Lowbrow (art movement)

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Lowbrow
Years active 1979–present
Country United States
Major figures Williams, Ryden
Influences Pop art, surrealism
Influenced Designer toys

Lowbrow, or lowbrow art,[1] describes an underground visual art movement that arose in the Los Angeles, California, area in the late 1970s. It is a populist art movement with its cultural roots in underground comix, punk music, tiki culture, and hot-rod cultures of the street. It is also often known by the name pop surrealism. Lowbrow art often has a sense of humor – sometimes the humor is gleeful, sometimes impish, and sometimes it is a sarcastic comment.[2]

Most lowbrow artworks are paintings, but there are also toys, digital art, and sculpture.

History[edit]

Some of the first artists to create what came to be known as lowbrow art were underground cartoonists like Robert Williams and Gary Panter. Early shows were in alternative galleries in New York and Los Angeles such as Psychedelic Solutions Gallery in Greenwich Village, New York City which was run by Jacaeber Kastor, La Luz de Jesus[3] run by Billy Shire[4] and 01 gallery in Hollywood, run by John Pochna. The movement steadily grew from its beginning, with hundreds of artists adopting this style. As the number of artists grew, so did the number of galleries showing Lowbrow; The arbiter Greg Escalante helped produce the first formal art gallery exhibition to take low brow art seriously at the Julie Rico Gallery in Santa Monica with the one-man show "Looney Virtues", in 1992 by artist Anthony Ausgang. The Bess Cutler Gallery also went on to show important artists and helped expand the kind of art that was classified as Lowbrow. The lowbrow magazine Juxtapoz[5] by Robert Williams, first published in 1994, has been a mainstay of writing on lowbrow art and has helped direct and grow the movement.

Writers have noted that there are now distinctions to be drawn between how lowbrow manifests itself in different regions and places. Some see a distinct U.S. "west coast" lowbrow style, which is more heavily influenced by tiki, underground comix and hot rod car-culture than elsewhere. As the lowbrow style has spread around the world, it has been intermingled with the tendencies in the visual arts of those places in which it has established itself. As lowbrow develops, there may be a branching (as there was with previous art movements) into different strands and even whole new art movements.[citation needed]

Origin of the term "lowbrow art"[edit]

In an article in the February 2006 issue of his magazine Juxtapoz, Robert Williams took credit for originating the term "lowbrow art." He stated that in 1979 Gilbert Shelton of the publisher Rip Off Press decided to produce a book featuring Willams' paintings. Williams said he decided to give the book the self-deprecating title The Lowbrow Art of Robt. Williams,[6] since no authorized art institution would recognize his type of art. "Lowbrow" was thus used by Williams in opposition to "highbrow." He said the name then stuck, even though he feels it is inappropriate. Williams refers to the movement as "cartoon-tainted abstract surrealism[7] ." Lately, Williams has begun referring to his own work as "Conceptual Realism.[8]"

Books[edit]

There are several books which offer overview histories of lowbrow, including the following:

  • Billy Shire. (2011 La Luz de Jesus 25. ISBN 978-0-86719-764-8. A collection of La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Hollywood, CA that has carried Lowbrow art for 25 years.
  • Kirsten Anderson. (2005) Pop Surrealism: The Rise of Underground Art. ISBN 0-86719-618-1
  • Matt Dukes Jordan. (2005) Weirdo Deluxe: The Wild World of Pop Surrealism and Lowbrow Art. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-4241-X
  • Aaron Rose and Christian Strike. (2004). Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art and Street Culture. ISBN 1-891024-74-4
  • Sherri Cullison. (2002) Vicious, Delicious, and Ambitious: 20th Century Women Artists. ISBN 0-7643-1634-6

Magazines[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]