Hot Rods, Skate Decks, Tattoos: Green Building Hosts Panel on Lowbrow/High Culture Art

The Green Building Gallery’s Focus series continues Monday with a panel discussion on the careers of Louisville artists who have one foot in the art gallery world and one in the so-called “lowbrow” design world of skateboards, motorcycles, tattoos and hot rods.

Artists on the panel include emerging artist Matthew McDole, whose work can be seen on the current edition of Home Skateshop skateboard decks; sculptor Brad White, curator of numerous art exhibitions centered around motorcycle and hot rod culture; and acclaimed illustrator Jeral Tidwell, whose design work includes skateboards, concert posters, stickers and clothing. They will  share their experiences and perspectives on building careers that navigate and embrace those dualities. 

Update: a fourth panelist has been announced. Suzanne Edd of Liberty Tattoo and Art Parlor will join the conversation tonight.

The “Lowbrow/High Culture” discussion begins at 6 pm on Monday at the Green Building (732 E. Market St.). Questions for the panelists can be tweeted or tagged on Facebook with #gbgFocus

Although the lines between high and low (or pop) culture continue to erode (think: the Anna Nicole Smith opera), curator Daniel Pfalzgraf says he still sees some division in the fine art world.

“But as the establishment leaders for the high-end art world are slowly beginning to recognize the value of creators in other visual worlds outside of their own, it becomes more integrated into their world,” he says.

Pfalzgraf says subculture art can be seen as “exotic” by dominate markets, but eventually, it begins informing work outside of its natural domain.  

“To me, it’s kind of like in the early Twentieth century, when people in Europe began becoming fascinated with ‘exotic’ African masks and sculpture.  After the work received a recognized value in the European art world, then European artists began using elements from that work and incorporating it into their own, which is what really spawned the Cubist movement,” says Pfalzgraf. “Looking back on Western or American art since Cubism, you can see that narrative being repeated with Folk/Outsider art, comic books and cartoons, and graffiti.”

There was a time when an exhibit of, say, motorcyle art would have been relegated to fringe outlets or alternative galleries, but as cultural lines blur, commercial galleries and art museums have taken notice. In 2009, White helped curate a vintage motorcycle exhibition for Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft.  

Last summer I went down to Atlanta to see an exhibit on the history of skateboard art at the Museum of Design Atlanta.  And this year both the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville had exhibits of automobiles,” says Pfalzgraf.  ”There is still a definite separation between the two extreme ends of the lowbrow-high culture spectrum, but there is now a sort of entry way that has opened up that allows a free flow to exchange between the to sides.” 

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