Lowrid­ers, high art

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

Grav­ity-chal­lenged cars with rum­bling pipes go on dis­play

LOS AN­GE­LES — Lowrider cars these days are far more than tricked-out au­to­mo­biles with grav­ity-chal­lenged rear sus­pen­sions and ear-rat­tling ex­haust sys­tems that seem to cry out for po­lice to ticket the drivers.

In their finest for­mat, they have mor­phed into mu­se­umqual­ity works of art, ap­pear­ing in shows around the world from Paris’ Lou­vre to Wash­ing­ton’s Smith­so­nian.

But while mu­se­um­go­ers have learned to ap­pre­ci­ate these crea­tures that sprang from the garages of US teenagers in the years af­ter World War II, lowrider his­to­rian Denise San­doval says the eye-pop­ping, air- brushed paint­ings, plush in­te­ri­ors and chrome-plated wheels and en­gines that have come to de­fine them have qui­etly fo­mented some­thing more a new genre of con­tem­po­rary art.

It’s a genre San­doval hopes to ex­pose to a wider au­di­ence through The High Art of Rid­ing Low, a wide-rang­ing ex­hi­bi­tion of lowrider-in­spired fine art in­clud­ing paint­ings, sculp­tures, seri­graphs, pho­to­graphs, draw­ings and, of course, au­to­mo­biles cre­ated by the world’s most ac­com­plished Chi­cano artists.

The show, which runs un­til next June, is the third lowrider ex­hi­bi­tion that San­doval, a Chi­cano stud­ies pro­fes­sor at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity, Northridge, has cu­rated at Los An­ge­les’ Petersen Au­to­mo­tive Mu­seum since 2000.

Like pre­vi­ous shows, it fea­tures its share of some of the finest lowrider cars cre­ated, among them Jesse Valadez’s “Gypsy Rose”, which was en­cased in glass for dis­play on Wash­ing­ton’s Na­tional Mall ear­lier this year when it was in­ducted into the United States His­toric Ve­hi­cle Regis­ter. The long, sleek Chevro­let is bathed in bright pink and cov­ered with in­tri­cately painted roses run­ning from front tire to tail­light.

Other cars in the ex­hibit ra­di­ate a rain­bow of col­ors, in­clud­ing some with mu­rals of beau­ti­ful women, land­scapes and skele­tons rep­re­sent­ing Dia de Muer­tos, the Latino hol­i­day honor­ing de­ceased loved ones.

But placed right along­side these V-8-pow­ered trea­sures are dozens of paint­ings and other mu­seum works cre­ated by such artists as Gil­bert “Magu” Lu­jan and Frank Romero, who form half of the Los Four, the first Chi­cano artists group to have a show­ing at a ma­jor in­sti­tu­tion, the Los An­ge­les County Mu­seum of Art, in 1974.

“Ba­si­cally we’re fo­cused on look­ing at the lowrider car as both artis­tic in­spi­ra­tion and art ob­ject,” says San­doval, ex­plain­ing how this show dif­fers from ear­lier ones. “We’re tak­ing artists from the mu­seum gallery world and merg­ing them with lowrider artists. So we’re bring­ing these two worlds to­gether.”

Ba­si­cally we’re fo­cused on look­ing at the lowrider car as both artis­tic in­spi­ra­tion and art ob­ject.” Denise San­doval, a lowrider his­to­rian who has or­ga­nized a wide-rang­ing ex­hi­bi­tion of lowrider-in­spired fine art

JAE C. HONG / AP

A cus­tom­ized 1950 Chevro­let Sedan is dis­played dur­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion in Los An­ge­les.

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