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The “Godfather of Lowbrow”

Artist Robert Williams debuts new work at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art

By Eddie Torres

Fort Wayne Reader


Robert Williams: SLANG Aesthetics! is the Midwestern debut for a new body of work by the champion of underground artists, Robert Williams. Williams is widely upheld as the godfather of the lowbrow, pop surrealist, and colloquial realism art movements, direct antecedents of the New Contemporary Art movement.

An American painter and cartoonist, Williams founded Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine and was part of the group of artists who produced Zap Comix with R. Crumb. Comic-style illustration certainly influenced his own highly detailed, complex paintings that fused the sunny side of California car and surfer culture with the bawdy underbelly of all things underground.

As both patriarch and outlaw, Williams’ enduring influence on the movement is undeniable. A true maverick who sought to create vital work that channeled the shifting energies and immediacy of the countercultural from the 1960s onward, Williams’ self-described "Conceptual Realist" paintings invoked a return to craftsmanship, figuration, and demotic imagery that rejected the more elitist tenets of conceptual minimalism.

“After our museum’s expansion in 2010, which gave us more than 3 times the number of galleries, we expanded our vision of what type of exhibits to curate for these new spaces,” says Charles Shepard, President and CEO of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. “A particularly interesting area of contemporary art was the work being done across the country by artists who increasingly seem to lack a special reverence for the contemporary ‘fine art world.’ These artists, in a wide variety of media, were pushing their careers forward without waiting to be invited by the art world. That nonconformist attitude is precisely what led us to want to do this show – despite the fact that Williams and his offspring never behaved as though they needed a museum to anoint them as acceptable,”

The FWMoA is planning a series of events for this exhibit. On April 21 from 7-9pm, the Spring Party will be in celebration of this and other spring exhibits at FWMoA. Tickets are $8 for members and $15 for future members. On April 22 from 1-
2pm, Williams will lead a gallery tour of his exhibition, which is free with gallery admission. On April 23 at 3pm, a screening of Williams’ biographical documentary Mr. Bitchin’, followed by Q&A with Williams, will be held at Cinema
Center in Fort Wayne at 437 E. Berry Street. Tickets for the screening are $5.

This exhibition is organized by the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in collaboration with Thinkspace Gallery, Los Angeles, led by FWMoA Curator of New Contemporary Art Josef Zimmerman and Thinkspace co-owners Andrew Hosner and Shawn

A second exhibition, Juxtapozed, also will open at FWMoA April 22. Juxtapozed features the artists working in the styles, themes, and attitudes of the art world that were pioneered by Robert Williams. Today, the movement is known as the
New Contemporary Movement, encompassing such genres as Street Art, Muralism, Pop Surrealism, and Hyperrealism.

The New Contemporary Art Movement has been largely self-sustained through a network of alternative cultural platforms, primarily outside of the mainstream and institutionally-vetted art markets, including social media, blogs, zines, underground collectives, galleries, and urban and alternative spaces. Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles is one of the movement's most visible and active proponents, taking the work to art fairs, collaborating with galleries internationally, and opening institutional channels for its exhibition and appreciation. Boasting over 400,000 followers through its various social media outlets, Thinkspace has helped to bring this work to a wider international audience. As the movement continues to expand on a global scale, its diversity, inclusivity, and vitality set it apart from more exclusionary art world models.

Juxtapozed was conceived by Andrew Hosner of Thinkspace Gallery and Josef Zimmerman of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, with the assistance of Gary Pressman of Copro Gallery, Santa Monica, CA. Co-founder and Curator of Thinkspace Gallery Andrew Hosner, says, "Our plan is to continue to knock on the door of the establishment until more listen, more take notice, more start to add these artists to their permanent collections, and start to give the movement the attention it has earned and deserved.”

Juxtapozed will feature installations by Laurence Vallieres and Icy and Sot plus site-specific murals by Cinta Vidal and Bumblebeelovesyou. The exhibition will include individual works by 48 New Contemporary artists including 1010; Aaron Nagel, Alex Garant, Allison Sommers, Amy Sol, Bec Winnel, Benjamin Garcia, Chris Mars, Cinta Vidal, Craig ‘Skibs’ Barker, Erika Sanada, and many, many more.

Robert Williams: SLANG Aesthetics!
April 22-July 23, 2017
Fort Wayne Museum of Art
311 East Main

April 22-July 29 2017
Fort Wayne Museum of Art
311 East Main

Special Events

Spring Party
April 21 from 7-9 pm
Tickets: $8 for members and $15 for future members.

April 22 from 1-2pm, gallery tour led by Williams.
Free with gallery admission.

Screening of documentary Mr Bitchin’, followed by Q & A
April 23 at 3 PM
Cinema Center — 437 E. Berry Street. Tickets: $5

For more info visit fwmoa.org

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