- Lowbrow (art movement)
Lowbrow, or lowbrow art [ [http://arthistory.about.com/od/arthistory101/a/lowbrow.htm The Birth of Lowbrow Art - Answer dot Com] ] , describes an underground
visual artmovement that arose in the Los Angeles, California, area in the late 1970s. Lowbrow is a widespread populist art movement with origins in the underground comixworld, punk music, hot-rodstreet culture, and other subcultures. 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's a sarcastic comment. [ [http://arthistory.about.com/od/arthistory101/a/lowbrow.htm The Lowbrow Movement - Art History Basics on Lowbrow - ca 1994-Present ] ]
Most lowbrow artworks are
paintings, but there are also toys, digital art, and sculpture.
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 run by Jacaeber Kastor, La Luz de Jesus[ [http://www.laluzdejesus.com/ La Luz de Jesus Gallery] ] run by Billy Shire [ [http://www.billyshirefinearts.com/ Billy Shire Fine Arts Gallery] ] and Zero One 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 Julie Rico Gallery and the Bess Cutler Gallery both showed important artists and helped expand the kind of art that was classified as Lowbrow. The lowbrow magazine " Juxtapoz" [ [http://www.juxtapoz.com Juxtapoz Magazine] ] 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 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. Fact|date=June 2007
Origin of the term "lowbrow"
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 Sheltonof the publisher Rip-Off Pressdecided 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," [ [http://beinart.org/info/essays/robert-williams.php Beinart - Origination of the term Lowbrow Art] ] 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."
Lowbrow or pop surrealism
Lowbrow is also commonly referred to as pop surrealism. Kirsten Anderson, who edited the book "Pop Surrealism", considers lowbrow and pop surrealism to be related but distinct movements. [ [http://www.seattlest.com/archives/2005/11/02/seattlest_interview_kirsten_anderson_founder_and_owner_of_roq_la_rue_gallery.php Kristen Anderson of Roq La Rue ] ] However, Matt Dukes Jordan, author of "Weirdo Deluxe", views the terms as interchangeable.
Lowbrow vs. "fine" art
Museums, art critics, mainstream galleries, etc., have been uncertain as to the status of lowbrow in relation to the fine art world, and to date it has been largely excluded - although this has not stopped some collectors from buying the works. Some art critics doubt that lowbrow is a "legitimate" art movement, and there is thus very little scholarly critical writing about it. The standard argument of critics is that critical writing arises naturally from within an art movement first, and then a wider circle of critics draws upon this writing to inform their own criticism. This apparent absence of internal critical writing may be because many lowbrow artists began their careers in fields not normally considered
fine art, such as illustration, tattooingand comic books. Many lowbrow artists are self-taught, which further alienates them from the world of museum curators and art schools.
Many in the art world have deeper difficulties with lowbrow's figurative focus, its cultivation of narrative, and its strong valuing of technical skill.Fact|date=March 2007 All these aspects of art were deeply disparaged in the art schools and by curators and critics throughout the 1980s and 90s.Fact|date=March 2007
However, a number of artists who started their careers by showing in lowbrow galleries have gone on to show their work primarily in mainstream fine art galleries. Joe Coleman, Mark Ryden (from his [http://www.laweekly.com/art+books/art/shooting-low-aiming-high/15924/?page=1 2007 'Tree Show' exhibition] ), Robert Williams, Manuel Ocampo, Georganne Deen, and the Clayton Brothers are examples.
Echoes of lowbrow's approach can be found in the art history of the 20th century, beginning with the work of the
Dadaists and the leading proponents of the American Regionalism movement (artists like Marcel Duchampand Thomas Hart Benton) in which such art movements have questioned the distinctions between high and low art, fine art and folk art, and popular culture and high-art culture. In some sense lowbrow art is about exploring and critiquing those distinctions, and it thus shares similarities with the pop artof the 1960s and early 70s. One can also note that just as the lowbrow artists play in the blurred (or perhaps evaporated) boundaries between high and low culture, other more "mainstream" contemporary artists use artistic strategies similar to those employed by lowbrow artists. Examples include: Lisa Yuskavage, Kelly D. Williams, Kenny Scharf, Takashi Murakami, Inka Essenhigh, Jim Shaw, John Currin, Mike Kelley, and the San Francisco-based Mission School, which includes Barry McGeeand Margaret Kilgallen.
There are several books which offer overview histories of lowbrow, including the following:
* 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 In addition to showing some of the best examples of the work of 23 lowbrow/pop surrealist artists, "Weirdo Deluxe" includes an introduction, an extensive illustrated timeline of 20th-century popular and fine-art culture that has shaped this movement, plus interviews with the artists in which they discuss influences on their art. The detailed timeline includes information about shows and events in Pop Surreal/Lowbrow art, and, when combined with the interviews and the introduction, offers the first comprehensive history of this movement, charting its key moments, its origins, and its rise to worldwide influence and popularity.
* 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 0-76431-634-6 The women of Lowbrow.
There are also books focusing on individual lowbrow artists, including
Mark Ryden, Robert Williams, Joe Coleman, Anthony Ausgang, The Pizz, SHAG (Josh Agle), Niagara (artist), Stacy Lande, Todd Schorr, Camille Rose Garcia, Alex Pardee and Elizabeth McGrath.
*Robert Williams' "
Juxtapoz" magazine is a significant lowbrow publication, which functions as a sort of journal of the movement.
*"Raw Vision" magazine covers outsider art and lowbrow art. It contains full color images and concise articles on non-mainstream artists.
*"Hi Fructose" magazine, which debuted in
2005, focuses on lowbrow art.
*"Forno Magazine [http://www.forno-magazine.com] " also includes lowbrow art works associated with sexual themes.
*"Dangerous Ink Magazine [http://www.dangerousink.co.uk] " is a UK lowbrow magazine, exposing the movement to the British.
*"Beautiful/Decay Magazine [http://www.beautifuldecay.com/] " is a magazine that documents the convergence of fine art, graffiti, design, fashion, music, and other contemporary forms of art.
Tokionis a magazine with both Japanese and US editions.
Several films have been made to document the Lowbrow movement, including:
* " [http://www.newbrowfilm.com/ New Brow: the Rise of Underground Art] "
* " [http://www.thetreasuresoflonggonejohn.com The Treasures of Long Gone John] "
* [http://www.juxtapoz.com/ 'Juxtapoz' Art and Culture Magazine]
* [http://www.seattlest.com/archives/2005/11/02/seattlest_interview_kirsten_anderson_founder_and_owner_of_roq_la_rue_gallery.php Interview with Kirsten Anderson, editor of "Pop Surrealism"]
* [http://www.markryden.com/press/laweekly1005.html 2005 L.A. Weekly article on lowbrow]
* [http://blogs.sfweekly.com/shookdown/the_lowbrow_art_sale/ "The Lowbrow Art Sale" Weekly prints Article, every Tuesday On SFWeekly.com]
* [http://www.creepmachine.com/ 'Creep Machine' underground art webzine]
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