INTERVIEW BY TARSSA YAZDANI, 2006
What is your background, including training and key aesthetic influences?
My family immigrated to this country in the early 1960s. My father did his best to figure out American culture by starting from the bottom up, taking my brother and me to hot rod shows, demolition derbies and rodeos. Meanwhile, my Mom took us to the operas, symphonies and museums. As a teenager I was dragged all over the world during summer vacations and in 1976 I spent three months in Bali, Indonesia where I was profoundly affected by the way art and life were integrated in that society. I decide that I wanted to become an artist and I attended several art schools before finally dropping out. I got a job as a fabric painter and learned an enormous number of different painting techniques. I always felt closest to cultural underdogs like Underground comics and Punk Rock so I was naturally inclined to make art that was completely different than what I was seeing in galleries and museums.
Do you believe there is a cohesive art movement currently at play, which has been called Low-Brow, Pop Surrealism, and many other names? If not, what do you believe is happening in art today?
Yes, there is currently a major revolution going on in the art world and this "art movement that dare not speak its name" is engaged in a culture war from which it will emerge as the legitimate heir to Pop Art.
What are the characteristics of this movement, including name, key aesthetic elements, influences, artists and supporters?
This is a group of artists that take cartoon representations of humans, animals and objects as a starting point for a new type of art. These artists are not bound to an accurate depiction of a collective reality; instead, they are engaged in the representation of individual realities. In the past, an artist's style is what made the final work uniquely theirs. Now, each of the artists in Low-Brow has created their own universe with it's particular characteristics. The distinct universes of each artist are combined together to create a "multiverse" and therefore, an art movement.
How do you think the movement has coalesced, and how do you see it evolving?
The movement began with strong roots in the "alternative" cultures of the 1960s and 1970s like Underground Comics, carnival and schlock art. Cartoon based art entered the cultural arena with the invention of Pop Art in the early 1960s but the rudeness of the message was diluted by the narrative "coolness" that was required by the Fine Art establishment of that era. As Pop Art recedes into the historical past I think this type of art will become much more engaged and wild. This art movement will not tone down its message or approach, it will require the Fine Art Establishment to loosen up and get naked with the new freak crew.
What is its place in the larger art landscape?
It's place is the ultimate democratization of art; street art in the galleries and gallery art in the street.
Is populist art credible? What are the barriers to high-end acceptance?
The credibility of this art movement is absolute; populist art is proud of its mean roots. Unfortunately, that "Nascar Mentality" will stand in the way of high-end acceptance. The high enders have spent a lot of time and money educating themselves and are not about to let the servants in to the party.
What is the end-game scenario? Will elements/artists be absorbed into art establishment (Twist/Banksy) Has the art market permanently expanded and thus may indefinitely support a second tier?
Very interesting question! I think that the art market can handle a two tier value system and will let Populist Art grab some of the loot. Meanwhile, elements of Populist Art will be absorbed into the art establishment and some artists will be financially rewarded for their low brow ways. Ultimately it will be a cultural detente.