The saying goes that necessity is the mother of invention, and for Vince Gerard it ended up being the mother of a new gallery in one of Southern California's artiest neighborhoods.
The founder of Jazzartz got the idea for his project when he went shopping for fine-art prints of work by David Stone Martin, who designed more than 400 album covers for Billie Holiday,
"The thing about David is, he's by far the most highly collected album cover artist in the world," Gerard said. "People collect him all over the world, especially in Europe and Asia, where there are huge jazz fans. But no one's ever seen his art beyond the album-cover size."
Until now, perhaps. Jazzartz, which opened this spring in Laguna Beach, sports dozens of prints of Martin's work around its compact space, with many of the original albums propped against the wall below the replicated images.
Upstairs from the gallery, in an even tighter space, is Gerard's print room. Each of the works on display is part of a limited-edition series, and any customer who orders one will receive a new copy — even with alterations, as Gerard is happy to adjust color schemes or superimpose personal messages.
The show, scheduled to run through Sept. 15, is Jazzartz's first exhibition and also celebrates a milestone: Martin, who died in 1992, would have turned 100 this year.
His images often take a minimalist approach, with figures depicted in spare ink strokes and two or three colors that wash over the outlines. In a 1987 appreciation, Times art critic William Wilson wrote that Martin "led a period when being a record-jacket illustrator seemed like an endeavor worthy of a substantial artist."
Bridget R. Cooks, an art history and African American studies professor at UC Irvine, said the loose interplay between line and color in Martin's images evokes the feel of the music itself.
"It's not a kind of meticulous, measured and regulated sort of stroke," said Cooks, who plans to touch on jazz album cover art in her next book. "There's a kind of ease that goes with the technique of painting in this way."
Later this year, Jazzartz may get a second location, because Gerard said he's in talks to open a gallery in Palm Springs. The foot traffic at the Laguna gallery, which is open daily, helped encourage him to go further.
"People come here from San Francisco and Los Angeles," Gerard said. "Every weekend, there will be a couple dozen people who come to look at the stuff and make purchases. They actually make special trips. Jazz fans are loyal fans."
Where: 1452 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach
When: Noon to 8 p.m. daily
Information: (949) 813-8134 or jazzartz.com