“Lowbrow, or lowbrow art, 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, 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.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lowbrow_(art_movement)
I have a list of artists on my wall, artists who inspire me, who’s work I find invigorating or memorable. Most of these artists are from the ‘Lowbrow’ section of the art community. Artists who are not taken seriously, who’s work is somehow not considered to be ‘high’ art. Artists who have the skill, the imagination, the sales and the brilliance and yet somehow lack the kudos. I don’t get it. Never have. It’s no shark in formaldehyde, but then, maybe that’s the problem.
Maybe the simplicity of ‘lowbrow’ art makes it too easy too understand. It’s a beautiful picture of a woman with a bird, or a scene from a zoo or a rabbit or a cartoon tiger. Nothing as ‘in depth’ as neon lights spelling out obtuse ideas. Why does our art have to be important or ground breaking or political? Why can it not be simple, entertaining and beautiful?
Maybe it’s accessibility. A ‘serious’ artist would never stoop to adorn a shirt or screensaver with their art. The entire ‘lowbrow’ movement, however, found itself in exactly this manner. Magazines, skateboard decks, comics and album covers were/are the staple diet.
What is the difference between this and Andy Warhol? Yayoi Kusama? Salvador Dali? Roy Lichtenstein? Is it simply that the ‘style’ has been done before? If an artist were to start painting the Holy trinity with cherubs and Rubenesque women, would they be considered ‘lowbrow’? Are landscapes ‘lowbrow’? What of tribal art?
William Morris made wallpaper ‘Art’. Marcel Duchamp made a urinal ‘Art’. The Bauhaus movement made furniture ‘Art’. Marina Abramovic made sitting still ‘Art’. Why can’t a comic book be art? I do understand that there is a line that should maybe be drawn somewhere. Maybe. But do you draw it above the mass prints from IKEA or below? What about kitsch? Those repulsive ‘crying clown’paintings? Macrame? Scrimshaw? I think that if Mark Rothko is ‘Art’, then so is Hentai. If Piero Manzoni’s shit is ‘Art’, then so is the mass print t’shirt I just bought from a chain store. The next time someone calls my art ‘lowbrow’ I might just punch them.