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A Schorr Thing

Although it was once known as underground art, the cartoonish world of lowbrow art has stepped into the limelight in recent years, mainly thanks to the work of a Los Angeles-based group of artists including Todd Schorr. But Schorr feels he may have created a monster -- which is ironic, given lowbrow's tendency to use creature films as inspiration.

"One thing I've found that might be a detriment to the evolution of this movement is that it's kinda gotten stuck in this tiki, hot-rod, tattoo thing," Schorr says from his home in L.A. "I try to distance myself from that because I feel it's a bit faddish, and I don't want my work to be part of a fad. But someone like, say, Shag, who's enjoying tremendous success right now and his work is being plastered on everything from coffee mugs to barstools, I think that has a danger of burning itself out quick. I don't want to be showing my art ten years from now and have somebody say, "Oh, it's that old tiki crap.'"

Schorr got his start in illustration, as did most of the lowbrow artists. But sacrificing artistic integrity for a paycheck was a hard pill to swallow.

"Even until this day, I'll get a call from someone asking me to do an illustration, and no matter how much creative freedom they're offering me, I just won't do it," he says. "It inevitably means some small compromise, whether it's a shifting of a background color or something."

But striking out on his own hasn't been too difficult for the 47-year-old painter. After moving to Los Angeles from New York City, where he had been working as an illustrator since 1975, Schorr almost immediately landed his work in a group show in Japan. Following a gaggle of other group exhibitions around Los Angeles, he had his first solo show in 1992 and abandoned illustration entirely. Since that time, he has made a living solely off his own creativity. The success that eludes most artists has come with Schorr's ability to tell detailed stories in just one picture.

"I don't have a whole lot to say behind my art," he says. "That's why I'm painting. I'm not a writer. For me, the thing that weaves its way through every painting are these childhood influences that I use as devices to put on these plays within the canvases. I don't have an overall grand philosophy of life or whatever. Too complicated. But by using visual reference points, I hope to engage a viewer and have them explore these scenarios."

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Dan Sweeney
Contact: Dan Sweeney

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