Arts & Theater

Five reasons you should see the Crocker’s new ‘lowbrow’ art exhibit

'I do want people to be blown away by the visuals.' Check out Mark Dean Veca's 'Maddest Hatter' room at the Crocker Art Museum

Artist Mark Dean Veca created an interactive, immersive installation at the Crocker Art Museum in June 2017 as part of the Hi-Fructose magazine/"Turn the Page" exhibit that at the museum through September 17, which features works by 51 contemporar
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Artist Mark Dean Veca created an interactive, immersive installation at the Crocker Art Museum in June 2017 as part of the Hi-Fructose magazine/"Turn the Page" exhibit that at the museum through September 17, which features works by 51 contemporar

The art is bright, bold, unexpected, audacious, offbeat, emotional, immersive and undeniably accessible.

The Crocker Art Museum’s newest exhibit “Turn the Page” presents the work of 51 artists who have been featured in the influential art magazine Hi-Fructose. A quarterly magazine founded in 2005 by Daniel “Attaboy” Seifert and Annie Owens-Seifert, Hi-Fructose showcases emerging pop surrealists, non-traditional “lowbrow” artists and other contemporary creatives who “transcend genre and trend.”

Originally organized to commemorate the art magazine’s 10th anniversary, “Turn the Page” previously was shown at the Akron Art Museum and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibit makes its final stop at the Crocker. Before you head to the museum, here are five things you need to know about the magazine and this must-see show.

The art looks better in real life.

All of the art in “Turn the Page” has been printed in Hi-Fructose at some point, but even regular readers are in for a surprise when they step onto the third floor of the Crocker.

The elevator doors open onto Mark Dean Veca’s “Maddest Hatter,” an interactive painting that covers the museum’s walls in intricate patterns of bright pink, green and black, complete with beanbags and paper lanterns. Assistant curator Christie Hajela said that when she saw photos of the installation, her response was “Oh, cool.” But once Dean Veca started installation of the exhibit, she finally understood how powerful the piece would be.

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“Rise Above,” by Shepard Fairey Courtesy of the Crocker

You probably know some of the artists featured.

You may not know their names, but you definitely recognize their work. Shepard Fairey, creator of the iconic Obama Hope poster is featured in “Turn the Page.” Fairey’s trademark is his omnipresent “Obey Giant” work that takes the form of propaganda posters and stickers often stuck in public places. “He has this idea that if you see something enough times, it’ll start to mean something,” Hajela said.

The exhibit also includes the work of Mark Ryden, often called “the godfather of pop surrealism,” who designed the cover of Michael Jackson’s 1991 album “Dangerous.” This year, he designed the set and costumes of American Ballet Theater’s “Whipped Cream Ballet.”

Other pop artists in the exhibit such as Dean Veca produce commercial art as well, so you have most likely seen their work on objects such as Nike snowboards and printed T-shirts.

No, a kindergartner could not have done that.

Often with abstract modern art, visitors’ reactions are, “My kid could do that!” Hajela said. Of the 51 artists featured, the precise sculptures could impress even the most skeptical museum visitor. Wim Delvoye’s “Cement Truck” is a sculpture of, well, a cement truck that Delvoye made by laser cutting stainless steel into an everyday object that can almost be mistaken for a miniature Gothic cathedral.

“He takes some everyday object and elevates it,” Hajela said.

The exhibit can be funny, but also dark.

Hajela said a lot of the exhibit is “dreamy landscapes plus humor, dark and overt.”

Some paintings such as Marion Peck’s “Bunny Love” are tongue in cheek, depicting a pastoral scene interrupted by the image of two mating rabbits. Others, such as Tracey Snelling’s “Night Alley” are more sinister. The model miniature dark alleyway, inspired by horror films and real-crime television shows, includes a toy car with two suspicious black trash bags stuffed in its trunk.

‘Lowbrow’ art welcomes viewers.

“There’s this tension between ‘high art,’ which you’d typically see in a museum, and ‘lowbrow’ art from the alternative scene,” Hajela said.

Life-size portraits, stop-motion videos and photo negatives visible through a classic Viewmaster toy, fit into the wide range of work featured in “Turn the Page.” “All the artists have been established by non-traditional means,” Hajela said.

Before social media became mainstream, artists would gain recognition by having shows in smaller galleries, eventually working their way up into bigger museums, and then becoming household names. Now, artists gain popularity from social media such as Instagram and Facebook.

The artists featured in the exhibit averaged 95,000 Instagram followers – higher profile artists such as Fairey had nearly 1 million – and more than half of them offered options to purchase their prints directly from their own website, instead of using galleries as their sole vendors.

This makes it easier for “lowbrow” artists to connect with a general audience, and to break through to “highbrow” museums looking to push the envelope and stay relevant. After all, Hajela says, the exhibit accomplishes the Crocker Art Museum’s mission to be “always surprising.”

Turn the Page: The First 10 Years of Hi-Fructose

Where: Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St., Sacramento

When: Through Sept. 17

Cost: $10 for adults; $8 for seniors and college students; $5 for youths; kids under 6 free

Information: 916-808-7000,