The Daily Heller: Washed Ashore on Lou Beach

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From the desk of Heironymus Beach …

I've long admired Lou Beach's work. But I've always collaged his work with other collagists I've enjoyed and savored. This is an awkward way of saying, thanks, Lou, for all you do. And further thanks for sending me your latest work, The Guardian of Earthly Delights (below) and for answering my inane questions (even farther below).

Just in case my reader(s) do not have the energy to click here, I've done the service of excerpting this Beach boy's bio (below again)—but ONLY if you click here and here and here first. Oh, and here.

Lou Beach (né Andrzej Jerzy Lubicz-Ledwochowski) was born in Göttingen, Germany, in 1947, the son of Polish parents displaced by the second World War. The family emigrated to Rochester, NY, in 1951, where Lou attended public schools and junior college. He traveled to California in 1968, where he began his artistic career by making assemblage art and studying the Surrealists, visiting galleries and museums, and creating collages from pictures cut from old Life magazines. He worked during this time in bookstores, as a delivery man, moved furniture, and ran a punch press and forklift. A road trip across the country, ostensibly to travel on to Europe from the East Coast, brought him to Boston, where he lived from 1972–1979, much of the time as the sexton at the famous Arlington St. Church. There he created collages in earnest and had his first one-man show at the newly established Boston Center for the Arts, as well as being hired for several illustration assignments.

Returning to L.A., he reacquainted himself with old friends, one of whom was prominent in the music business, and was asked to illustrate an album cover. This was the beginning of a long and fruitful career as a record cover illustrator as well as an editorial illustrator, making pictures for magazines and newspapers. He continued making art, if not showing in galleries, by creating collages as gifts and for his personal enjoyment. Not until his grown children (Alpha and Sam), both fine artists, encouraged him to seriously concentrate on making art again did he embark on reestablishing himself in that realm. A nearly sold-out show at Billy Shire Fine Arts in 2009 saw the reemergence of Lou in the world of fine art, along with subsequent showings at Nickelodeon, La Luz de Jesus, OffRamp Gallery, Craig Krull Gallery (all in Los Angeles), Adventureland (Chicago), Firecat Projects (Chicago), Jack Fischer Gallery (San Francisco), Frederick Holmes and Company (Seattle) and a large representation of work at the Metro Show in NYC in 2015. He is represented in Los Angeles by Craig Krull Gallery, in San Francisco by Jack Fischer Gallery, and in Seattle by Frederick Holmes and Company.

When did you switch your creative twitch to collage?I never switched. Started out making cut-outs and tearing paper as a youngster and continued on when I became an illustrator. In the late '80s I started using the computer to make collages, but the procedures are the same in building a picture. I’m back doing more analog collages for the last 10 years or so. And it’s more an itch than a twitch. Unlike the computer, it’s a bitch when there’s a glitch, cuz there’s no redo button. I tired of the computer, found it enervating, and felt rejuvenated when I returned to the world of scissors and glue and X-Actos, with little bits of paper stuck to my shoe.

I love collage as process and outcome and art, like those by Hannah Hoch, John Heartfield, Max Ernst and Joseph Cornell, etc. But yours are so damn funny. They make me belly laugh. Do they make you laugh? Is that the intent?

I suppose the intent is to provoke a reaction, whether laughter, anger, sadness, dismay, whatever. I think a lot of my work leaves people perplexed, along with whichever emotion was initially triggered. Ernie Kovaks was an important early influence, an improvisational surrealist. I loved watching him as a kid. I think of many of my pictures, the obviously funny ones, as sight gags, the things he excelled at. I’m glad they make you laugh. I should charge more. I make myself laugh. I talk to myself, alone in the studio. My wife sometimes will shout “Who are you talking to?” I do sometimes get a chuckle from a picture, but belly laughs? Not so much. Maybe we should switch (again with the switching!) jobs?

Why do you think they work so humorously? Is it more than just the juxtaposition of elements?

Hey, I just make them without much forethought beyond a vague itch (see above) to make something coherent from the chaos of images on my work table. I do work in chaos and relish the struggle to find my way out. I was a goofball in school and then went on to make a career of it. But Steve, you perhaps are missing the underlying angst and search for meaning, the tragedy, that is woven into these pictures.

You revel in verbal puns. Do you have titles for each one of these that's pun-ish? Or punishing?

The lowest form of humor, it’s said. No worse than pratfalls, surely. The titles are sometimes punny or, yes, punishing—in the sense that they may cause the viewer to say “WTF?” I prefer to be thought of as a prankster rather than a punster. Your
name is a pun, a verbal collage, so to speak. Is that an answer to any question?

Why a duck?

How long will you keep this up?If it lasts for more than 24 hours, I may seek medical attention.What's next for you?More of the same. I really am not that good at much else, though I’ve been creating little animations that people seem to enjoy. Oh, I write a little story now and then, as well. I stay away from practicing medicine.