Friday, 28 September 2012 01:22

Art Blog >> Blurring the Line Between Fine Art and Illustration: The BLAB Show

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Blurring the Line Between Fine Art and Illustration: The BLAB Show (BLAB World 2012 Art Exhibition) at Copro Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica

The night the latest annual BLAB Show opened at Copro Gallery, Bergamot Station was having its 18th anniversary, and the place was insanely mobbed, with live rock music pouring out of wide-open doors and throngs of people winding their way around food trucks and parked cars to get from one gallery to the next. There was plenty of intriguing stuff to see at every gallery, but as soon as I arrived I made a beeline for the BLAB Show because I love it every single year.

The BLAB Show has been held every year at Copro Gallery since 2005 (part of that time the gallery was called Copro Nason). It features the original art that is published in BLAB World, an anthology of fine art, comics, and illustration published annually by award-winning art director and graphic designer Monte Beauchamp. The current show contains work that will be published in the forthcoming BLAB World 3.

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Erik Mark Sandberg, “Up,” acrylic, oil, airbrush, and urethane.

When he began publishing BLAB! (the first anthology that led to BLAB World) in the 1980s, Beauchamp was an advertising art director in Chicago. The book’s square shape was inspired by record jackets. Beauchamp’s experience as an art director and designer no doubt facilitated his assembly of the anthology. The process has put him in touch with a great variety of cartoonists, illustrators, and fine artists over many years, and the anthology continues to be a platform for artists with different types of artistic backgrounds and careers, without forcing the fine artists to stick with galleries and the cartoonists and illustrators to stay out of them. Beauchamp has also written and edited other art books for various publishers, including “The Life and Times of R. Crumb: Comments from Contemporaries” (St. Martin’s Press), “Krampus: The Devil of Christmas” (Last Gasp), “Striking Images: Vintage Matchbook Cover Art” (Chronicle Books), and, in collaboration with various artists, a series of illustrated BLAB! storybooks with titles such as “Old Jewish Comedians” (with Drew Friedman), “The Magic Bottle” (with Camille Rose Garcia), and “Struwwelpeter and Other Disturbing Tales for Human Beings” (with Bob Staake).

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Eric White, “Magic Fingers,” oil on canvas.

Beauchamp has said that he doesn’t distinguish between fine art and illustration, and in the past he has taken the annual BLAB Show from the Society of Illustrators’ Museum of American Illustration in New York to Copro Gallery in LA without acknowledging that there is any contradiction in hanging “illustration” on gallery walls. This summer BLAB World even presented a show called “The Fine Art of Illustration” at Curly Tale Fine Art gallery in Chicago, featuring poster art, magazine and book illustration, and other art previously used for commercial and editorial purposes.

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Mark Garro, “Gravity,” acrylic and oil on masonite.

I personally love illustration and fine art equally—well, maybe illustration a little more, because I used to be a book editor—and I think that both should be valued equally as art. I don’t believe that any media is exclusive to either fine art or illustration anymore; for example, a sculptor could illustrate a magazine article by making a three-dimensional piece and photographing it, and an illustrator could contribute a pen-and-ink caricature to a gallery show. To me, the answer to distinguishing between fine art and illustration lies in the artist’s purpose, the curator’s or art director’s purpose in commissioning or gathering the work, and in what setting the work is presented to the public. Something hanging on a wall might be coernsidered fine art while it’s on that wall. Something published in a book, accompanying a story or an article, might be considered illustration. And a book that is shaped like a record jacket (which would traditionally be “illustrated”) and is accompanied by a gallery show, like BLAB World, succeeds in blurring the line between the two.

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Ana Bagayan, “Moon Babies,” oil on wood.

The BLAB Show is running through September 29 at Copro Gallery, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Unit T5, Santa Monica (in the Bergamot Station complex). BLAB World 2 and other back issues of the BLAB book are now for sale at the gallery. For more details, visit BLAB World has a Web site as well: There are numerous published articles about BLAB! and Monte Beauchamp that you can find through Google; I especially enjoyed the interview with Beauchamp conducted in 2010 by Michael Dooley for Imprint magazine (

Read 3180 times Last modified on Friday, 28 September 2012 01:33
Thea Saks

Thea Saks is an artist based in Los Angeles. Her company, The Mighty Squirm (, specializes in apparel and art prints with designs inspired by folklore and historical periods of interest, especially the 19th century. Thea's work has appeared in local galleries including Cella Gallery, Cannibal Flower, and La Luz de Jesus, as well as Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco and District VII in Detroit. The Mighty Squirm has participated in markets for highly original merchandise such as Unique LA, Bats Day Black Market, Bazaar Bizarre, Comikaze Los Angeles, and Son of Monsterpalooza.

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