Welcome to Weirdo Deluxe: The Wild World of Pop Surrealism and Lowbrow Art
I’m the author of the book and will post things now and then that seem relevant to the book.
Weirdo Deluxe is the only true historical survey of the lowbrow/pop surrealist movement available. The book was intended as not only an introduction to the movement, but also as a sourcebook of information that gives anyone who reads the whole book — the timeline, the interviews, and my introduction — a good understanding of how the movement evolved, what shaped it historically, and what the basic components of the movement are. No other book offers this.
In the last couple of years there have been several documentaries made about the movement. One, The Lowdown on Lowbrow, showed on the Ovation channel in the last month or so (I’m writing in late September). The lowbrow art movement — or pop surrealist movement — is steadily gaining in popularity. It’s very fun. It’s accessible. Much of it is affordable (although the price of some artists is pretty pricey and one artist’s work goes for up to one million bucks per painting — Mark Ryden).
NEWS – SEPT. 28 – 2007
I’ll be lecturing on lowbrow/pop surrealist art at Harold Golen Gallery in Miami on Oct. 4th. The Harold Golen Gallery is a new gallery devoted to lowbrow/pop surrealist art.
A GREAT REVIEW
This is one of my favorite reviews of the book. It was published in April, 2005 .
April issue of Ruminator magazine —
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Pop culture and classical painting meet in the surreal land of lowbrow art
By Matt Konrad
By Matt Dukes Jordan
We are not, it’s safe to say, living in a golden age of representational painting. Since abstract expressionism shot American fine art onto the international map, the visual-art vanguard has been mostly concerned with philosophy and provocativeness, leaving portraiture to fashion photographers and consigning still-lifes and landscapes to anonymous motel-room watercolorists.
All of which makes the movement known variously as lowbrow or pop surrealism particularly compelling. Its influences range all over an admittedly modern map—MAD and other underground comix, ’60s tiki and hot rod culture, TV, punk rock, porn and pulp, to name just a few. But underneath the pop-obsessed veneer, lowbrow is paradoxically and profoundly old-fashioned, owing just as much to Grand Guignol grotesquerie and to the visceral weirdness of figurative-painting masters like Breughel, Reubens and Bosch. In short, it’s as close as American fine art’s gotten in quite some time to having a truly interesting representational branch. With Weirdo Deluxe, the genre gets exactly the kind of anthology it deserves—accessible and agreeably bizarre, with the artists given free rein to speak for themselves. And what’s more, the anthology captures both the vast range of the lowbrow movement and its common threads.
Browse Graphic Novels at Powells.comThose common threads are the most immediately noticeable thing here—aggressively bright colors, attention to pop-cultural detail, heavy focus on the body in all its glory and grossness. But a closer look reveals how far many of these artists go in different directions from that home base. There are guys like Joe Coleman, who paints fanatically detailed works in oil, usually featuring a figure in the center, surrounded, cabinet-of-curiosities-style, by the visual and textual detritus of their life. (Coleman, it should be noted, also has a museum in his home called the Odditorium. An alarming number of lowbrow artists, in fact, have collections of mid-century detritus.) But just as Coleman’s style has influenced a veritable school of “busier” lowbrow artists, so do elements of the equally bright but more minimal work of Gary Panter show up throughout Weirdo Deluxe, especially in the Dalí-meets-Tex-Avery art of younger up-and-comers like Anthony Ausgang and Kathy Staico Schorr. (While we’re doing fun facts: Panter designed the sets for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, way back when. How he got into primitivism is anyone’s guess.)
Then there’s the stuff that’s less directly connected—Isabel Samaras’s Manet-like portraits of characters from 1960s sitcoms; Mark Ryden’s creepy pastel renderings of troubled-looking young girls; Josh “Shag” Agle’s L.A.-fabulous paintings that look for all the world like old Jim Flora album covers; Tim Biskup’s work, which is probably the most abstract here, and which appears to be inspired by nightmares involving the credit sequences of Chuck Jones-era Looney Tunes. The list goes on, the point being that, despite the common ground these artists share, there’s still something surprising on damn near every page.
Weirdo Deluxe author/curator Matt Dukes Jordan is clearly a longtime fan of lowbrow, and thus the book is suffused with an appreciation for the genre’s history. A useful introduction and timeline situate the form neatly among American art and culture. In addition to the section on Panter, there is a treatement of Gary Baseman, the most conventionally successful lowbrow artist (ever played Cranium or seen the Disney cartoon Teacher’s Pet? Then you’ve seen his work). And Jordan also features Robert Williams, who worked as a car customizer with the legendary Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, and who’s largely considered the father of lowbrow. (For good reason—any single one of Williams’s oil paintings contains virtually everything listed above as a major part of the genre.) And Williams himself sums up the old-meets-new vibe of lowbrow pretty succinctly in discussing one of his own key influences: “MAD comic books had the term ‘mad’ in the title for a reason. They would overload the picture panels so that you had this feeling of uncontrollable chaos … There had never been anything like that. Maybe Hieronymous Bosch.”
And that, pretty much, is lowbrow art come full circle: from Bosch to Bewitched in a bright purple 1932 Ford coupe, with stops at Vegas, Haight-Ashbury, and the Jetsons’ pad along the way. So if you’re left a little cold by the Thomas Kinkade cottages and celebrity glossies that are passing for decent figurative art these days, dive into this garden of earthly delights. You won’t be disappointed.
Matt Konrad is Ruminator’s fiction editor.
PREVIOUS POSTS TO MY OLD SITE (WEIRDODELUXE.COM)
For those of you who visited my previous Weirdo Deluxe site, these are familiar tidbits of info. For those who are visiting for the first time, the following information offers at look at the weirdo world….
The book was released in the spring of 2005 and I went on a book tour soon thereafter. Some of my blog entries (below) are about the book tour and the early responses to the book.
Posted: December, 2005
Weirdo world marches on
The book is selling well and the second printing is beautiful… there’s a new Shag book out from Chronicle too — they always do gorgeous books
… Liz McGrath has a book just out from La Luz / Last Gasp… There are several documentaries in the works — one on Shag, one on the collector Long Gone John (I’m in that one)… I wrote a few articles this summer — one was about my friend Andy’s gallery in New Orleans re-opening (it’s on GetUnderground.com)…. and I just wrote a piece about the naive style in KW art… this will be in a literary and arts journal called The Secret of Salt… I have another piece in there about hurricane wilma…
I wrote an entry about Lowbrow art for Wikipedia… a friend and lowbrow artist asked me to… and I’m glad I did — I love Wikipedia… glad to help them and also offer info on a significant art movement…
Posted by weirdo deluxe on Thursday, December 08, 2005
Great news: WEIRDO D is already in a second printing in just four months– fantastic. The book tour helped, as did all the great reviews. Chronicle Books did a great job with publicity.
Was just interviewed by REAL GROOVE magazine, a rock mag out of New Zealand — the interview will be published in the Sept. issue. That’s fun. They love lowbrow and pop surreal art there, but wonder about what’s going on in this country. Brock Oliver, the editor who interviewed me, asked about “the absurd political manifestations in the States right now…” I said that, indeed, art can respond by using satire and humor and imagination to help people question the “givens” in a society.
Gregg Gibbs sent me a 7-minute teaser DVD for the documentary that he’s shooting about the art collector Long Gone John. It’s called Art Pirate and will be out in 2006. So far, it looks great and it’s fun to see myself in there as an author commenting on the lowbrow movement.
As ever, L.A. was a blast. I’m in Florida now, but want to get back to the Left Coast soon. Monte Beauchamp, who created BLAB and is based in Chicago, is having a cool group show at Track 16 in Santa Monica in September and there’s lots going on up and down the coast. Seattle has a booming art scene with much contemporary and pop surreal art being created and shown. There’s a great alt weekly up there called the Stranger doing impressive and challenging art criticism. We need more of that to help liberate our minds and spirits.
Posted by weirdo deluxe on Friday, August 19, 2005
Dennis Hopper and Murakami
It’s funny that I wrote about Murakami because Gregg Gibbs gave him a copy of Weirdo Deluxe and got a photo of Murakami holding the book!! How great — thanks to Gregg and Murakami! Also, Jim Fitzgerald is going to give Dennis Hopper a copy of my book today! Also fun. Hope Hopper likes it — I know he’s familiar with Robert Williams and some of the other artists in my book, but some will be new for him…
The signing at LACMA was great — sold out all the books in no time at all… and had people lined up wanting to buy more. Thank you to all the artists who were there! It was a beautiful night and there was live jazz playing nearby since on some Fridays in the summer LACMA has a free jazz night…
This weekend is the signing at Minna Street Gallery in San Francisco. Looking forward to being back in San Fran where I went to art school at the SF Art Institute… love tha city and will certainly visit City Lights bookstore (an old haunt of mine) and go to a cafe in North Beach, etc. Will also visit my brother and his family who live in the Bay Area.
Am shooting a film while I’m in LA — from my own script, with friends in the roles, using a broadcast-quality digital camera… I was ruI was running around Hollywood last night shooting B-roll shots for the credits and other sequences.
Kathie Olivas, a Tampa-based artist who works in the pop surreal/lowbrow style is helping organize and event and perhaps a show for Weirdo Deluxe…
The book is doing very well… and it’s fun to get so many kind and appreciative comments from people who get the book!
posted by weirdo deluxe on Wednesday, June 01, 2005
In LA – lots going on
I’m in LA, had a great signing with Shag, Baseman, Biskup, the Pizz, Campbell, Lande, Owen Smith, Liz McGrath, Camille Rose Garcia… at La Luz de jesus last night — non-stop line of people buying books… one is already on eBay for sale at twice the cover price… (signed by artists)
Before the signing I was interviewed for a doc about Long Gone John… who is a major lowbrow art collector… The filmmaker is making a doc about his art collecting… and he collects lowbrow art!
Tonight is the big party at A StuART Gallery in Encino. It’s also the opening of a show by Robert Williams at the Otis College of Art and Design. I hope people will travel to both. Lots of art in the show plus artists to sign the book with me.
Next Friday — a signing at LACMA, the big county museum of art on Wilshire… lots of artists will be there.
posted by weirdo deluxe on Saturday, May 21, 2005
LA lit collection
ron at orange records is publishing a cool collection of LA fiction… and a story of mine is in there… looking forward to seeing it… he’s making it a quality book, really, like two edited by Sara Nickles: Drinking, Smoking, and Screwing and Lying, Cheating, and Stealing… or Dave Eggers The Best American Nonrequired Reading… Orange Records has a web site and it’s announced there… and soon in the media
must pack a lot of art today and put it in my car… and pack my bags… it’s hard to leave yet I love to travel … promoting WeiRdo D will be good
posted by weirdo deluxe on Tuesday, May 03, 2005
road trip west
Leave in a few days for New Orleans, then LA… book signings, and my traveling show. Book signings are good– I meet people who are into the book. I sell books. And I get some publicity. Perhaps word of mouth is most important, but publicity is great. There are so many fine books out there, and so many things to learn about… Played volleyball with the gang yesterday on the beach in key west… windy day, sunny… it was fun. New Orleans has great food and so much soul… some say it’s a Scorpio town… yeah, maybe. I like it. Place has spirit… Hope the show goes well, hope to sell some paintings. I’m taking some of mine, plus some mixed media pieces – photos I’ve painted on top of… I’d like to sell some of my art… After New Orleans, it’s out to stay in Tucson for a few days, then to LA, then San Francisco. What great places!
posted by weirdo deluxe on Sunday, May 01, 2005
murakami, Coagula, etc
I’m gearing up for New Orleans, leaving in a week. Doug MacCash from the Times Picayune interviewed me for an article. Meanwhile I’m interviewing people in Miami for an article that I’m writing for Coagula, a nationally distributed, LA-based art magagzine that is irreverent in relation to the fine art world. The mag’s editor, Mat Gleason, used to hang out with Bukowski. So he has the right attitude. I wrote to Buk when I got to LA in 1990 and he wrote back. He liked a short story that I sent him. Buk is still a major hero for me, has been since I discovered his work in San Francisco years ago. As for what I’m writing for Coagula– it’s about a couple of collections in Miami — the Rubell and the Margulies…
Was reading this big article on Murakami that was in the NY Times Sunday mag a few weeks ago. The guy lives on a sleeping bag in his art factory and when he sets up a show he sleeps in the gallery on a sleeping bag. He has over 60 people working for him, but he lives like a homeless guy. But he eats well and he’s happy because he’s doing what he loves. I guess he doesn’t need a futon. Or maybe the reporter only mentioned the sleeping bag and neglected to mention the futon. Murakami defined the whole idea of Superflat painting in a critical study 5 years ago. The guy is an art critic and artist and pop culture force. My traveling show has one painter doing superflat painting– Ruth Nechas. She’s great. She’s part of the Secret World Tour. The Weirdo Deluxe show is currently going to New Orleans and then LA, but a world tour is planned, but at this point details about the tour are a secret. In fact, the whole tour is a secret. Since few read this many words without a paragraph break, I suspect that it will remain a secret. Anyway, how many people visit this goofy site? It’s not like I’m Shag, or Anton of Brian Jonestown Massacre. Or Brad Pitt. Is there a Brad Pitt site? I never looked. There is one for Jeff Bridges. It’s pretty good. He writes stuff on a palm pilot and it goes on the site. He does drawings and cool photos. I hope he comes to the LA art show in Encino at A Stuart Gallery on May 21.
posted by weirdo deluxe on Wednesday, April 27, 2005