Jean Lowe : A More Beautiful You
Jan 15 – Mar 7, 2015
In her first Robischon Gallery exhibition, noted California artist Jean Lowe offers a selection from two spirited series in a presentation entitled "A More Beautiful You." Known for her surprising and original approach toward her materials and subject, Lowe’s hand painted satirical auction posters, papier mâché fictional tomes and sarcastic self-help books, express a particular ideological snapshot of modern life. Often revealing a contemporary neurosis with narcissistic undertones, the artist’s libraries only masquerade as a home for the pursuit of knowledge. In keeping, the usual promise of most published books and the information contained within is forever off limits in Lowe’s world since her books can never be opened. The experience is all about the cover, as the featherweight faux books subvert the true heft and gravitas that a real book possesses. Like her parodies of auction house posters which are also on view, the books are equally cartoonish, though they become disarming by virtue of the artist’s salient observations. Lowe’s spoofs of popular-culture such as diet and fitness fads, or seemingly scholarly pursuits of collecting Old Master works or love letters, in essence explore the kind of value placed by both high and low culture when it comes to an absurd range of desired interests or money spent. Ridiculous and hilarious combinations offer a view of what is valued in a quick fix, anything-for-a-price consumerist culture; along with an inherent gullibility that there may be some benefit to the latest fads such as The Jesus Workout or Solutions to Traffic Jams and Stubborn Belly Fat, which is contained all in one book.
In Lowe’s library, the brightly painted covers sometimes belie their jarring titles; a beautifully painted still life of a severed fish head and multiple dead fish is entitled My Dearest Love while a children’s book with two adorable fluffy chicks is entitled E is for Edible and The Doubleday Illustrated Book of Greek Mythology for Children inappropriately pictures Leda and the swan which represents the incarnation of Jupiter about to force himself on the unsuspecting Leda. Equally surprising is the image of the awkwardly painted, voluptuous Venus of Willendorf selected to grace the cover of The Paleo Diet for Women since this is the kind of figure the would-be-buyer of such a tome would be trying to avoid. Scholarly titles such as Kinship, Status and Locality (in Contemporary Hell) or Torture Preparedness, offer intentionally misguided viewpoints of diabolically American intellectual pursuits perhaps best left unexamined, though shelved alongside the irreverently titled Get Thee Behind Me, Satan, a book which seeks heavenly deliverance from the hardly moral temptation of a luscious piece of rich devil’s food cake. While Lowe’s quirky imagery and laugh-getting titles work are effective in attracting viewers to the work, the artist’s underlying critique and layered meanings quickly slip through the reader’s defenses. Lowe states, “Being too obvious about my position can just be a turn-off, but with humor and approaching a subject obliquely, opens an avenue for conversation.”
The books and posters on view are part of an extensive vocabulary for the artist. Over the many years, Lowe has skillfully created satiric, self-reflexive, humorous works including constructed environments made entirely out of papier mâché and enamel paint to resemble an elaborate period, museum-like room, a faux auction house showroom and complex libraries composed of extensive papier mâché book shelves with a designated reading space complete with a hand-painted area rug and a fake papier mâché potted plant. From paintings reminiscent of Baroque palaces to rooms filled with faux merchandise from big box mega-stores, Jean Lowe both subverts and transforms the commonplace with as much vigor as she does examining the more rarified culture of art. Through her re-creations, Lowe slyly engages the viewer in what is real or true, but in the end, poses the bigger question of what has value and why.
Jean Lowe has a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and an MFA from the University of California, San Diego. She is the recipient of WESTAF/NEA Regional Fellowship in sculpture grant, A Pollock-Krasner Foundation award and a CalArts/Alpert Ucross Residency Prize among others. Lowe’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA, San Diego Museum of Art Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, La Jolla, CA, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, John Michael Kohler Arts Center and the California Center for the Arts Museum, Escondido, CA, among others and she has been exhibited at museums and galleries across the US and in European venues, as well.