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Lowbrow Pop-Surrealism for You – History, Galleries, Distinctive Features of the Movement

20.08.2021
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lowbrow art

Art is diverse. The difference between Mozart’s symphony, Michelangelo’s statue, Dali’s painting, and the hit Deep Purple is huge, but it’s all art. It is difficult to give it a laconic and clear definition, but if you still try, then:

Art is the process or result of the creator’s expression of his emotions in an object (material or immaterial) capable of stimulating emotions and experiences in the minds of other people.

What Is Lowbrow Art?

  • Lowbrow is a slow-growing movement that doesn’t necessarily care if the art world recognizes it as such. What is important to Lowbrow is that most of us ordinary people really understand this. Anyone who has ever watched cartoons, read Mad magazine, enjoyed a John Waters movie, consumed a corporate logo product, or had a sense of humor should have no trouble with Lowbrow.

Lowbrow-the-Movement is here referred to as “circa” 1994, as this is the year that extraordinary lowbrow art artist Robert Williams founded Juxtapoz magazine. Juxtapoz showcases Lowbrow artists and is currently the second best-selling art magazine in the US (it looks like a good time to also mention that Williams claims copyright on the word “Lowbrow.” As a pioneer and current grandeur of the movement, he definitely has the right.)

Lowbrow’s roots, however, go back to Southern California hot rods (“Kustom Kars”) and surf culture. Ed (“Big Daddy”) Roth is often credited with developing the lowbrow origin movement that created Rat Fink in the late 1950s. During the 60s Lowbrow (then not yet known as such) branched out into underground Comix (yes, that’s how it is written in this context) – especially Zap and the works of R. Crumb, Victor Moscoso, S. Clay Wilson. And the aforementioned Williams.

As you know, art is divided into high and low. You can distinguish one from the other by the height at which the noses of connoisseurs are raised.

  • Sculpture, for example, is high art. If you like, say, Apollo with white personal belongings, then you can be proud of good taste. But the sculpture of the plumber climbing out of the hatch is lowbrow pop surrealism. Easy to remember: the sewer is downstairs. An installation is high art, but only when it is in a museum and signed with a sign, otherwise you might not even notice that it is art.
  • Painting on canvas is high. Painting on the wall – depends on which side of the wall: street art – low, fresco – high. Photography is a fine art, apart from pictures taken with a phone. Selfie – low, lowbrow art definition, self-portrait – high.
  • Literature in general is high art. Science fiction, fantasy, detective – low. Poems are high, except for obscene ones (but if this is Pushkin, it is still high). Pies and other modern folklore formats – low.
two high genres - painting and literature
  • If you combine two high genres – painting and literature – you get comics, and this is definitely a low art.
  • Opera is high art. The stage is low. Classical music is high. Rock is low. Connecting any musical instrument to an amplifier automatically makes the art low.
  • Drama-theater is high art. Cinema is either high or low depending on the genre. For example, the art house is high, and comedy is low (except for the silent comedy with Charlie Chaplin). The series is low art regardless of the genre, the cartoon is also. If the film is interactive (the viewer can make decisions), then this translates it into the category of video games, and below the genre can not be found.

The object can be a song, painting, sculpture, or dance, but the general principle is always the same: person A (creator) expresses certain emotions in this object, and person B (observer/listener) begins to experience his emotions under the impression. And these emotions may be different, not the same for persons A and B. The artist painted the picture in a state of disappointment, but it pacifies the observers.

The way emotions are conveyed can be different, as can the emotions themselves. And many are inclined, on the basis of the analysis of these emotions or the form of their transmission, to differentiate art into “high” and “low”. Such people classify some types or genres as “high”, dismissing others. However, this approach is often the result of snobbery, bigotry, and arrogance. The division of art into low and high is ridiculous.

Each person is unique. The worldview, the internal system of morality, the feeling of beauty, and the peculiarities of emotional perception are different for everyone. Referring this or that genre to low/high art – each assessed according to his own criteria, formed on the basis of external and internal factors. But they are all subjective.

To classify hip-hop in music or primitivism in the visual arts as low genres, and to dismiss their connoisseurs because they (genres) do not like, is ridiculous. It’s the same as calling everyone who doesn’t like scrambled eggs fools because you don’t like them. Or say that only athletes and plebeians wear sneakers, and decent people wear shoes in everyday life.

To divide art into high and low, not according to genres, but according to the form of expression, is also absurd, albeit to a lesser extent. Because the perception is different, and in any work, everyone sees their own. One finds in the statue of David the glorification of natural male beauty, and the other – obscenity with a bare cock.

Lowbrow Trait (Art Movement)

Lowbrow Trait (Art Movement)
  1. Lowbrow was born into an underground or “street” culture.
  2. The most common tactic that Lowbrow artists use is to poke fun at conventions. They know the “rules” of art and deliberately choose not to abide by them.
  3. The inferior art has a sense of humor. Sometimes humor is hilarious, sometimes mischievous, and sometimes sarcastic, but it’s always there.
  4. The lowbrow magazine draws heavily on popular culture symbols, especially those now commonly known as “Retro”. The latest baby boomers will recognize them immediately unless they grew up in an environment that did not allow outside influences
  5. Lowbrow, while defining himself, has several aliases: underground, visionary, neo-pop, anti-establishment, and “Bush” are just a few examples. In addition to artists like Mark Ryden, John Seabrook coined the phrase “Nobrow” and one also saw the term “Newbrow”.
  6. Much of Lowbrow’s art is currently not sanctioned by mainstream critics/curators/galleries.
  7. A few exceptions to this seem to occur primarily in the Greater Los Angeles area, with few South Florida exhibitions. Juxtapoz Magazine is the best choice for meeting Lowbrow artists.
  8. Underground painters are currently experiencing an identity crisis due to the involvement of a wide variety of artists.

For example, a designer of a simple kitsch decal might be awarded the same Lowbrow title as an artist who composes a technically masterful Lowbrow painting or sci-fi sculpture. Hopefully, this will be resolved in the coming years. Meanwhile, you can start collecting surrealism cartoons right now for your grandchildren.

History of Pop Surrealism Art

History of Pop Surrealism Art

Lowbrow’s name is pop surrealism artist Robert Williams, known for his popular underground comics, hot rod illustrations, and psychedelic rock posters. He was the first to match the unassuming and undemanding art with the high craftsmanship of the time. His book “The Lowbrow Art of Robert Williams” was published in 1974. Subsequently, the title of the book was taken as the name of a young, emerging art movement.

The low position of the eyebrows was associated primarily with monkeys. Thus, “lowbrow” is a category that reflects what goes beyond the “aesthetically refined” and “highly intellectual”.

The turning point in the development of pop surrealism was the opening of the gallery * – La Luz de Jesus Gallery, rus. In Hollywood in 1986.

Owner of lowbrow art galleries Billy Shire eng. Billy Shire is one of the first entrepreneurs who fully appreciated the main idea that the artists who were at the origin of the formation of this direction wanted to convey: Robert Williams, Coop, Tod Shire, and others. His gallery was and remains a fundamental factor in the formation of pop surrealism.

Currently, there are several subcategories of pop-surrealism painting: NoBrow, New Brow, Neo Pop, and Comic Abstraction, which open up opportunities for new ways of self-expression and help spread the word to a wider audience.

So you learned thanks to our information what is pop surrealism and found many other useful facts that you did not know. We hope our article, which we prepared with the team, came in handy.

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