Hilono Brow? Check Your Head.

“Even among art that aims to be free of traditional categories and definitions, there is an ever-present danger of calcification and rampant commercialization,” warns a recent dispatch from Atwater Village gallery Black Maria promoting its upcoming “No Brow” exhibit. “These dangers threaten to turn even the most unorthodox of movements into an exercise in mainstream banality. The very success of the Lowbrow movement may curb those features that once distinguished it from ‘Highbrow’ art, with its rules and value judgments.” I’ve actually been hearing this line of critique for a few years now —


Weren’t punk rock and graffiti art and skateboarding and Tom Waits hobo-beatnik chic and street credibility all over with by 1987? At the absolute latest? And aren’t there hundreds — if not thousands — of little scenes like this all over America, and the world?


The challenge of generating an uncompromising subculture in the face of the efficiently voracious mechanics of advertising and consumption has seemed insurmountable since at least the days of punk. One attempt to circumnavigate co-option was the ironic post-punk adoption of hopelessly square stylistic motifs of cocktail culture by many of the first Lowbrow aficionados. Surely no one would latch onto the depleted pop tropes of the Eisenhower era — the tiki bars and easy-listening music — as the next big trend!”



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