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What Would Jesus Paint?

We appreciate art as much as the next guy, but sometimes entering a snooty Westside gallery can be a daunting experience. No, we can’t afford to buy anything, and we have no clue about what the obscure postmodern quasi-Cubist stuff on the wall is paying homage to. We just like to look at pretty pictures, and if it’s bright, whimsical, campy, folky, cartoony, dark, provocative, even a little tacky, we’ll probably eat it up. We’re not alone: The continued success of Billy Shire’s La Luz De Jesus Gallery (4633 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323-666-7667) proves that. Back when it was the second level of Shire’s Melrose store the Soap Plant, its monthly openings (which remain every first Friday of the month) — then curated by Robert Lopez a.k.a. El Vez — showcased everyone from Juxtapoz mag founder Robert Williams to car-culture phenom Coop long before their works were seen on stickers, album covers and countless books. Since moving both his stores (Soap Plant and Wacko) and the gallery to the East Hollywood/Silver Lake area several years ago, Shire’s space has seen a whole new slew of stars rise, like swingin’ scheme king Shag, whose groovy pieces filled with gyrating vixens and cool cocktail-sippin’ dudes are the epitome of retro cool — or is that modern cool? Whatever, they’re really fun to look at, especially with the free beer.