20.12.2013 - 15.02.2014

Yianoulis Halepas, "Medea", 1930-38, black pencil on paper, 21 Χ 20 cm

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AD Gallery presents the group show entitled “Scream Now While You Can Still Breathe - Irrational Navigations”.

The Lowbrow visual art movement has as a starting point the Underground movement, developed in Los Angeles, California in the end of the 70’s. Its forms are often related to the earlier popular culture of comics, punk music, psychedelic art and of books illustrating jungle adventures (Dragomirja etc.), painting on cars and motocycles that idolize driving on USA’s major road networks. Its images are frequently characterized by humor sometimes facetious, sometimes impish or sarcastic, while they often originate from retro illustration, the depiction of wooden cult statues of Polynesia in popular culture pamphlets. The movement is also known as Pop surrealism.

Some of the first artists that created what came to be known as lowbrow art were comics creators such as Robert Williams and Gary Panter. The artists who follow the movement multiply rapidly with the support of magazines such as Juxtapoz, first published in 1994, in which Williams plays a key role and through the pages of which he claims the authorship of the term.

The term pop surrealism was proposed by The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in 1998 as the title of the show dedicated to this movement. The exhibition featured works by seventy artists including Gregory Crewdson, Mariko Mori, Ashley Bickerton, Art Spiegelman, Tony Oursler and Cindy Sherman. In his review of the show at ArtForum Steven Henry Madoff wrote: “The mutant sensibility at work in this droll, smartly curated exhibition proposes the marriage of Surrealism's dream-laden fetish for the body eroticized and grotesque and Pop art's celebration of the shallower, corrosively bright world given over the packaged good”. The New York Times said of the exhibition: “at first, Surrealism and popular culture would seem to be oil and water. Surrealism mines dreams and the unconscious, while popular culture is concerned with surface and commonplaces. But in recent years they have been brought together in exhibitions concerned with proving that High and Low are related”.

Nevertheless, museums, art critics, and mainstream galleries remained reluctant to integrate lowbrow to the commonly accepted fine art scene, although some important collectors are actively monitoring this trend. The study of this movement by the academic community remains scarce so far. Perhaps this is due to the fact that most lowbrow artists do not come from fine art schools, but they began their carreers as illustrators, tattoo artists, graphic designers or comic artists. A signigicant part of the art world seems to encounter difficulties with the persistence of these artists in figuration, extreme narrative and worship of skill and technical excellence in the execution of the form. Since the 80’s artists have been creating works in which the crafting and personal style regress to the second level and have been seeking a form that extends to the “objective” reality of social space. In contrast, lowbrow artists seek the strictly personal by submerging into personal fictions.

The origins of lowbrow’s approach in terms of the image construction should probably be sought in the artistic movements of the beginning of the 20th century, especially amongst the supporters of Dadaism and Regionalism, who mainly raised questions about the distinction between high and low art, high-art and popular culture. In some sense, lowbrow art explores the blurred boundaries between high and low, is fond of “playing around” the areas of their osmosis.

Lowbrow is a wider concept compared to the concept of Kitsch. The latter has characterized a style of mass production of art or a design using popular or cultural images1. The term was used in order to describe the non-essential, the flashy works of art or the kind of decoration that have fascinated the masses based on the “common taste”. Unlike lowbrow,  Kitsch has been the subject of academic study (until 1970), mainly in Germany, especially in the work of Walter Benjamin.

Participating artists: Alexis Akrithakis, Yianoulis Halepas, Steven C. Harvey, Konstantinos Katagas, Elias Kafouros, Panagiotis Loukas, Alexandros Psychoulis, George Tourlas, Anastasis Stratakis and Orestis Symvoulidis

1 A cultural image is an object that represents some aspects of values, norms and ideals which are considered intrinsic to a culture.

Exhibition duration: December 20, 2013 - February 15, 2014
image gallery