Fine art

Rebels without a pause

Lowbrow pop-surrealist artists take center stage at Greg Moon Art

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Taos is in for another wake-up call this weekend because cutting-edge artists from New Mexico and the greater Southwest are gathering to show their latest work at “New Mexi-Low 6.”

The highly popular annual exhibition is set to open with a reception Saturday (Oct. 7) from 5-8 p.m. at Greg Moon Art, 109 Kit Carson Road.

This invitational exhibit was created by Moon to show the edgy and powerfully emotional work of pop-surrealist and so-called lowbrow artists.

Invited artists are Anthony Ausgang, Shawn Dickinson (of Los Angeles, California), Ryan Singer, Petro (Albuquerque), Dennis Larkins, Holly Wood, Esteban Bojorquez, Joel Nakamura (Santa Fe), Tony Ortega, Frank Zamora (Denver, Colorado), Sam Yeates (Austin, Texas), Heather Ross, Rik Farley, Marvin Moon and Greg Moon (Taos).

Moon explains that pop surrealism resists commercialization because its artists rebel against the official fine art world, hence the title “Rebels Without A Pause.”

Broad themes of pop surrealism center on graffiti, comic strips, car culture, tattoo art, rock posters, prison art, pen-and-pencil sketches, recycled garbage sculptures and fine art paintings of trucks, semi-nude women in provocative poses, clowns, space aliens — well, basically anything promoted by popular media over the past 60 to 70 years.

“Esteban Bojorques did all the musical instruments I’ll be showing,” Moon said, referring to found objects like a muffler casing, cast-off handles and more, repurposed to create a working guitar and other instruments. Among other powerful work, Bojorques and wife Karen Bojorques are the chief architects of the exquisite catalog for “¡Órale! King & Queens of Cool,” created for the still-talked-about 2015 Harwood Museum exhibit curated by Jina Brenneman. “The overall [catalog] design echoes the alternative, anti-art-establishment approach of the artists,” the Bojorquezes told Tempo in a preview of the 2015 exhibit.

Pointing to Ortega’s color lithograph, “Super-Hombre,” clearly a punked and powerful riff on Marvel Comic’s “Superman,” Moon said Ortega also will show the Hispanicized “Captain America” – “Fighting for Dreamers – Latino Immigrants,” as well as the really funny “Juan Wayne,” depicting a well-known Western movie actor in a huge sombrero in front of McDonald’s golden arches, saying, “Howdy pilgrim who is the illegal alien?”

As we said in the Taos Gallery Guide pop surrealism piece this year, you won’t find hollyhocks or adobe walls here, unless they are part of a Day of the Dead motif or flanking a heavily mustachioed Frida Kahlo. Here is a mixing of media, genres, sensibilities and an undercurrent of sly self-mockery puncturing the preciousness of the very thing the artists celebrate.

Wood said her perception of things is expressed in a narrative, storytelling form. Like many of the “New Mexi-Low 6” artists, her style is cartoon-influenced, “yet painterly; sometimes refined, sometimes crude,” she said in her online statement. “In recent years I have been moving toward a more Cartoon-Realist approach. I want a simpler look, where I can get the utmost expression out of each line, and each brushstroke expresses energy. My influences range from the scenes of everyday life pictured in the margins of medieval manuscripts, Late Medieval and early Renaissance art, Indian narrative folk painting, classic European Surrealism, Latin American Fantastic Realism and Mexican Social Commentary, comics and graphic novels. I draw my subjects from daily life, news stories, history and my own vivid dreams.”

Ausgang’s self-described “cartoon expressionism” is a schizophrenic mix of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fighting each other for dominance, especially during his early “silent scream” years vying with the art establishment for recognition and legitimacy. In his art book, “Vacation from Reality,” which covers 20 years of “psychedelically influenced [lowbrow] art,” Ausgang says he and other pop surrealists basically got that legitimacy from La Luz de Jesús in Santa Monica, California, and similar galleries, despite the fine art market’s myopia.

Many of us were practically raised on Dennis Larkins’ 1960s and ‘70s imagery — vinyl record album covers and huge set designs for the Grateful Dead, The Who and The Rolling Stones. Having moved to Taos from Colorado for a quick minute in 1976, when his money ran out and he had to go back home, it’s a curious “coincidence” that Larkins’ “calavera” work – skeletons, skeletal heads and people – should become almost as much a hallmark of his work as the obsessive California car culture and other key marginalia of the post-World War II atomic-bomb era and beyond.

Yeates’ narratives incorporate memories and past experiences, which figure in the adventures and discoveries offered by country roads, women and, oddly enough, wings. He says in his online artist statement he believes “wings represent freedom, escape and the wish we all have to transcend this existence.” His painting, “Time or Crawling Toward the Millennium,” was selected as one of five winning entries in the American portion of the Winsor & Newton World Wide Millennium Painting Competition and global touring exhibition in 2000. It was also selected by the United Nations to be used as an image in a series of stamps titled “Our World 2000.”

“All us misfits are together, and I love that,” Moon said about the show and his gallery in general. “This is an underserved market here in Taos. It is irreverent and maybe has a little sick sense of humor. But people who would never walk into a gallery can come in here – and they can point and laugh because they know who George Jetson is, who Popeye is. A lot is based on comic art. And it challenges conventions. But art can be fun! Museums are great, but everyone can come in here and relate to what’s on the walls.”

The exhibit hangs through Oct. 28. For more information, visit gregmoonart.com or call (575) 770-4463.

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