A few years ago, Matt Dukes Jordan compiled Wierdo Deluxe to showcase today’s leading lowbrow and pop surrealist artists. With Weirdo Noir, he crawls into the cracks of the lowbrow genre to harvest some of the darker Gothic* works contained therein.
Jordan’s introductory essay is a glimpse into the human obsession with what goes bump in the night, and earlier art movements that precursor today’s noir creatives. His timeline of dark imagery through the ages is a real treat and he takes pains to place lowbrow art into the context of today’s culture, contrasting it with the kitschy and commercial imagery it appropriates.
A recurring theme that peeks out, particularly as one gets into the artist interviews, is the subtle (or not) push-back-slash-osmosis that happens between this populist lowbrow movement and the cultured high art world. (A taste of that tension here.) But this book is not about art theory, history, or criticism: it is first and foremost a very accessible showcase of some delightfully dark contemporary lowbrow artists and the work they produce.
I enjoyed all the artists featured, especially what they shared about their process and inspirations, though I sometimes found myself wishing for more info: The “interview” portion was just them answering a set of standard questions. Quite a few times I wished I could ask some follow-ups to something they said. For me, Wierdo Noir’s main draw is page after page of artwork. I keep it handy by my desk to leaf through whenever I need some inspiration. If I had to select a small handful of the artists therein that really caught my eye, hmmm…. I’d say Attaboy, with his tripped out doe eyed monsters (and his colors too), Ray Caesar for the OMG chill-me-to-the-bone with sweet creepiness, Dan Kennedy for his dark painterly carnavalesque canvases, Laurie Lipton for her freaking detail with a pencil, Sara McPherson for painting the stuff I wish I could paint, and Annie Owens for all the angsty mascara running down cheeks.
But really, all of them together make for a nicely gritty collection. Here are links to the twenty four artists featured in Weirdo Noir, then a virtual sneak peak through it’s pages. Enjoy!
Attaboy ** Ana Bagayan ** Glenn Barr ** Jonathan Bergeron ** Ray Caesar ** Jason d’Aquino
Bob Dob ** Alex Gross ** Fred Harper ** Annette Hassell ** Sarah Joncas ** Dan Kennedy
Laurie Lipton ** Travis Louie ** Tara McPherson ** Skot Olsen ** Nathan Ota ** Annie Owens Anthony Pontius ** Isabel Samaras ** Shag ** Dani Tull ** Brian Viveros ** Edward Walton Wilcox
*Dahlia Jane, spooky batchelorette of all things dark and creepy, took some issue with the tone of the book not being dark enough, wondering why some art/artists were featured and others were not. It’s a valid point, but my own thought is that Jordan did a good job giving a diverse and accessible glimpse into this sub-genre so those being introduced to it for the first time could decide if they want to poke deeper and find “the most depraved and twisted images being produced in the lowbrow genre“.
Many thanks to @johnremy, for introducing me to this book, and to the lowbrow movement in general 🙂