coaster show

[Image Courtesy of Lee Joseph with permission from La Luz de Jesus Gallery]

Have you ever sat in a bar, bored, sipping a beer with a pen in hand doodling on a coaster? We’ve all done it, right? Well the La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Hollywood, California, has elevated the art of beer coaster doodling to new heights with the The 3rd Annual Coaster Show.

As the title of the exhibit suggests, this is the third year that the gallery has distributed 4” round canvases to artists nationwide asking them to submit their art for consideration for the exhibit. This year they received 2,500 submissions for inclusion in the show.

In fact, the show is so popular, they ran out of blank coasters several months ago and resorted to giving out left overs from previous years. In a recent exclusive interview with Pop Culture Passionistas, Gallery Director Matt Kennedy explained. “I was so impressed by what I saw I wanted to be sure that they had a way to participate… In previous years we had handed out 5,000 coasters. This year people had to contact me with email that had an example of their artwork. If looking at that made me think they could do a good job, then I would send them coasters.”

The artists work in any medium of their choosing and the range is quite varied — pencils, oils, watercolor, mixed media, markers, pen and ink, cut paper, wood, metal, clay and even “kitty bones.” Each piece of 4” art more beautiful than the next.

While we, or course, are drawn to the pop-culture references like the Mike Bell’s acrylic of “The Dude,” Terry Montimore’s sharpie, markers and color pencil rendition of “Good Talk Russ” and Nathan Anderson’s colored pencil “Tribute to River Phoenix,” there is truly something for everyone in this exhibit. You’ll find whimsical bicycles sketches, detailed anime art and even three dimensional collages and cut paper pieces. Anything goes as long as it is confined to the scale of the 4” canvas.

Matt explained that while many of the artists are relatively unknown, some big names of the art world have contributed to the exhibit as well. He stated, “In years past we had Ronnie Bush do a coaster that was only $140, which puts that somewhere in the one tenth of a percent what his art usually sells for. A lucky collector got to add a Ronnie Bush to their collection where they would not have been able to otherwise.”

And they hold out hopes that some of the greats, will also join them. He stated, “Every year we hand out coasters to Mark Ryden and hope he turns them back in. I won’t say whether or not he’s in this year’s show. Who wouldn’t love to have a Mark Ryden coaster for $250?” Fans of the “godfather of pop surrealism” will need to stop by the gallery to see if there’s a chance to own an original Ryden.

The idea for the Coaster Show came about out of necessity a few years ago when an artist backed out of an exhibit just a few months before the opening. Unsure of how to fill the walls of gallery Matt had a serendipitous conversation with a friend who was on the board for The LA Beer event. Matt recalls, “He asked if it would be possible to schedule a pop-up show during their Beer Week event. Without hesitation, I said, ‘Let’s do a coaster show.’ And I was very happy when the next thing he said was ‘we actually have these branded coasters already made’… So we went from there and no looking back.”

Now, three years old the exhibit has grown from 700 coasters in 2013 to 1,000 this year. Each tiny work of art sells for less than $250 making it possible for just about anyone to own an original masterpiece. In fact, some lucky attendees could walk out with a free masterpiece as some of the artwork is marked as $0. If you are quick enough to spot it first and grab a gallery employee, it’s yours.

La Luz De Jesus Gallery is known for creating the genre of lowbrow art, but browse the exhibit and you’ll see that while the concept of beer coaster art may seem lowbrow on the surface, the artwork is truly inspired, creative and masterful.

The exhibit begins tonight, Friday, September 4, with an opening reception from 8-11pm and a closing party on Sunday, September 27, noon-6pm. You can find the gallery at 4633 Hollywood Boulevard Los Angeles, California. For more details visit laluzdejesus.com.

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