a tribute to ‘Lowbrow’

Juxtapoz Annual Group Show showcases a burgeoning art movement

The Juxtapoz Annual Group Show - a tribute to so-called &#8220lowbrow” 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.

SooVisual Art Center founder and visual artist Suzy Greenberg said the Juxtapoz artists blend a variety of artistic styles.

&#8220I sort of compare it to somewhere between street art, graffiti and design,” she said. &#8220It's very well done. There's definitely the dark side that might not be there 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 Juxtapoz Art & Culture, 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; Rob McBroom of the Ox-Op Gallery; cartoonist Ryan Kelly; and Keiko Yagishita, a silk-screen artist who depicts pets.

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: &#8220There 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, &#8220Saga v. Saga,” on display at the Juxtapoz show is listed for $35,000.

While Williams is the perhaps the most famous &#8220lowbrow” artist, the genre was pioneered by artists in Southern California who were in to hot-rod cars and the surfing scene. Ed &#8220Bid 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, who, in many cases, are 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.

&#8220The 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 SooVisual Art Center, the pieces share a bold, surrealistic quality. They have an &#8220approachable” quality that fits the gallery's mission of &#8220making artwork accessible to everyone,” she said.

Williams' piece on display at the Lyndale Avenue gallery features a ravenous and scantily clad woman hovering over a huge assortment of food. The $2,500 painting is entitled &#8220Quit Eating.”

Other pieces are less intense.

Yagishita, a Minneapolis printmaker, has a playful print of a bulldog named Flash featured in the show in a piece called &#8220Do You Want to Go for a Walk?” where he represents the dog in vibrant pink, orange and red hues.

&#8220It am so honored to be in that show,” she said.

Yagashita uses an old-fashioned screen-printing process called screen burning to depict her animal subjects. Her method differs from most other screen printers in that she typically uses eight to 10 colors in her pieces - double the average for the traditional process.

She bases her screen prints on photographs or sketches of people's pets. One print usually takes about a month to complete.

The Juxtapoz show is also the last exhibit for Ox-Op, which plans on closing at the end of April.

The Downtown gallery has been open since 2003. It has prominently featured graphic artists that take inspiration from cartoons and Japanese anime.

The 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 -5 p.m., Saturday.

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