Q&A: Anthony Ausgang on Low Brow’s Evolution, His Own Path, and More

by Andy SmithPosted on

Los Angeles artist Anthony Ausgang has long brought both humor, wit, and vibrancy to Lowbrow, moving between a fine art practice and commercial work. In a new interview with Hi-Fructose Magazine, he discusses his path, process, and the broader trends of the art world. He was last mentioned on Hi-Fructose.com here. See our chat below.

Hi-Fructose: You’re often associated with active movements like Lowbrow and Pop Surrealism. As of today, do you wholly embrace those associations?
Anthony Ausang:
Lowbrow is an image-shifting art movement that has combined its original influences with updated cultural mythologies. Yeah, it used to be exclusively about hotrods, monsters, and kitschy ’60s mainstream TV shows, but now Lowbrow includes references to ’90s Nintendo video games and the futility of Post-Modernism. I still maintain a certain allegiance to O.G. Lowbrow and drive a 1968 Cougar, but I feel like a ghost amongst all the new cars that look like used bars of soap … Nevertheless, Lowbrow still serves as an important alternative to Mainstream Homogeneity. Pop Surrealism is somewhat more technically advanced and the cultural references tend to be more oblique than Lowbrow. As far as embracing my associations with those twins of mixed ancestry, I can’t really disavow my past as it was a Pre-Internet blast. Road grease skinned knuckles reaching for hors d’oeuvres, ya know? Still, Lowbrow seems to have become an acceptable stage in regimented art development, just like punk rock for young musicians. There’s a utility there that’s undeniable.

HF: About 8 years ago, you said that in those specific movements, “certain aspects of abstract art are going to begin influencing this dogma and there will be a new type of aesthetic brinksmanship as artists skirt the edge between abstract and representational art.” In a broad sense, that certainly seems to have become true, wouldn’t you say? And now that we’re arriving there, do you see any next steps?
Even though mainstream Abstraction has basically become a visual language spoken only by the art damaged, what’s of interest is the aforementioned edge between it and representational art. This border line is fractal and of infinite resolution, like DPIs expanding at the same rate as the Universe; the closer you get, the farther away it is. Psychedelia is the new Abstract; thanks to DMT and other chemical visual enhancers, anyone with a strong constitution can enter the void. Applying these visions artistically requires a computer and sophisticated graphics programs; it’s too intense and synthetic for Abstract Expressionism. The audience for Neo-Psychedelia is sophisticated enough to accept “retinal art” with no Conceptual reservations.

HF: So as far as your own path: You’ve long moved through both the fine art and commercial spheres. When navigating commercial projects, how has your process evolved in choosing who to work with?
I take an egalitarian approach to commercial projects and do art for bands like Green Day or MGMT as well as Zodi or Slipstream. I’ve never been a particularly good Capitalist, and will let bands and musicians use older paintings for free as long as I get credit and copies (merchandise is a different situation of course, and I will negotiate for those rights). My attitude is that I’ve been painting now for 40 years so I have a lot of images that would otherwise languish in obscurity if I didn’t broadcast them somehow; it’s cultural symbiosis at its finest. Even so, I do have a lawyer on retainer!

HF: You’ve spoken in a few interviews about your process, combining technological and analog approaches. Do you still feel that computers are unreliable in terms of determining color? Do you ever see yourself moving to a digital-only process?
The differences between painting and digital art are obvious, but most important to me is that with a painting, light is reflected off the surface and with a computer screen the light is emitted. Sure, a skilled artist can dial it in so the digital file and a print match up, but there’s a subtle difference that can’t be denied. I really enjoy mixing different colors of paint together, taking color theory into consideration, spilling paint; even the feeling of failure when I lose a color and can’t get it back. There’s a special personal involvement with a jar of paint that doesn’t exist with a slider or color picker. But I’m not entirely dogmatic; I frequently do digital-only art when the concept is too difficult to execute otherwise, and at this point I’m combining the analog and digital by painting on giclèe prints.

HF: That brings us to this last question: What are you currently working on?
I have a solo show opening in June at the Yves Laroche Gallery in Montreal so I’m in the midst of getting sixteen paintings done for that. Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 has asked me to design some digital art for his upcoming release, and Thinkspace Gallery has included a new painting for their group show in Honolulu in February.

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