Robert Williams: SLANG Aesthetics!

April 22, 2017 - July 23, 2017

Preview the exhibit at the Spring Party/Opening Reception April 21, 7-9pm! The exhibit opens to the general public April 22, but will be on view at the Party April 21 starting at 7pm.

Robert Williams: SLANG Aesthetics! is the Midwestern debut for a new body of work by the champion of underground artists, Robert Williams.

Robert Williams: SLANG Aesthetics! features new work by an artist widely upheld as the godfather of the lowbrow, pop surrealist, and colloquial realism art movements, direct antecedents of the New Contemporary Art movement. Williams is an American painter and cartoonist who 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.

The work that Williams created was different, and didn’t fit within the established critical and intellectual paradigms espoused by the East Coast dominated art scene. Creating epic cartoon-inspired history paintings charged with sex and ultra-violence, Williams drew from the social power of the American vernacular and its visual slang. He refused the immaterial aspirations of the art object, as it moved further away from representation, and felt no affinity with the contentless legacy of Abstract Expressionism.

Instead, Williams sought idiosyncrasy, content, narrative, skillful figuration and popular culture, and created work that captured its visceral and libidinal energies through accessible references. Williams continued to disregard the arbitrary exclusions of the low from “high” culture, and in 1979 coined the term “low brow” as a way to articulate his opposition to an establishment from which he was excluded. For better or worse, “low brow” became the namesake of a young fledgling art movement, which Williams would prove to be instrumental in fostering. In 1994 Williams founded Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine and created a platform for this young and insurgent energy on the West Coast; a publication that was dedicated to the underground and to its cultural mutineers.

Williams, a self-described Conceptual Realist, continues to create artworks that elicit a response and offer an opinion. Relying on concrete, and relatable, imagery to invoke ideas and concepts, rather than on the non-committal spasms of abstraction, his work continues to cut, seethe, confront and move. Not for the faint of heart, Williams speaks an unruly truth that captures the dark, the beautiful, and the appalling tenor of our modern world.

April 21: Exhibit Preview and Spring Party, 7-9pm. Enjoy appetizers, cash bar, live music, and meet Robert Williams! $8 members / $15 future members. Get tickets here.

April 22: Artist Talk and Tour, 1-2pm
Meet Robert Williams himself as he leads a gallery tour of his exhibition. Free with admission.

June 1: Curator’s Tour, 12:15pm
From a specialized and personal point of view, exhibit curator Josef Zimmerman will offer a unique perspective on Robert Williams’ exhibition. Free with gallery admission.

These exhibits are sponsored by Automotive Color Supply and Creative Sign Resources.