Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I KNOW LOWBROW ARTISTS IN HIGHBROW PLACES
Damn, I Really Love Monsters & Lowbrow Art!
"Bad Ass." Acrylic on canvas 16" x 20." © David Durrett
A few months back, I was "knocked for a ghoul" (to paraphrase Toho's English language brochure for VARAN), when I saw one of David Durrett's pieces based on Ishiro Honda's much beloved THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS on a message board. I was especially struck by David's use of texture, color and caricature, which felt as if they were painted in the 1960s during the height of the Kustom Kulture boom — when Ed "Big Daddy" Roth reigned supreme with his knight errant, Rat Fink. The so-called "Lowbrow" art flooded children's hearts with monstrous glee with exaggerated bug-eyed creatures emblazoned on t-shits, trading cards, stickers and model kits. It's a style and sensibility that's been often imitated, but rarely captured.
Then came David Durrett. Born April 1964 in New Orleans, Louisiana, David is the Vice President of Client Service for the Dalton Agency, a full service ad agency in Jacksonville, Florida. A Graduate of Jacksonville University, summa cum laude in Commercial Art, he said "Right after I got out of school, all the hands-on graphics techniques I had learned gave way to computerized approaches, which was great for the industry and for clients, but didn’t appeal to me as an artist." When asked about his influences, he quickly stated, "I’ve been a lifelong fan of Al Hirschfeld, Mort Drucker (who hasn’t), and Ronald Searle. Among current popular artists I really like are Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, Amanda Visell, and David Horvath—I have many of their toys to prove it."
The Mad Monster Artist hard at work!
After seeing his amazing art, I had to ask why he had been "hiding" all of these years, "I’ve decided to get back into art for a number of reasons. Mainly, I’ve come to realize that my creative side is the part that’s really me, and it’s been dormant for too long. Also, the Lowbrow movement is perfect for artists with my personal history and sensibilities… suddenly, you can merge your art with the pop culture icons you’ve loved since childhood. I also am an avid toy collector, primarily of figures that render two-dimensional cartoon characters into three dimensions. That’s always fascinated me. With Lowbrow, and its offshoot Urban Vinyl, artists themselves are controlling how their characters are transformed into the third dimension, and I’m really into that."
When asked why he has started with the Gargantuas, David replied, "To so many of us, Japanese movie monsters are the stuff of our fondest Saturday morning memories, and Lowbrow gives us a chance to pay tribute as well as offer our own perspective on these characters that we view simultaneously with awe and amusement. (They’re also a lot of fun to render in acrylic.) I remember seeing THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS as one of the summer matinees my mother took me to at the old San Marco Theatre here in Jacksonville. GARGANTUAS was particularly memorable because what I knew as 'the Green one' was so frighteningly and excessively evil, and the fighting between the two was so relentless. Years later I got hold of a DVD and found that my 30-year-old memories were still spot-on."
"The Brown & the Green." Acrylic on canvas 24" x 30". © David Durrett
Asked to comment on "The Brown and the Green," he said, "The brother-against-brother theme suggested one of those tragic stories you read about families torn apart by the Civil War (in fact the script includes such a reference), and I just had to put them into a Matthew-Brady-style portrait complete with full regalia and weaponry. It was a lot of fun to research the uniforms and rifles, and to render such varied surfaces as leather, brass, wood, cloth, gunmetal, and, of course, fur. Following August Ragone’s very encouraging comment that the painting was 'bad ass,' I realized that Gaira perfectly epitomizes the term and was worthy of a follow-up portrait."
"Simultaneously, I have begun pieces with titles ranging from 'Candid Gamera' to 'Toho Presents The Mikado.' I plan to have at least six paintings completed by G-Fest, where I will be offering prints and posters (maybe 'Bad Ass' T-shirts?) as a member of Artists’ Alley. I’ve launched a simple website, daviddurrett.com, where I plan to both show and offer my work. In addition to paying tribute to existing characters, I’d like to develop some of my own, which is a natural progression of subject matter among Lowbrow artists."
Check out David's site at daviddurrett.com and visit him this July 4th-6th at G-Fest in Chicago — his dynamic work redefines the term "Bad Ass" for the Monster Kid in everyone. I'm sure that we'll be hearing a lot more from David and his wonderful Lowbrow creations in the near future — I just hope he remembers me when he's famous!