@ the Riverside Art Museum

October 2, 2010 – January 8, 2011

The art movement known as pop or lowbrow surrealism has excited the public with its mixture of nostalgia, decadence, and delicious weirdness. Originating as a hybridization “bastard” art movement, it is now taken seriously by museums and galleries and has an increasingly mainstream fan base. One of the prime collectors, publishers and curators of pop surrealism is Bob Self, publisher of Baby Tattoo books. For the third year running, Mr. Self is hosting an event for artists and collectors at the Mission Inn in California, with a related exhibit at RAM. This exhibition is grounded in the background of the artist Robert Williams and extends the movement out to encompass many contemporary artists working in the style pioneered by Williams.

Associated with Hyper Realism and Pop Surrealist movements, as well as the well known alternative art chronicle JUXTAPOZ magazine, Robert Williams has been one of the forerunners of the self-proclaimed “Low Brow” art movement’s rise to prominence in the US since the late 20th century. Williams and other underground cartoonists, such as Gary Panter, rejected traditional notions of what is considered “fine art,” and developed the Lowbrow art movement as a reaction to the “high brow” world of museums, galleries, and art critics. Williams’ paintings draw from comic books, hot rod illustration, crude cartoons and visually jarring psychedelic colors, all executed in hyper realist detail. Williams’ work is instantly recognizable, and his influence can be seen in the works of contemporary Lowbrow artists.

California Kustom, presented by Baby Tattooville explores the dynamic artistic expressions that have developed around the themes of nostalgia, outrageous humor, and a hint of sarcasm that are ever-present in the Lowbrow movement. Although some artists do not even consider their work to be “Lowbrow” or “Pop Surrealist”, they credit many of their influences to have come from the movement. This exhibit explores the ways in which artists such as Michael Hussar, Coop, and Ron English have expanded the movement into different areas of expression that further broadens the already loose term that is “Lowbrow.”