So today I made the first installment on a payment for a new piece for my art collection; A Bronze Buddha with the head of Storm trooper.
So I came across this art piece because I routinely keep scrupulous tabs on the local art scene between here and L.A. While checking my email I came across a show at a “lowbrow” art show in Santa Monica featuring a collection of works by British artist RYCA (Short for Ryan Callanan). He’s rather well known in the UK and this was his debut show here in the states. Anyway the galleries that I frequent typically shun the “lowbrow” art scene.
So why did I invest in a bronze storm trooper for exorbitant amounts of money opposed to going to target and buying a plastic hasbro action figure for $9.95? First off that term lowbrow does is not in some way invalidating; it is a legitimate art movement. Second I love Andy Warhol and I love Star Wars (refer to my critique of Warhols book here.) RYCA represents the new dawn of pop artists like Jeff Koons or Mauro Peruchetti who can actually pull of pop art in a way that is fresh and not anachronistic. Pop needs to be: transient, expendable, low cost, mass produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous and big business, RYCA’s work is just firing on all of these cylinders.
Don’t confuse the lowbrow with the anti-intellectual, this artist is definitely a thinking mans artist. His use of imagery is incredibly perfect for its place and time. I know that Star Wars imagery is obsessive in the lowbrow scene but the way RYCA does it is entirely tangential. By colliding religious symbolism with pop iconography he is making a very bold statement. His work challenges our notions of devotion. He blends the space between the sacred and profane radically changing the connotations behind our beloved pop heroes. The Star Wars mythology has become pure commodity as Lucas expands his franchise into perverse dimensions of capitalism creating zealous fan boy consumers. Likewise, undying devotion has been the ongoing enterprise of religion. RYCA shows us that cathedrals of the modern age aren’t made of brick and mortar but they have been transplanted by the entertainment industry, movie theaters, shopping malls etc. Nowadays we find ourselves turning on the television with almost religious resignation and fans show zealous determination and piety. Thats why they are called fans (fanatic).
To me RYCA brings high art to low art. Once again I need to stress that “lowbrow” in no way should be diminutive as a term, it is merely colloquialism to describe the movement in general.