Book Signing, CounterMedia
927 SW Oak , Thurs Nov 3, 6:30 pm, free
You quite likely know the art of Robert Williams even if his name doesn't ring a bell. Your first exposure might have come from Appetite for Destruction, where Guns N' Roses reproduced his painting by the same name of a zonked-out woman with her panties around her ankles beneath a gigantic robotic alien in the album art. Then in 1994, as the reigning king of illustrative lowbrow art (a title he still holds), he filled a market need with a new magazine Juxtapoz, devoted to self-proclaimed lowbrow art. Williams' theatrical, multi-narrative, incredibly rendered canvases have found a home in a lush new book, Through Prehensile Eyes. Mr. Williams took a break from painting in his SoCal studio long enough to answer a few of our questions in anticipation of his First Thursday book signing.
Despite your successes, I've only seen one of your paintings in an American museum. Are you resentful toward the mainstream art world for basically ignoring you all these years?
Let me give you a little background here and maybe that question will answer itself. I started to go to art school in 1963 in Los Angeles with these lurid ideas about art based on my interests in comic books, animation, B movies, and hot rods. I was in for quite a shock, though, because the entire nation, including my professors, was under the influence of Abstract Expressionism. Draftsmanship had been outré for 10 or 15 years. After art school, I wound up with Ed "Big Daddy" Roth during a very psychedelic period in my life. To work for him you needed tight draftsmanship skills and a wild imagination, and I fit his bill there. This work led into Zap Comix with Robert Crumb. But when I hooked up with Crumb and the rest of the Zap artists, I found out they all had fine art backgrounds and went through the same problems I did. From then on I was able to make a living selling oil paintings and doing underground comics.
Do you still follow underground comics?
Yeah—do you know who I like? Johnny Ryan. Do you know his work? I just think he's the greatest. He's up and coming, and he's just got guts.
Actually, we run Blecky Yuckerella in our paper. You're able to appreciate, then, artists who aren't as technically precise as you are?
Well yeah, I'm not against Modernists or Abstract Expressionists or Minimalists or Conceptualists. But the problem with the art world is that when these trends come along, they totally dominate and they don't let anything else move in.
Do you still paint every day?
Oh yeah. Every day. Seven days a week.