The lowbrow variety of art: “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like”

Originally published in Tempo

The show

A helpless alien on a hospital bed, Guadalupe Posada-inspired calaveras, a Barbie inside a shadow box, and handmade guitars—these are just a few motifs featured in High Art/ Low Brow, a show dedicated to an art movement also known as pop surrealism. The reception will take place on March 9th from 4 to 7 pm at the Greg Moon Art Gallery.

The idea of the exhibit grew out of After Dark I, a national juried show that Moon did last year. He noticed that many artists working in genres not usually represented in the current market were not given the recognition they deserved.

Greg Moon

The show is Moon’s contribution to the understanding of one these genres—the lowbrow variety of art.  “It should get more attention,” he said. “And it is happening: Esteban Bojorquez just had a one-man show in California. Dennis Larkins has been doing this kind of work since the 60’s when he designed album covers for the Grateful Dead.”

And what exactly is lowbrow art?

“It takes something that is considered ‘high art,’ like a Velasquez painting, and combines it with a pop culture item that could be a sock monkey or a character from Star Wars,” explains Moon, “so people of diverse backgrounds can recognize the symbols and enjoy them, making art more accessible to the masses. It is a democratic form of art.”

The artists

Among the featured artists are Santa Fe-based Dennis Larkins, a former album cover, poster artist, and stage designer for the Grateful Dead, Esteban Bojorquez, an installation artist recently featured in Juxtapose Magazine, and Moon himself, who has participated in over one hundred exhibits.

Larkins works with concepts that include aliens, skeletons and other archetypes from retro-pop culture. “An Overriding Misunderstanding,” a painted three-dimensional relief on canvas, is part of a five-piece series. It takes the concept of alien abductions (which is, fittingly, the title of the series) and turns it on its head.

“My definition of lowbrow art is, first, the opposite of highbrow, the highly intellectual approach to creativity,” said Larkins. “Lowbrow is more populist, both in its content and its intentions. It appeals to people who say, ‘I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like.’”

Iowa native Libby Macalister is an assemblage artist and the owner of FX-18, voted the best groovy gift shop in Taos. Her shadow box “Barbie by air and by sea” is a minimalistic, detailed piece rich with color and texture. “I let the objects illustrate my ideas,” she said.

Todd Christensen, a professor of fine arts at New MexicoHighlandsUniversity, is doing an installation. His work, he says, is autobiographical in nature and deals with events within his own life and within the world.

Jeffrey Brown is an art instructor from Colorado Springs. One of his assemblage pieces was shown in the New Mexorado Exhibit at the Harwood last year and now belongs to the museum’s permanent collection.

“I work with found objects, things that are thrown away and that I rescue from streets and parking lots,” said Brown. “People also give me stuff that they no longer use and I incorporate them into my art.” His assemblages make political and social statements so Brown considers his style as “folk art with a twist.”

Conrad Cooper, a polifacetic artist who is also a member of the band Big Swing Theory, borrows figures from famous paintings and juxtaposes them with images from the popular culture “to show a real analogue of the kind of things that spark my imagination,” he states.

 “The show is something that I wanted to do because nobody else is doing it,” said Moon. “I am happy to use my gallery to help other artists gain the recognition that they deserve in their careers.”

Moon says that people enjoy coming to his gallery because the place is welcoming and opened to everybody. “Above all, it’s fun,” he said. “I am probably the only gallery owner in town who likes to see people laughing at his art.”

Greg Moon Art is located at 109A Kit Carson Road.


Two Fisted Justice
Dennis Larkins