Mu­seum ex­hibits lowrider cars, the art­work they've in­spired

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

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 mu­seum-qual­ity 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 Amer­i­can teenagers in the years af­ter World War II, lowrider his­to­rian Denise San­doval says the eye-pop­ping, air­brushed 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 opened Mon­day and 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. Artis­tic in­spi­ra­tion and art ob­ject

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 US 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 LA ex­hibit ra­di­ate a rain­bow of col­ors, in­clud­ing some with mu­rals of beau­ti­ful women, land­scapes and skele­tons rep­re­sent­ing Dia de Muer­tos, the Latino hol­i­day honor­ing loved ones who have died.

But placed right along­side these V-8-pow­ered trea­sures are dozens of paint­ings and other mu­seum works cre­ated by such prom­i­nent gallery artists as Gil­bert "Magu" Lu­jan and Frank Romero, who form half of the con­tem­po­rary art world's 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."

It's an ef­fort per­haps best ex­em­pli­fied by the con­trast found upon first com­ing face-to-face with the late Valadez's stun­ningly col­or­ful, in­tri­cately de­tailed "Gypsy Rose," parked just out­side the gallery hall's en­trance, and then en­ter­ing the hall it­self to see the other works. "That car is like the ul­ti­mate zero of lowrid­ing. You know what I mean? It all starts with 'Gypsy Rose,'" says lowrider and artist Al­bert de Alba Sr, whose El Rey, three-time win­ner of Lowrider Car of the Year, is also on dis­play. In­side the gallery, it all con­tin­ues with a va­ri­ety of stun­ning works in var­i­ous me­dia.

There is Lu­jan's ac­claimed "Jour­ney to Azt­lan" paint­ing show­ing a lowrider cruis­ing across Cal­i­for­nia's desert to­ward the myth­i­cal land of the Aztec peo­ple. Nearby is an­other large acrylic-on-can­vas work, this one by Jaime "Germs" Zacarias and pay­ing trib­ute to Lu­jan as it shows the late artist's own lowrider car as­cend­ing to­ward the heav­ens as it's driven by a friendly dog, a char­ac­ter Lu­jan fea­tured fre­quently in his work.

The ac­tual car, a 1950 Chevy coupe that Lu­jan named "Our Fam­ily Car" be­cause it re­ally was, is also on dis­play. See­ing it up close al­lows a view of its con­trast­ing scenes of Aztec-style paint­ings through­out and the mul­ti­col­ored flames em­bel­lish­ing its sides. The re­sult makes the car ap­pear as a hy­brid lowrider-hot rod, some­thing San­doval says the artist was go­ing for. The "Gypsy Rose" is also paid trib­ute to, by mixed-me­dia artist Justin Favela's col­or­ful, life-sized "pi­ata" replica con­structed from pa­per and sus­pended from the ceil­ing.

Other paint­ings, draw­ings, pho­to­graphs and seri­graphs show lowrider street scenes from around the US South­west, il­lus­trat­ing what San­doval has long main­tained: that while places from Es­panola, New Mex­ico, to East Los An­ge­les have claimed to be the birth­place of lowrid­ing, it ap­pears to have sprung up spon­ta­neously across the South­west dur­ing the post-war years. Caught up in the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion of that lowrid­ing cul­ture was de Alba, son of a lowrider who learned his air­brush paint­ing skills from his father and ap­plied them to the 1963 Chevro­let Im­pala he named El Rey.

The sparkling, candy-ap­ple-red lowrider - with its gleam­ing chrome wheels, gold engine, etched chrome sil­ver man­i­fold and its stun­ning mu­rals un­der the hood and trunk lid - is one of the show's sig­na­ture pieces. Al­though El Rey has been dis­played in Ja­pan and Ger­many, the mod­est de Alba, who cus­tom­izes cars for a liv­ing, says even he was caught of­f­guard to learn it would ap­pear along­side works by some of the most prom­i­nent con­tem­po­rary artists. "That, to me, was mind-blow­ing," he said. "I was like, 'Wait a minute.' And they go, 'It's an art form, and you're an artist.' It was a very hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence."— AP

“Our Fam­ily Car," a cus­tom­ized 1950 Chevro­let Sedan by Gil­bert "Magu" Lu­jan, is dis­played dur­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled "The High Art of Rid­ing Low" at the Petersen Au­to­mo­tive Mu­seum in Los An­ge­les.

In this photo, "El Rey," a cus­tom­ized 1963 Chevro­let Im­pala by Al­bert de Alba, Sr, is dis­played dur­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled "The High Art of Rid­ing Low" at the Petersen Au­to­mo­tive Mu­seum in Los An­ge­les. — AP photos

Photo shows "El Muer­torider," a cus­tom­ized 1968 Chevro­let Im­pala by Artemio Ro­driguez and John Jota Leanos, is dis­played dur­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled "The High Art of Rid­ing Low".

Photo shows "Gypsy Rose Pi­nata" by Justin Favela is dis­played dur­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled "The High Art of Rid­ing Low".

Photo shows the in­te­rior view of Jesse Valadez's "Gypsy Rose," a cus­tom­ized 1964 Chevro­let Im­pala.

Photo shows the in­te­rior of "El Rey," a cus­tom­ized 1963 Chevro­let Im­pala by Al­bert de Alba, Sr., dur­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled "The High Art of Rid­ing Low".

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