A tribute to 'Lowbrow'

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April 17, 2006 // UPDATED 2:06 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Ox-Op’s features Juxtapoz Annual Group Show in final exhibit

The Juxtapoz Annual Group Show — a tribute to so-called “lowbrow” art — has landed in Minneapolis.

While the term might seem demeaning, fans of the genre featured at the SooVisual Art Center on Lyndale Avenue and Downtown’s Ox-Op Gallery laud the artists for their unique artwork that has developed an underground following.

Rob McBroom, an Ox-Op manager and one of the artists featured in the exhibit, said the Juxtapoz Show puts Minneapolis on the map. “I think it’s a good thing for us,” he said.

It’s the final show for the Downtown gallery that will close at the end of the month. While the Ox-Op will no longer have a permanent space, it will continue to collaborate with the SooVisual Art Center.

The Soo’s founder Suzy Greenberg said the Juxtapoz artists blend a variety of artistic styles.

“I sort of compare it to somewhere between street art, graffiti and design,” she said. “It’s very well done. … There’s definitely the dark side that might not be for everyone, but there is so much talent in the pieces.”

The artists take inspiration from mainstream pop culture in the same way Andy Warhol brought advertising into the art world, she said.

This is the first time the Juxtapoz Annual Group Show has been held in Minneapolis — or anywhere in the Midwest for that matter, in its 11-year history. The galleries have partnered with the Juxtapoz Art & Culture magazine, a San Francisco, Calif.-based bimonthly magazine, on the exhibit, which previously has held shows in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.

The show features work by 70 artists, including local talent, such as Aesthetic Apparatus, a Warehouse District-based design firm known for their rock posters; McBroom of the Ox-Op Gallery; cartoonist Ryan Kelly; and Keiko Yagishita, a silk screen artist who depicts pets; among other artists.

The galleries kicked off the show late March and it’s on display until the end of April. The SooVisual Art Center has 40 pieces gracing its walls, and the rest are at the Ox-Op next to Grumpy’s Bar on Washington Avenue.

Robert Williams, co-founder of Juxtapoz magazine, is one of the most acclaimed artists featured in the show. He is known for his aggressive and cartoonish style. A critic in the Los Angeles Times wrote: “There is nothing subtle about Williams’ style. The lines and shapes are exaggerated, and incongruent images are placed together. The paintings don’t just grab your attention, they assault the eyes.”

One of his pieces, “Saga v. Saga,” on display at the Juxtapoz show is listed for $35,000.

While Williams is the perhaps the most famous “lowbrow” artist, the genre was pioneered by artists in Southern California who were into hot-rod cars and the surfing scene. Ed “Bid Daddy” Roth and Von Dutch are credited with starting the movement.

The artists take inspiration from everything in pop culture — from comic book characters to 1960s TV

sitcoms.

Young artists, in many cases self-taught, dominate the “lowbrow” scene. They have traditionally been considered outsiders in the art world, but now the mainstream art establishment is starting to take notice and the artists are gaining celebrity status in some circles.

“The big thing about this genre is that it is sort of coming off the streets and into the galleries. It’s starting to filter into the highbrow world,” Greenberg said.

Galleries like the Walker Art Center have started embracing the art movement, she added.

At the Ox-Op, the pieces have a cartoony, surrealistic quality. Chris Mars, former drummer for the legendary local rock band the Replacements, has a painting, “Descendents of Hanford,” on display.

The $40,000 painting features several luminous ghosts with an eerie castle as a backdrop.

The Juxtapoz Show runs through April 22 at the SooVAC and the end of the month at the Ox-Op. The SooVisual Art Center, 2640 Lyndale Ave. S., is open noon-6 p.m., Wednesday through Friday; and noon-4 p.m. on Saturday. The Ox-Op gallery, 1111 Washington Ave. S., is open 4-8 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; and 1-5 p.m., Saturday.

For more information, checkout the galleries’ Web sites: www.soovac.org and www.ox-op.com.