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An Introduction to Lowbrow Art and Pop Surrealism

The Lowbrow art movement, also known as Pop Surrealism, was born out of Los Angeles’ underground culture in the 1970s. Since its very beginning, Lowbrow has borrowed from the best. Drawing inspiration from street art, skateboarding culture, DIY comics and fanzines, surrealism, cartoons, hot rod culture, and propelled by both the punk and psychedelic rock scenes, Lowbrow has developed into its own unique, unbridled artistic endeavour.

Lowbrow exudes technical strength and remains subversive and unapologetically dark. It is moody and atmospheric, character driven and narrative based. Lowbrow hangs together by its distinct stylistic traits; characterised features on creatures, (think doe eyes and large heads) with heavily stylised, cartoon-influenced landscapes. All of this is pulled off with highly refined, technically delightful precision. Lowbrow has no patience for the unskilled, with leading artists such as Mark RydenAudrey Kawasaki and Robert Williams demonstrating the value placed on technical skill.

Works by Ania Tomicka and Chris Brett

Perhaps the most interesting twist in Lowbrow’s journey is its difficulty in fitting into a specific genre or as part of a larger movement. Critics have argued for decades over the legitimacy of Lowbrow as a high art movement, and for many years it was not recognised as an art movement in its own right. Galleries in New York like 01 Gallery or LA’s Psychedelic Solutions Gallery have paved the way in securing Lowbrow a validated place in the fine art arena. If Lowbrow’s future was ever in doubt, it has been firmly secured by Juxtapoz magazine, first published in 1994 and founded by Robert Williams. Juxtapoz gave Lowbrow artists a home to publish, draw inspiration and formalize its own identity.

While Lowbrow began as a product of its political and social times, a revolt against academic conceptualism of the 1960s, it has negotiated and thrived into the 21st century. It remains an unassuming mix of possibilities, open to flux and dedicated to beautifully polished works. Lowbrow captures our imaginations and jump starts journeys into wide eyed, candy colored but sometimes darkly disturbing worlds of artful madness.


 Works by Mike Cressy, Chelsea Greene Lewyta, Ethan Harris and Patrick Fatica

If you’re looking for more on Lowbrow art, Juxtapoz and Hi-Fructose Magazine are worth a look. You’ll also find inspiration in the Pop SurrealismKustom KulturePop ArtPainted Ladies group galleries.