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Low Brow Art  ( Robert Williams, Todd Schorr...etc. )

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The Sarcastic and Subversive Low Brow Art of Robert Williams.

 

Childhood

At first glance, the violent and sarcastic universe created by one of the great poineers in > Low Brow Art and American Art in general,
> Robert Williams, may shock, titilate or disgust the beholder but when studied closer one will discover the more profound meaning.

> Robert Williams, born in Albuquerque, New Mexico on March 2, 1943, grew up in a rather capricious environment because his father and mother married four times, and therefore he was bounced repeatedly between his father who lived in Montgomery, Alabama and his mother's home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Therefore his only true companion was art, he drew and painted from an early age.

When Robert Williams is twelve, this future > Low Brow art genius, failed the ninth grade twice, and was booted out of the public school system for habitual truancy and transgressions against the code of conduct. His only real interest was to be an artist, and while he doggedly pursued this aspiration, he first became involved in gang activity resulting in public drunkenness arrests and getting into fights. Williams tells: "There wasn't a real bohemian society in Albuqueque for me to follow. There were some people of that style that hung around college that were drug addicts and stuff. I was obviously going to get in a lot of trouble if I stayed in Alburqueque. I was trying to get an art education".

 

Low Brow Art Genius himself

Low Brow Art Genius himself

 

Los Angeles

Because there were few opportunities in Albuquerque he went to Los Angeles in 1963.
He was drawn to the movie industry and to the hot rod mystique in Los Angeles. Williams tells: "You know my interest was getting into an art career and associating myself with this 
hot rod karma that I'd read about for years in car magazines".

He became an editorial cartoonist for the LACC paper, The Collegiate, and he lost himself in the theory and technique of art. He also tried to announce himself to the prestigious fine arts academy The Chouinard Art Institute but he was refused because of his insistence on mastering the technical virtuosity and pictorial representation, so recognizable in his later Low Brow art work, while they focused on abstract expressionism, emphasizing on unrecognizable imagery.

 

 

Mentor Ed "Big Daddy" Roth

Then, after a series of fruitless attempts, the manager of the unemployment office offered him a job that would chance his life completely. This job was at a 'freak' called > Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. Williams knew his name and reputation and later told: "They told me that the freak that ran it was some guy called Big Daddy and I said, 'Wait a minute, would that be Ed Roth?' They said it was, and I said, 'Let me at it. I was born for this job".

In Ed Roths atelier cars were created in a freestyle manner, and he did it faster, more effective, and in an unmatched style. This is were Robert Williams got the inspiration and most of the ideas for his Low Brow Art. In his studio garage, Roth kept open house resulting in a colorful amalgam of people frequenting his spot. Williams tells: "Every day something amazing would happen. In the morning Sam the Sham and the Pharaos' recording group could walk in and few minutes behind them would be Sonny Barger and some Angels".

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth
Williams work consisted of creating monthly advertising, graphic design work, working on the elaborate hot rod projects (like The Rat Fink and Peace Fink) and sometimes he also contributed to Roth's periodical Chopper Magazine. When Roth's financially rewarding association with Revell Models stranded because of his loyalty towards the Hell's Angels, he quietly sold all of his inventory and closed the doors of the studio. Most of his show cars, original art and graphic designs were sold to James Brucker Jr. who also purchased many of Robert Williams' important low brow art paintings.

 

Low Brow Art

Due to Brucker's support, Williams was able to work on his paintings for longer periods of time. In his work at that time he already demonstrated that he not only had mastered the intricate underpainting and overglazing techniques of his Renaissance and Flemish predecessors, but also the theoretically based nuances of the modernists.

'Irene Interfacing With an Astrodynamic Epiphany'

'The Notion that Lurks Inevitably Between Two Adjacent Thoughts (die sandwich)'

'Irene Interfacing With an Astrodynamic Epiphany'

      'The Notion that Lurks Inevitably Between Two Adjacent
      Thoughts (die sandwich)' 

 

His influences are grounded in comic art, like Windsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland (1905), in which a little boy dozes off amidst the domestic security of his bedroom only to enter parallel universes through previously unseen seams in the comic picture plane. Using this kind of pictorial twists of the concious and the subconcious is a common theme in Williams' low brow art.

In 1974 he underwent a complete paradigmatic change when he broke with the general "rule" of the traditional painterly canonizations dictating that the dark edged line which encompasses all shapes in cartoons to avoid at all times. In his vision the exaggerated forms in cartoons were the most true and pure examples of abstraction comparable to the origins of art, found in the Paleolithic cave paintings.

Most of his recent low brow art paintings consist of three levels. The first one is based on the traditional perspective proportion of the Renaissance with foreground activity and dramatic recesses.

The second level contains a dreamscape where almost everything seems floating in some kind of dynamic mixture of fear, lust and the grotesque. Williams often separates this dream world using two graphic techniques. One is essentially a realistic rendering of either commonplace, but converted objects and events or supernatural, mythical, and atavistic happenings. The other characteristic approach is the truthfully smooth interruption of comic book style in which figurative, two-dimensional cartoon designs drift and blend without restriction with the more realistically shaped three-dimensional figures.

In the third level an conceptual zone is added in which abstract decorative motifs form an energized visual background. This zone of abstract pattern takes the gamut from idealized natural and universal phenomena to fetishistic modeling and decoration to overt painterly techniques of duplication and splashing.

In Williams' art, he supplies his public with a lucid and lyrical, violent and ominous windscreen to view the disordered landscape of American culture as it whooshes past our external vision into the rear view mirror of art history.

All the quotes from Robert Williams in this article are taken from the magnificent book:
'Malicious Resplendence', the Paintings of Robt. Williams by C.R. Stecyk.

More Low Brow Art can be found on the great Juxtapoz site.

Also check out our Movie Art and Outsider Folk Art categories !

 

More Low Brow Art by Robert Williams

' Death On The Boards' (5' x 7' Oil / C) (Robt. Williams)
' Death On The Boards' (5' x 7' Oil / C) (Robt. Williams)

 

' The Voice From The Wee Gee Board' (30" x 36" Oil / C) (Robt. Williams)
' The Voice From The Wee Gee Board' (30" x 36" Oil / C) (Robt. Williams)

 

' A Life of Delusion' (30" x 36" Oil / C) (Robt. Williams)
' A Life of Delusion' (30" x 36" Oil / C) (Robt. Williams)

 

' Hell-Toons' (30" x 36" Oil / C) (Robt. Williams)
' Hell-Toons' (30" x 36" Oil / C) (Robt. Williams)

 

' Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle' (30" x 36" Oil / C) (Robt. Williams)
' Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle' (30" x 36" Oil / C) (Robt. Williams)

 

' In the Pavillion of the Red Clown' (30" x 36" Oil / C) (Robt. Williams)
' In the Pavillion of the Red Clown' (30" x 36" Oil / C) (Robt. Williams)

 

 

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