By Jed Sanders.
â€œLowbrowâ€, also known as â€œPop-Surrealismâ€, is an underground art movement that has been highly ignored by the mainstream art media and its critics.Â This genre of art has helped open doors and lays a serious foundation for many forms and styles of non-conventional art that we see around today. Anthony Ausgang is one of the founding fathers of the Lowbrow Art Movement.Â His art spans back for decades with crazed-out paintings of psychedelic cats, white knuckle hot rods, mind-boggling guitar creations, and fast living.
How was your first experience with smoking pot ?
The first time I ever smoked pot was back around 1975, at a Deep Purple concert in Houston. It was also the first concert ever in the Astrodome, and the newspapers made a lot of jokes about how plastic pot plants were going to grow out of the plastic turf football field. It was kind of weird because at that time, the concert promoters in Houston were basically the same guys who put on rodeos and demolition derbies, and they had no clue of what to expect. People could actually bring in their own booze, and pot wasnâ€™t even on those catsâ€™ radar. So fortunately, there was no paranoia and everything was cool. Despite the fact that I didnâ€™t feel like I had passed through some gates of perception, I was just glad to had finally smoked pot!
Does marijuana help or hinder your creative process?
There is an old writerâ€™s adage that goes, â€œWrite drunk, edit sober.â€ I donâ€™t drink, but I totally agree! I find that marijuana is very useful when Iâ€™m drawing or just fucking around in my sketchbook.Â It helps me loosen up and to have a good time, so interesting and unexpected things appear. Though, when Iâ€™m working on a serious painting, I stay completely sober. Iâ€™ve ended up painting too many things shit brown instead of hot pink.
Do you think there is more of a stigma with the use of marijuana for a visual artist than that of a writer, actor, or musician?
Visual artists get a bad rap! People tend to think that painters lie around watching nude models and thinking convoluted thoughts about their next painting, occasionally getting up to make some brushstrokes and then returning to the couch. This is probably because thereâ€™s not really that much motion involved in painting; in fact, I sit when I paint. Writers tend to get the same sort of treatment since they also sit on their asses most of the time. Now, actors and musicians move about, so people expect them to be on meth or cocaine.
What is your favorite strain(s)? Do you prefer indicas or sativas?
I smoke indicas to fall asleep and sativas to get busy!
You mentioned on your blog that art will never appeal to the masses until the elitist attitude no longer exists. Can you expand on this?
The elitist attitude can be found in so many contemporary art museums and galleries. Itâ€™s the result of hyper-intellectual, conceptual art that cannot be understood without some sort of explanation from the artist. This attitude assumes that the viewing audience doesnâ€™t have the necessary intellect to figure it out on their own, and must be spoon-fed clues to the workâ€™s meaning. True populist art can be understood and appreciated by â€œthe massesâ€ with no background in art history or contemporary trends.
What would you say is one of the greater moments of your career?
Painting the cover for the MGMT release of â€œCongratulationsâ€.
Do you have any regrets or embarrassing moments that you would like to share?
Back in 1983, Andy Warhol had a show of his prints of Ingrid Bergman. I really wanted to go to the opening reception, but it was $50 to get in. So, I went to the gallery the afternoon of the show and tried to find a way to sneak in through a window or over a fence. Anyway, the gallery director came out and told me that I could get in for free if I installed the show and hung the pieces on the wall. I knew what I was doing and did a good job. So, when I finished up, I grabbed my gal and went to the opening. I was a pretty snotty punk at the time, so I went up to Andy Warhol and said, â€œHey Andy, I hung up all the paintings here and I wondered if you had seen any of them since your assistants do all your work for you.â€ He just shook my hand, looking completely past me and deadpanned, â€œLoved your movie.â€ He then turned to my girlfriend, took her by the arm and began to walk around the gallery with her, chatting nonstop. After about half an hour, she came back and I asked her what they had talked about. â€œGoldfish,â€ she said. I regret that I was an asshole when I spoke with Andy because it could have been me that talked with Warhol about goldfish.
What inspired you to start creating custom guitars?
Every now and again, I want to paint on something other than a fucking stretched canvas. Guitars are cool items, and I enjoy going to the stores and haggling for some cheap-ass Fender copy. Then, I get to walk down Hollywood Boulevard carrying an electric guitar, and I just love to do that!
What are your catsâ€™ names and personality(s) like?
Push Push is an â€œodd eyedâ€, all white cat with blue and yellow eyes that is extremely cautious since thereâ€™s nothing around here to hide against. The other cat is called Bisquit and has already had an abortion. Finally, there is (was) Lucy, an all black cat that hasnâ€™t been seen in two weeks.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like to watch people do drugs that I never touch. Crackheads are interesting, especially when they start going through dog shit looking for that lost piece of rock, it makes me feel superior. I also write for fun, and my novel The Sleep of Puss Titter will be out on K-Bomb Publishing in March 2011. I also like to head out to the desert that surrounds L.A. to look for ruins and old cars out in the middle of nowhere.
Do you find yourself more attracted to art that is different from your own, or to art that is similar?
I prefer to look at art that is different. Iâ€™ve been fucking around in the art world for so long that Iâ€™m sick of looking at the work of other artists in my genre. However, I do enjoy going to openings and spotting new talent. Iâ€™m mostly attracted to artwork that is unlike mine because it makes me realize that everyone has different ways of thinking and behaving; it makes me more tolerant of other peopleâ€™s madness.
In regards to your work, what is the greatest compliment you have ever received? What was the greatest insult?
The MGMT cover that I did received both complimentary and insulting responses. One chick wrote on a blog that the cover sucked and Iâ€™m â€œimpotent from all the blow I did in the â€˜80sâ€. Perez Hilton wrote that MGMT was on a â€œburn ride with Mush Mushâ€ when they came up with the cover and â€œhopefully the artwork does not reflect the quality of their music!â€ Now that the album has been out for a while and the cover art is just part of the general reality, no one is crapping on it anymore. The fact is that Iâ€™m constantly getting emails and Facebook messages from people who absolutely love it. One kid even painted a huge mural of the cover on his bedroom wall, and thatâ€™s about the biggest compliment I can think of!
Do you have any interesting stories about your early encounters with Ed Roth, Hot Rods, and Custom Car Culture you would like to share?
I bought my first Rat Fink out of a gumball machine when I was about six years old. 20 years later, I met Roth at the â€œGreat Western Exterminatorsâ€ show at the Zero One Gallery. I told him that the first thing I ever bought was a Rat Fink, and I thought that was a pretty significant thing in a consumer society like America. He just looked at me and growled: â€œBuy something now!â€ Another time, I was asked to paint flames on a junker car at a hot rod show. The car was dropped off in the middle of a big field and the sun had been beating down on it all day. And since I had been given water-based paint to use, it actually steamed when I painted on the hot metal and dried in a couple of seconds. Ed Roth had set up his booth nearby in the shade, and he had a constant stream of customers and people hanging out. I labored on the flames all day while off in the distance I could see girls doing burlesque on stage and bands playing rockabilly. By the time I was through working on the car, the show was over and people were leaving. I was sitting there, basically hiding in the wheel well from the sun when Roth came over. He put his hand on my shoulder and told me that the flames were awesome and I was a great painter. That made it all worthwhile.
Any upcoming shows?
I will have a painting in the â€œINLEâ€ group show curated by Greg â€œCraolaâ€ Simkins, which opens on March 12th at Gallery 1988 on Melrose in Los Angeles.
To check out more of Ausgangâ€™s work, visit his website: