The art world’s heart has a hole in it today. “The Pizz” (a.k.a. El Pizzo a.k.a. Stephen Pizzurro), the self-described Lowbrow artist who evolved into a celebrated influence to a generation of artists, has left us. He was only 57. Born in 1958 and raised in a large Italian family in Orange County, California, The Pizz grew up creating art – he once said that he began drawing since he had a pen in his hand. He caught his first big break working on Rat Fink comics for his personal inspiration, cartoonist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, before going on to design cover art for punk label Sympathy for the Record Industry, and eventually entering the gallery world with fellow notable artists like Robert Williams. With his signature dark glasses and a most impressive “fuzzy chin”, The Pizz was a familiar figure at openings and events. He even made appearances on reality TV and in film documentaries, including Flake and Flames (2013) and The Treasures of Long Gone John (2006).
At that time, Lowbrow Art was just a bubbling underground art scene and today works by The Pizz are considered as one of the original sources of “cartoon expressionism”, inspiring waves of artists to build upon. Artists like The Pizz, Coop, Anthony Ausgang, and many others drew from the well of hot-rod influenced Kustom Kulture, surf, skateboarding, tattoo, underground comics, Beatnik and tiki styles and brought it to galleries like La Luz De Jesus as fine art like no other. For over 20 years, The Pizz’s brutal, colorful, and enthralling graphics presented a surreal alternative to our consumer-driven pop culture. Using the sensibility of cartoons, his paintings pop with the things he loved: eye-catching pinups, pimps, perverts, pirates, post-apocalyptic demigods, motorcyclists and fast cars. Dedicated to an art form that was generally frowned upon by society, he helped to create a new genre of imagery that was undeniably interesting; unapologetically presented to a myriad of folks from all walks of life, not just the pedigreed elite. As he said, “It’s a tumultuous adrenaline-soaked hellride of a lifetime leaving a mountain of debris and unspeakable carnage in its wake. Yeah, it’ll scar your fragile psyche for miles into the hereafter.”
Correction: We have been notified that The Pizz’s birth name was incorrect and fixed it. Apologies for the mistake.