Submitted by Denise Sandoval
Dr. Denise Sandoval, a professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at CSUN, is curating a spectacular exhibit at Los Angeles’s Petersen Automotive Museum that examines and interprets the roots and significance of lowrider art, lifestyle, and culture. We asked her to tell us a bit about the exhibit and share some favorite images.
This show examines the diversity and complexity with which 50 artists visualize, celebrate, and interrogate the lowrider car through vehicles, paintings, sculptures, and site-specific installations. The lowrider car (ranfla) inspires many artists, but it is especially celebrated by Chicana/o artists throughout the Southwest. Symbols of cultural pride (corazón), and icons of everyday life experiences, lowriders also embody the formation of multicultural communities through a passion for a specific form of car customization. As “canvases of self-expression,” lowriders serve as the basis of artistic creativity (inspiración), inspiring generations of artists to engage with their iconography, performativity, and aesthetics.
This exhibition builds on the work of the previous Petersen Automotive Museum exhibitions: Arte y Estilo: The Lowriding Tradition (2000) and La Vida Lowrider: Cruising the City of Angels (2007-08), both of which focused on the cars, people, and culture of lowriding. Rather than document the history of lowrider art or focus on one lowrider artist, this third exhibit complicates how the lowrider car has become an artistic medium and an art object as artists have reworked and reimagined the lowrider car’s form and aesthetics. These artists explore Chicana/o identity and history, the importance of placemaking and rituals, and the significance of gender politics. Their work spans the “high and low” worlds of galleries, car custom scenes, community art spaces, and museums. These artists refract the lowrider through a multitude of lenses, including surrealism, abstraction, conceptualism, folklore, kitsch, and popular culture. Their work reveals their medium as a “liminal space,” a “betwixt-and between,” wherein values and meaning are constantly in flux. Our goal is to provide a rare opportunity to reflect on the high art of riding low and capture the deep emotional connections—the corazón—various communities share as they sculpt, paint, and perform the lowrider as both object and subject.
The exhibition runs through September 2018 at the Armand Hammer Foundation Gallery of Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Visit www.petersen.org for gallery hours, admission, and directions.
Photos courtesy of the Petersen Automotive Museum