|Weirdo Deluxe The Wild World of Pop Surrealism & Lowbrow Art, Matt Dukes Jordan, Chronicle Books, 2005|
Being an art student, of course I've studied surrealism, pop art, and even pop surrealism, but I'd really never heard the term lowbrow art. This is probably because, most artists prefer not to to have their art labeled as lowbrow because some see it as limiting or even derogatory. Lowbrow was an underground movement developed primarily in California. It's influences come from comics, cartoons, hot rods, and punk music with a sense of humor or satire.
After a concise introduction, Jordan displays a colorful fourteen page time line explaining the influences and history of lowbrow art. It was almost shocking to see certain names pop up in the sequence, such as Bugs Bunny, Dr. Seuss, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, and hot rod cars. I had always just seen these as cartoon shows or collector items, not something to help strike up a new movement in art. Many of the artists displayed later in the book also mentioned the popular 90's cartoon The Ren And Stimpy Show as a influential starting point of their lowbrow illustration style. At the time I hated the crude show, but looking at the work displayed in the book, I can definitely see how that influence comes into play.
Following the timeline, Jordan showcases twenty three artists whose work all fall under the category of lowbrow, whether they admit it or not. What I like most about the artists' profile is the interview style technique used for each person, accompanied by five or six large photos of their work. The two questions asked to each artist that I found most intriguing was "What Does He/She Collect" and "On Lowbrow". The first seemed like an unusual question at first, but thinking farther into it, the things people find interesting and valuable enough to collect and fill their lives with definitely says a lot about their personality, which in return will be relayed into their work. A majority of these artists said things like dolls, comic books, and various types of toys. These childish items are definitely echoed in the art they create. For example, Mark Ryden said he collected children's books, stuffed animals, and "toys, toys, toys." A lot of his works consist of fantasy worlds with children, animals, and toys.
|Mark Ryden, The Magic Circus, 2001|
"Lowbrow is an annoying, misleading description that belittles this art in what seems to be a fun, flippant manner. I have no idea what moniker should be hung on this art movement."While others simply overlook it, like when Joe Sorren says, "The label isn't important, it's the work that's important." Personally, I feel Isabel Samaras summed it up best:
"The great thing about lowbrow is that it's always seemed to be very inclusive: anybody can play. . . . There's an openness to a large swath of styles and backgrounds that's positively exhilarating."After viewing these artists' works, I couldn't agree more. Jordan definitely chose a wide selections of artists that each have their own individual styles and ways of creating art, but yet they all have similar traits in their work that classify them in the very broad category of lowbrow. From reading the statements in this book, I feel that lowbrow is a way for artists to express themselves in a very nontraditional way with no limits on what type of style they prefer. It their chance to just have fun and make whatever they want to make. Weirdo Deluxe definitely follows that theme with a very fun layout that keeps the content interesting and easy to follow.