux and a mere handful of credible galleries across the nation. So yes: once again, we're discussing Costa Mesa.
This time last year, we were remembering how this haven for tired masses yearning to breathe free was where, in January 2005, graffiti-ist Neckface temporarily became a guest of the state after doing what he does best on a billboard. Somehow—whether it's the presence of Velcro Alley (Monrovia Street, along which are headquartered so many surf- and skatewear companies—Monument, Paul Frank Industries, RVCA), or the periodic emergence of some cool illegal skate spots—this city has become a nice little venue for street art.
Juxtapoz started it, finally convincing DJ (Subject Matter) and Jack Flynn to spend money last year. Its influence in helping prove the existence of, then popularizing, what's variously been called lowbrow art, kustom kulture, skate art or surf art (but really should be called art) can't be overstated. Running an art gallery is a very tough racket on the days when nobody wanders in to buy your paintings. (Those are called weekdays.) But since 1994, Jux has succeeded in creating a scene around people like Mark Ryden, Todd Schorr, Glenn Barr and Camille Rose Garcia—artists who previously didn't have one.
The lure of this candy-colored tangerine-flake stuff is irresistible, and so—coincidentally also in January 2005—Jazyeri stepped up, moving his gallery/boutique from a spot on Newport Boulevard into the Lab. For a while, it was a great fit. Shows featured everyone from graffiti artist KRUSH 1 to painter Tristan Eaton to master-of-cuddly-robots Jeff Soto: the perfect mind-meld of graffiti with space art with those limited edition Japanese vinyl action figures you can never find in stores (more on that below). A high point was Soto's book signing a year ago for his excellent Potato Stamp Dreams, when the giant robot action figure he'd designed seemed poised to debut that spring. We're still waiting. And as for Subject Matter, the rent caught up with them—as it does us all.
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Its doors closed this fall, just months after Kitsch bar owner Jack Flynn opened his own gallery in July: a typically austere-looking place he envisioned as a starter gallery for the uninitiated.
"Looking at art, it can be intimidating to some people," he said back in August. "I don't want that to be the case. Not that I'm the savior. But I think the responsibility of this gallery is to ease people into art." His gateway pieces—which presumably could some day have you looking at a Van Gogh—have included paintings and concept walls of found objects by husband-wife artists Jeff Gillette and Laurie Hassold; senoritas on velvet by Marco Almera; and the finely detailed creepiness of Jason Maloney, who's seen a few Rydens in his day.
Three of Maloney's works went up at J. Flynn even as a feature on the artist was on the stands in Juxtapoz—at 7-Eleven, which squares the circle. Say it together: Juxtapozis sold at 7-Eleven—a deal that, like the mag's pages upon pages of toy ads, Scion ads, toy reviews and pictures of Scions decorated by artists, must send its revenue through the roof. Perhaps this is the year we grudgingly—for we sort of almost really still like it—stop calling Juxtapoz an art magazine with toy ads and rechristen it a toy magazine with stories about art. With apologies to its founder, artist Robert Williams, a longtime hot rodder who knows his car history and should know better. I'm sure he remembers when, around the turn of the decade in 1960, Rod & Custombecame, for a time, a go-kart magazine with pictures of cars—until its editors woke up after a few years and cast out the karts. When will that happen at Juxtapoz—and what's the incentive now it's sold at convenience stores? LA Weekly'sDoug Harvey pointed out in a May memoriam for the magazine's founder and publisher Fausto Vitello that Jux outsells Art Forumand Art in America. Top that? Not likely—even if Juxhasfinally jumped a Charlie Krafft porcelain great white shark painted by Mister Cartoon. This is still art we're talking about; you can live without it—unlike, say, crack—and they'd be fools not to take that money to the bank. A good bank, not Farmers & Merchants, even if it fucks up their street cred in the end.
So we're the real losers here as usual, unless we manage to sell all our limited-edition Dunnies and Munnies on eBay just before the bottom drops out of the market and Kustom Kulture truly dies—as it now surely must. 7-Eleven? Where will those of us turn who don't know what art is, but know what we like? Marcel Duchamp'd be the logical choice—if he weren't playing pinochle in Hell with Artie Shaw, Tallulah Bankhead and The Amazing Criswell. He started it, in 1917, with his Fountain: arguably the first-ever found-object piece of art—paving the way for the canonization of a pinstriper you know. Bring back Duchamp. So we can kick his ass.