Billy Shire is an art visionary. With the single goal to make underground artists and counterculture accessible to the general public, Billy paved the way for the Lowbrow genre while simultaneously altering the way the world views and talks about art. After 25 years of curating groundbreaking exhibitions at the (now) infamous La Luz de Jesus Gallery, Billy Shire and his team have put together a retrospective survey featuring three generations of some of the most intriguing artists working today. Here Billy takes some time out of his hectic schedule to talk about the inspiration behind starting a gallery, the first art piece he bought, and some of the talent he discovered.
Father of low-brow art (How did it all begin?)
I went to a seminal art show at the Zero One called “The Western Exterminator Show” with the father of lowbrow - Robert Williams, Gary Panter & Big Daddy Roth then decided to open a gallery.
Fame (How do you feel about being recognized?)
Mostly ambivalent, usually surprised.
Fortune (Are you in the art game for the money?)
To be in the art biz, you either have to be a fool or have the soul of a used car salesman. I haven’t figured out which one I fall under.
Fate (Do you believe in it?)
Happens all the time.
Format (What other art styles are you interested in?)
By this, I take it you mean other than Lowbrow – if so, just about any art movement or style before 1950. Then stuff started to get sucky.
Frustration (What about the low-brow art world do you find frustrating now vs. when it began?)
There weren’t enough good artists in the beginning. Now there are too many…wait, there still aren’t enough good artists…
Fudge (What is the curse word you tend to use the most?)
Firsts (When and what was the first piece of art you bought and how did it feel?)
Probably this shower curtain piece I bought at Steve’s House of Fine Art back in 1982 or so. I think it made me happy at the time, don’t know what happened to it. (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Steves-House-of-Fine-Art/167931573260352?v=info)
Fun (What do you do for fun and in your free time?)
What free time? Bike. Movies. Music.
False Perceptions (Do you think some people are turned off by the label of being low-brow?)
Yes but I’m not going to go into this. The name doesn’t fit 95% of what is categorized as Lowbrow
Finger Pointing (Who are some of the first artists you discovered?)
Robert Williams, sort of. Coop, Pizz, Manual Ocampo, Owen Smith, Aaron Smith, Clayton Brothers.
Friends (Do you tend to hang out with artists, collectors, Hollywood types, etc.?)
Yeah, all of those.
Fulfillment (What floats your boat?)
Completing a project.
Fuck-ups (If you could go back, would you like to redo a part of your life?)
Not open a retail store & gallery
Flesh (Do you have any tattoos, piercings, birthmarks or scars?)
Fury (What consistently pisses you off?)
Follow (Where can people track what you’re up to?)
(Note, Billy Shire does no social networking – keep up with the gallery at www.laluzdejesus.com and the Friends of La Luz de Jesus Facebook group )
Finish (Is there anything else you’d like to add?)
When can we do this again…
Thanks Billy! La Luz de Jesus 25th Anniversary Show runs until November 27th. Be sure to check it out before it ends.