High on Lowbrow
Local artists in L.A. show
Out of the molecular muck of some imagined future rises the banner for a new art form, the Greygoo Project. Three independent-minded artists from Windsor are at the forefront of the city’s Low- brow movement.
Lowbrow, a form of art that grew out of 1970s southern California subculture, has found a foothold in the work of Windsor’s Steve Gibb, Gino Gesuale and Dave Finch.
Collectively, they call themselves the Greygoo Project, and this weekend they take their work to a major Lowbrow exhibit on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.
There they will join a couple of dozen other Lowbrow artists at the second annual Gag Me with a Toon: Harder, Faster, Radder!! show at Los Angeles’ Melt Gallery, the selfstyled home of this artistic movement.
The Greygoo artists combine technical skill with a whimsical, rebellious spirit — they are serious about not being serious about art, Gibb said.
“But the whole Lowbrow approach is tongue-in-cheek. It kind of mocks higher art by showing people that skill can be used for something off-kilter or unusual.”
To be sure, the images these artists have created are anything but conventional. Commercial, maybe, but certainly not conventional. Finch has created a Strawberry Shortcake character who brandishes a sword and rides My Little Pony to glory.
Gibb’s cartoon hero, HeMan, is in drag and wears a necklace. Gesuale’s frustrated alien, Mr. Goo, splits open a Rubik’s Cube and makes it bleed.
But perhaps most frighteningly satirical of all is Gibb’s I Don’t Flippin’ Care Bear, a maniacal toy that rips the head off a Barbie doll.
Each of the works is the individual artist’s conception of this year’s California show theme — 1980s popular cartoon and toy culture.
Many don’t see it as art, Gibb said. Some are plainly insulted by it. Either way, it’s hard to ignore it. “If you can get away with putting a fluorescent light bulb in a gallery and call it art,” Gibb said, “what does that say about people with real artistic talent?”
Lowbrow art is defined on Wikipedia.org as an underground visual art movement that arose in Los Angeles in the late 1970s.
It origins are found in the comic art, music and hotrod culture of that period in both L.A. and San Francisco.
The biggest shot in the arm for Lowbrow came in the early 1990s with the publication of underground artist Robert Williams’magazine, Juxtapoz.
Said Gibb: “I suddenly realized there were other people out there doing the same kind of art I was into. I identified with it and it kept me doing what I’m doing.”
In some more refined circles, Finch said, the art is called pop surrealism. “That makes it a little more palatable to people.”
Finch is perhaps the group’s bestknown artist. Working out of a home studio in LaSalle, he has established an international reputation as one of the lead illustrators for Marvel Comics.
Gibb is an advertorial co-ordinator in The Windsor Star’s advertising department, while Gesuale is co-owner of Windsor’s Noi Restaurant on Erie Street East. The name Greygoo was Gibb’s idea. “It was my mad-scientist side coming out,” he explained. “It’s a theoretical, end-of-the-world scenario where nanotechnology has self-replicated to the point where nothing is left but this vast void of greyness, or grey goo.
“I thought it kind of represented our attempt to take over the art world.”
The group itself got its start innocently enough. Finch met Gesuale when the two were picking up their kids at school.
“We got to talking,” Gesuale said. “I said I ran Noi. He said he was an artist. It kind of went from there.”
While elements of Finch’s comic art find their way naturally into all the work, Finch said it shouldn’t be dismissed as immature or amateur.
“I love to paint, but I’d got away from it doing the illustrations. This is kind of liberating for me.”
Gesuale’s crazy-quilt, more abstract creations are an escape from the struggles of running a small business in a sagging economy.
“Absolutely, it’s a means of escape,” he said. “But I’ve always been an artist. I’ve always loved to express myself through art.”
Once they’re back from their southern California adventure, they hope to expand the Greygoo Project on the local scene through exhibits, connecting with other artists, and maybe even T-shirt designs.
“This kind of art looks great on Tshirts,” Finch said. “If it means putting it on shirts to market it, that’s great. Commericalism is a strong motivation for artists.”