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Marc Maron prints now available! S/N edition of 200, 18″ x 24″, 6 colors hand-screened on heavy stock.
“Glazed Holes?” Wow. Hard to believe that in a time where entire organizations are devoted to scanning the airwaves and internets, desperate for something offensive to complain about, this sort of thing flies right under the radar like an ekranoplan*.
Not that I’m offended; I think it’s hilarious.
*link added because ekranoplans are just so awesome.
“You know a conjurer gets no credit when once he has explained his trick; and if I show you too much of my method of working, you will come to the conclusion that I am a very ordinary individual after all.” – Sherlock Holmes
Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Rat Fink, created in 1960, is an iconic figure in the world of hot rodding, and it is singularly iconic in the world of Lowbrow Art. It is the Venus Of Willendorf, Michaelangelo’s David, the Mona Lisa, and Duchamp’s Fountain, all in one, the Alpha and Omega of Lowbrow art, both in the exuberance of the linework and the outlaw sneer it represents.
Robt. Williams, the spiritual father of Lowbrow, who worked at Roth Studios in the late 60’s, has always claimed Roth as an artistic and spiritual influence, and Williams’ own art has always upheld the lawlessness and impolite nature of Roth’s body of work.
Now Lowbrow Art, or to use the more respectable moniker “Pop Surrealism”, is no longer the bad kid hiding behind the garage, and is well on the way to being an established, legitimate part of the “real” art world.
And that’s a shame.
Everything is co-opted, nothing is shocking anymore.
In 1865, Edward Manet exhibited “Olympia” at the Paris Salon. The public was outraged. Manet had referenced a painting by Titian, “Venus Of Urbino”, but transposed the image to a contemporary setting, and changed the subject from a goddess to a prostitute. Now, more than a hundred years later, the painting hangs in the Musée d’Orsay without a single complaint. I’m sure you can buy a postcard of it in the gift shop.
Also in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay is another painting, painted one year later by Gustave Courbet. “L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World)” is a painting of a nude woman’s torso, isolated in the composition so that the face and extremities are unseen. All that is visible are her voluptuous curves, one breast, and her genitals. Originally painted as a private commission, it passed through the hands of several owners, and was never on public display until the late 20th century.
As harmless as these images seem today, they caused outrage and apoplexy in their time.
But I digress.
Several years ago, I was working in my studio on another project, when inspiration, or the Imp of The Perverse (perhaps they are one and the same) struck. It was one of those moments when an image enters the brain fully-formed and complete, and all that is required of the artist is to commit it to paper or canvas. I quickly sketched out the image, and shortly thereafter produced a finished inked drawing.
I knew immediately it was something I had to use. It was a true Surrealist image, one that sprang forth from my subconscious with no prior thought or plan.
But I also realized how provocative the image was, and not just for obvious reasons. In the world of Lowbrow, Rat Fink is a cherished icon, an image to be worshipped, and I was defacing it, like Duchamp drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa – perhaps worse; I was doing a lot more than drawing a mustache after all. It was undeniably vulgar, even juvenile.
I put it away, only showing the drawing to a few people at the time. But it stayed in my mind, forcing me to put it on a canvas, to make it into something more. Finally I did.
It came together very quickly. Even I was shocked by how fast it came to be. Again, it was painted almost without conscious thought, as if it already existed in my brain fully formed, and only required me to take the steps to make it real.
The “C. F.” was originally meant to be the initials of another, more vulgar phrase, but as I was painting, “Close Friend” popped into my head, and I knew that was the real title, the saccharine sentiment contained in the phrase making for a nice balance with the many and conflicting interpretations available to the image. “Origin Of The World” was added as a namecheck to Courbet, and also to reference the role of Rat Fink and Ed Roth, in their influence on my own work, and Lowbrow Art in general.
click to enlarge
I know this painting will piss off a lot of people, even some of my fellow artists, who will be offended by my trashing of one of their icons. Having said that, i think it is the best, most honest work I have ever done.
Just the other day, I was having yet another conversation with Mr. Jalopy about the halcyon days of our shared youth. Sure, the seventies always gets a bad rap; in many respects, deservedly so. Just forget about the gas lines, rampant inflation, and polyester, and try to remember the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, fiberglass-bodied Chevy Vega funny cars and Evel Knievel.
Our conversation began (as it almost always does) with a discussion of the glory days of drag racing, reflections brought on by the purchase of the book mentioned in the previous post. Truly, giants stomped on MOON aluminum accelerator pedals in those heady days, ten-foot-tall, mutton-chopped gladiators whose driving skills were matched (indeed, sometimes exceeded) by their reckless, uninformed-by-focus-groups-style and showmanship. “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Connie “The Bounty Hunter” Kalitta, Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney, “Jungle Jim” Liberman, (and his bodacious muse, Jungle Pam!)
These were our bellbottomed gods and goddesses, coming down from the shag-carpeted comfort of Mt. Olympus in their metalflaked chariots to feud and fight for the entertainment of we mere mortals. The giants all went away eventually, and real drag racing went away with them, with the last example of the extinct species left in the person of motormouth pitchmeister John Force, bless him.
Drag racing was not the only place these sideburn-sporting titans battled with the fickle forces of Horsepower. From Formula One and Indy, all the way down to small-time demolition derbys, it seemed like our American birthright was finally being realized in a select group of crazy bastards willing to strap themselves in behind (or in front of) a Very Bad Idea and throw themselves at danger like flinging a water balloon at an electric fan, their only reward a shiny trophy, a can of Old Style, and the admiration of some sweet young thing with Farrah hair and a tube top.
Of course, if the subject under discussion is that of heroes dedicated to commiting acts of complete insanity involving internal combustion, lack of concern for life and limb, and white-toothed, white trash showmanship, then you need go no further than the apotheosis of the breed, Evel Knievel. He is the end point of the evolutionary line, the Tyrannosaurus Wrecks that tests the sustainable limits of the ecosystem. After he is gone, only small furry rodents remain.
It would be hard for someone born after 1980 to understand the hallowed place Evel held in the imagination of a kid back then. Forget fakes like Superman and Spider-Man, we had a real-life superhero to worship, a hero who dressed like a star-spangled Elvis, rode a Harley, smashed his bones like brittle Ortega taco shells, and who, in his ultimate act of insanity (and some would say of hubris) climbed into a red-white-and-blue rocket and shot himself over the gaping chasm of the Snake River Canyon. Like Icarus, he didn’t complete his flight; missing the far side of the canyon, he plummeted to the canyon floor, narrowly avoiding drowning in the river below. I can still remember witnessing this event on ABC’s Wide World Of Sports. just as I can instantly recall his painful slo-motion Caesar’s Palace crash, the Zapruder film of my generation. As a kid, I had all the Evel Knievel toys, of course, and later tried to jump drainage ditches on my dirt bike in imitation of Knievel, earning a broken collarbone for my troubles.
Yes, Evel was perhaps the ultimate example of the madness of the seventies, and held an honored place in the kid pantheon alongside Fonzie, Catfish Hunter, and those fat, minibike-riding twins from the Guinness Book of World Records (the book we couldn’t wait to order every year from the Scholastic catalog.)
This wasn’t meant to be merely another empty exercise in nostalgia-humping. As fun as it might be just to blather on about all this stuff, the more important question is this: what happened? Why did these giants vanish from the earth, only to be replaced by bilious actors, slutty anorexic debu-tarts, and insolvent vulgarians with orangutan hair-hats? When will the giants return?