| ||Editorial: Clayton Brothers - Publication: Dart Magazine |
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Cliche for some, discovery for others - Lowbrow art is a genre intrinsically Californian. Defying the constraints of its signature flock of heavily tattooed, hot rod and vintage punk obsessed officionados, the illustrative based movement has of late infiltrated the art establishment.
Why? Money of course. While traditionally tutored fine artists and their galleries seem to be struggling to sell, artists such as The Clayton Brothers, Ron English, Mark Ryden and Shag have sustained the genre, defying cheesy archetypes and tallying sales levels that alleviate any doubts about the seriousness of the genre
Still, despite the financial returns, riding the gravy train of a designated genre seems to frustrate brothers Clayton "We never really felt that we belonged to the notion of lowbrow as an art genre. It's a term that seems to have come about ten years ago, seemingly spawned by a show held by Robyn Williams. We really don't like to classify ourselves. We grew up on punk rock and really just did our thing. Our work is mainly narrative based and we branch through painting and on to installation based projects.
Thematically Rob Clayton says he is entrenched in visions of suburbia and working class idealism, with family values too engrained in his psyche. "We don't really classify ourselves We, started working together in 1994. We have been showing internationally and it has been an extremely exciting process. "Organically, we just let things happen," Rob says"."Most of our influences are real, and down to earth by nature, storytelling really is the key, we try and capture something that really has a sense of character and symbolism.
As artists, The Clayton Brothers play off one another. Neither has any real control over the outcome of a final piece. Trained at Art Center in Pasadena CA, their art sees distinct similarities to naove African American styled art, most harking from visionary artists such as Frank Jones, an artist who spent his life in prison and worked exclusively in red and blue colors; also Howard Finster, a painter and preacher from the south whose style mirrors the Claytons suburban naivete..
The Clayton Brothers have ventured into two new books of late. One, titled Zeotrope is a book of short stories they designed and illustrated . The other, called, The Most Special Day of My Life, is a compilation of various works and brimming with dynamic, extemporaneous, yet purposeful images. Sought after for commercial use as well as by private collectors. Their work is narrative, autobiographical, ethereal and subliminal; culled from memories of sub-urban decay, sprinkled with the sour irony of truth..
Far from expectations inculcated during youth, The Clayton Brother's recollections of the past are revealed as slightly tainted yet sublime memories. Their images speak to all through a universal, visual vernacular borrowed from folklore, mythology, urban legend, sound bytes and info-graphics. The Clayton brothers approach to painting is a narrative feeding frenzy; one brother beginning a painting then handing it off to the other for his interpretation. Back and forth the brothers work; twisting, elaborating, reinterpreting, editing and redirecting each others marks. They never enter a painting with pre-conceived notions of what the end result will be. The end result is ambiguous, determined by the viewer.
The book's design was undertaken in the same way. Not meant to be consumed from front to back The Most Special Day of My Life is a non-linear narrative of the "reader's" own design, to be revisited and retold indefinitely--not unlike the rambling stories of a grandparent who remembers every detail from a dinner fifty years ago, but can not recall your name.
Take, for instance, "Tim House", the ambitious center piece of a gallery exhibit in 2001 called "Green Pastures". A 6' x 8' x 13' church/schoolhouse, Tim House was the sanctuary for the dispossessed and neglected. A place where safety and happiness were guaranteed. The roof was shingled with the pages of children's books, the exterior walls graffitied with drawings and paintings. Inside, the portraits of people, real and imagined, clung together, sheltered from societal elements. "Blind Child" by 86 year old fiddle player, Richard Haught, played in the background and warmed their souls, while outside a world of "Green Pastures" beckoned.
Rob and Christian Clayton are visual story tellers. They are fascinated by the narrative possibilities of painting; the possibility of a story told and understood with limited use of the written word. What words are used are merely clues to help the viewer. The Brothers are also voracious observers; their favorite stage: the Mall.
Written by Craig Stephens
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