Twenty-one years after La Luz de Jesus Gallery first explored the faux-Polynesian “Tiki” culture with lowbrow artists reinterpreting the mid-20th-century phenomenon, the Los Angeles spot is back with two shows. “The Art of Tiki: 21st Anniversary Art of Tiki Show & No False Idols” is a two-parter that offers both “contemporary artistic interpretations of the Tiki art form and vintage Tiki originals from which the modern movement sprang.”
“Back in 1996, La Luz de Jesus Gallery hosted the first themed show of its kind, gathering new voices in the low-brow art world to offer a collective artistic interpretation of the original, mid-century Poly-pop period,” a statement says. “The Art of Tiki exhibition effectively ushered in the postmodern Tiki era, introducing newly themed Tiki art by such luminary artists as Mark Ryden, SHAG, Mitch O’Connell and Pizz. Since that debut 21 years ago, the contemporary Tiki movement has flowered into virtual crusade of escapism. Art, music, gastronomy and even whole Tiki-conventions offer worldwide, year-round opportunities to revel in grandpa’s version of urban escapism; an expression of recreational diversion, which radiates still since its flashpoint following the epic conflict of World War II.”
One show commemorates that 1996 show, curated by Otto Von Stroheim, with some of those pieces, as well as current Tiki artists and craftsmen. Artists include Shag, Atomikitty, Bai, BigToe, Bosko, Dave Hansen, and several others. The latter show, “The Art of Tiki: No False Idols,” gathers original decor from the mid-century Tiki craze. “Famed establishments as Trader Vic’s, Kona Kai and Kon Tiki will be represented as well as renowned artists such as Leroy Schmaltz, Barney West, William Westenhaver, Jim Casey, Milan Guanko, Richard Ellis and Andres Bumatay,” the gallery says. All of the pieces from “No False Idols” have already sold out.
Author Sven Kirsten has chronicled the Tiki culture story for the past few decades. His latest book, The Art of Tiki, specifically deals with what’s presented in this show.