The Los Angeles Times has a nice piece through the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot on Amerikan Krazy:
During the early 1970s, photography wasn’t commonly accepted as fine art. Laguna Beach, even then known as an artists colony, was devoid of photography laboratories producing color and black and white prints.
But some, like photographers Mark Chamberlain and Jerry Burchfield, fought back against the idea.
Artist friends tried to discourage the two from opening a photography business and gallery in the coastal town, but Chamberlain and Burchfield were set on creating a studio that would meet the needs of their artwork and vision.
And 43 years later, BC Space, the nondescript gallery off Forest Avenue that never relied on advertising — other than a listing in the phone book — is still attracting audiences to its innovative shows and exhibitions, which often depict political, social and environmental issues.
That cultural unease and rebellion runs through the gallery’s current collection, “Amerikan Krazy: Life Out of Balance.” The assembled art — not just photographs — of more than 20 Southland artists was named after author and arts curator Henry James Korn’s latest book, Amerikan Krazy.
Korn, former arts and culture program development specialist for the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, wrote about the meaning of power in post-modern America and the conditions of contemporary life.
The exhibition, which features artists Jeff Gillette, Tom Lamb and Stephen Anderson, among others, spoofs theme parks, fast food restaurants and development.
Jacques Garnier’s black and white photograph “Ode to Failure” is a snapshot of a highway overpass.
Glenn Brooks’ “Good Meds Bad Meds” is an actual miniature bookcase — not a photo or a painting — that holds pill containers and a mask of a lifeless face.
Lynn Kubasek’s “Flag of My Brother” is a similar sort of artifact, in this case a replica of a flag made out of a striped military jacket.
“A lot of this is questioning American values, corporate power and abuse,” Chamberlain said. “War has been a constant theme, because it’s the most uncivilized and inhumane activity we can do.”
Chamberlain, a native of Dubuque, Iowa, earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Iowa. Two days after receiving his master’s, he was drafted into the Army.
His one-year tour of duty in South Korea during the Vietnam War would change his life.
While stationed overseas, Chamberlain picked up photography as a creative outlet. He took Korean language classes and met a photography instructor in the military crafts program who told him to capture deeper meanings when photographing subjects, landscapes and lifestyles.
When he returned home, Chamberlain wanted to open a photography gallery, so he headed to Los Angeles. He relocated to Laguna Beach when he learned that his brother-in-law was studying at UC Irvine.
When inquiring about submissions for the Laguna Beach Winter Festival of Arts, Chamberlain met Burchfield, and the two became the first to submit photographs for the festival.
Two years later, the friends formed a business partnership and opened BC Space.
The gallery, which can only be entered through a discreet steel door, is a former Masonic Lodge. When the artists took it over, the 900-square-foot studio quickly became a place for dialogue during contentious times locally and nationally.
In 1980, Chamberlain and Burchfield began to photographically document Laguna Canyon Road, to help preserve it and draw attention to the route’s importance. Over 30 years, at the beginning of each decade, the two took photographs of the length of the road, day and night.
With the help of artists, they created “The Tell” photomural and installed the giant work across from the Irvine Co.’s proposed Laguna Laurel Housing Project.
The statement of environmental destruction received coverage from CNN and Life magazine and attracted over 11,000 demonstrators. The land was released for public acquisition and is now part of the Laguna Wildnerness Park. “The Tell” was disassembled for storage after most sections were destroyed in the massive 1993 Laguna wildfire, which destroyed or severely damaged 441 homes and scorched thosands of acres.
Burchfield split from the business partnership in 1987. He and Chamberlain remained friends and collaborated on art projects together up until Burchfield’s death in 2009.
Chamberlain, the sole owner of BC Space, has since expanded the gallery’s exhibitions and said he continues to explore current art trends and mentor other artists.
“We just kept evolving,” Chamberlain said. “And I am very proud of that.”
What: “Amerikan Krazy: Life Out of Balance”
Where: BC Space, 235 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach
When: Runs until June 24; gallery hours by arrangement
Information: (949) 497-1880; bcspace.com