The Illustrated Men

La Dubla arts collective celebrates the female form and male bonding

What happens when you fuse zine culture with an art show? You get Long Distance La Dubla, a group exhibit at Blackbird Studios. The group is La Dubla, a collective of artists who are co-conspirators in blurring the traditionally impermeable boundaries that separate high art, commercial drawing and comics. Largely a collection of surreal portraits of women, the exhibition also celebrates a friendship shared by three guys who began teaming up on zines in ’05. Case in point, the show’s title refers to the group’s collaborating impulse even though members are split between Los Angeles and Vegas. Here’s a rundown of La Dubla’s three core members.

The Tattoo-Shop Owner. When not inking skin, the L.A.-based Tom Haubrick renders images on paper and canvas. His current efforts are spectral, charcoal-hued portraits of attractive, pupil-less young men and women ideally suited for the book jacket of a YA adventure novel. Skulls, fish and flower designs also find their way into his work, hovering in the foreground of each portrait like spirit-animal auras or else lingering at the painting’s edges like ghosts. Haubrick injects every piece with a healthy dose of pop surrealism and just a hint of dark psychedelia. Haubrick is definitely the “painterly” member of the trio, but his pop-culture aspiration keeps his works from being too abstract, pretentious or forgettable. Maybe you’ve seen his work in Juxtapoz? Thought you did.

The Pro Illustrator. Angeleno Ken Garduno’s paintings, featured in Long Distance, mix the brighter, playful surrealism of Salvador Dalí with the straight-up indie comics aesthetic of Daniel Clowes. One Garduno painting features the shadow of a bird-headed man kissing a glum-faced, topless woman. Another erotic-tinged work is “Apparition,” in which a bird-headed, bare-breasted, high-heeled-and-gartered woman squats amid abstract shapes and cosmic imagery. Garduno’s commercial background means his work tends to be more instantly admired and superficially attractive. He also layers in symbolism (eyes, faces, window imagery) and teenage-fantasy motifs (superheroes, classic movie monsters, fleshy pinups) with a dollop of snark to keep viewers on their toes.

The Comic-Bookish One. Finally, there’s shaggy-haired Travis Jackson, 30, who grew up in Vegas. He’s a formally trained artist who displays his works in incongruent places: tattoo shops, boutique L.A. galleries, Comic-Con (the collective will have a booth there in July). Jackson is the “hippie” in La Dubla. His art in Long Distance is steeped in the mind-expanding, hallucinogenic visuals of the swingin’ ’60s, back when nudity, water bongs and Keep on Truckin’ attitudes reigned. Armed with a reference collection of vintage dirty men’s magazines, he’s constantly drawing furry beavers and hairy wieners. In some ways, Jackson’s drawings seem born too late; one suspects he might’ve better thrived during the underground comix movement of ’60s-era San Francisco alongside artists like Robert Crumb. Still, Jackson’s work conjures all the grungy-sunshine atmosphere of a Haight-Ashbury head shop. “I’ve always been inspired by the ’60s,” Jackson says. “The incredible art of that time makes it a liberating cultural movement in history.”

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