In the late 20th and 21st century diverse forms of commonplace and popular art appeared to be coalescing into a formidable faction of new painted realism. The phenomenon owed its genesis to a number of factors. The new school of imagery was a product of art that didn't fit comfortable into the accepted definition of fine art. It embraced some of the figurative graphics that formal art academia tended to reject: comic books, movie posters, trading cards, surfer art, hot rod illustration, to mention a few.
This alternative art movement found its most congealing participant in one of America's most opprobrious and maligned underground artists, the painter, Robert Williams. It was this artist to brought the term "lowbrow" into the fine arts lexicon, with his ground breaking 1979 book, The Lowbrow Art of Robt. Williams. It was from this point that the seminal elements of West Coast Outlaw culture slowly started to aggregate.
Williams pursued a career as a fine arts painter years before joining the art studio of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth in the mid-1960s. And in this position as the famous custom car builder's art director, he moved into the rebellious, anti-war circles of early underground commix. In 1968, Williams linked up with the infamous San Francisco group that piloted the flagship of the miscreant cartoon world, Zap Comix. Along with Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, S. Clay Wilson, Spain Rodriguez, Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin, Williams learned to function as an artist outside the walls of conventional art.
Known as the "artist's artist," in early punk rock art shows held in after-hours clubs, Robert soon pioneered the first break-away art movement in California since the Eucalyptus School's estrangement from Impressionism in the late 1920s. His bold use of underground cartoon figuration, paired with harshly contrasted psychedelic colors set a style that was an easily recognizable hallmark throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Robert Williams' influence on alternative art is immeasurable. From his endeavors to broaden the possibilities for young artists to gain exposure, sprang the well known art chronicle, JUXTAPOZ magazine. Even with this popular manifesto and landmark publication, Williams' well meaning machinations still places his work in a lost league of unvindicated ghosts-he's now an outsider among outsiders.