Here’s why low-brow art matters

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New Brow: Contemporary Underground Art

Edith Lebeau’s Red Bird

Hot rods, tattoos, comics and skateboards aren’t an art gallery’s usual suspects. Yet for the past three decades, low-brow-inspired art has been at the forefront of pop culture. New Brow, a film by director Tanem Davidson, documents the rise of the New Brow art movement, from its influences in pop culture to the founding of Juxtapoz art magazine and beyond. According to Jono Doiron, the artist behind the screening and art expo at Cinéma du Parc this Friday, the New Brow wave has already swept Montreal.

“We have so many artists in this city who are inspired by elements of low-brow culture, like comics, tattoos and horror, but you’re more likely to see their work in the streets than in a gallery,” Jono says. “I want to see more of this art in galleries, and screening this movie might be part of making that happen.”

It’s a fitting approach, similar to the DIY galleries documented in New Brow. When fine art galleries of the ‘80s and ‘90s shunned the playful New Brow aesthetic, artists, gallerists and writers forged their own avenues for exposure. Among the success stories explored in the film are Jacaeber Kastor’s Psychedelic Solutions Gallery in Greenwich Village, Billy Shire’s La Luz de Jesus gallery in L.A. and magazines like Thrasher and Juxtapoz.

New Brow also emphasizes the importance of commissioned work for the artists, and highlights the struggles of artists gaining exposure through T-shirt and band logo contracts — yet being unable to secure gallery space. Mostly, though, it’s a positive film that reminds us that art is there to be enjoyed and experienced.

Jono Doiron’s Saint-Felix

“I make the art I make because I’m trying to disband the intimidation people feel with art,” says Doiron, whose work draws from comic books and animation. “I present people with something familiar, so there’s a hook, but there’s also a twist, something unexpected.”

“Art is about lots of things, but it’s also about entertaining. People are always searching for ways to be entertained — on their phones, TVs, websites,” Doiron says. “I want to make people look forward to art shows like they do to concerts and movies. Because art can entertain that way.”

Friday’s screening will feature a group show of local artists inspired by low-brow culture, featuring En Masse’s black-and-white artistic medley, Astro’s crazy-cute character art, Andrew da Silva’s monster army and Edith Lebeau’s fantasy-inspired portraiture. Also on the menu: MC Baldassari, Jason Botkin, Jono Doiron, Emmanuel Laflamme, David Samson and XRAY. ■

The NEW BROW screening and art show happens at Cinéma du Parc (3575 Parc) on Friday, Aug. 2, 5:30 p.m., $12.45

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