Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Art of Lowriding...

The exhibition, "Cruisin' Califas: The Art of Lowriding" is running until the end of September at the Oceanside Museum of Art. I got word of it and took in opening night to find out more about this lifestyle that's part of our car culture.

After World War II, the car culture exploded as returning Anglo service men started buying used cars and reaching for more speed by building "Hot Rods." It had been simmering for a long time, but was now at full tilt. As the Mexican-American servicemen returned, they reached back to their heritage to reignite their car culture, and lowriding.

El Moises, "La Catrina y Su Vida Loca." Acrylic on wood. Image © El Moise

The lowriding origins can be traced to the Mexican cowboy culture. Charros, or Mexican cowboys, adorning their horses with tooled leather saddles, colorful blankets, reins and silver embellishments which they flaunted in the local town plaza during traditional Sunday parades. The Charros' tradition of slowly trotting their horses around the center community parks can be veiwed as a precursor to a modern day lowrider crusing, slow for everyone to admire.

Lowrider cars began surfacing througout Los Angeles barrios in the 1940s with the rounded body styles refered to as "bombs." Today, the term "lowrider" often describes a car that has the suspension customized with hydraulics to lower it close to the road. Back in the day, it started by cutting springs and loading lead into the trunk to get that low and slow look that is so important for cruising. And just like the early lowriders, the cars of today have elaborate paint jobs, striking chrome features, ornately designed upholstery and add-ons of all kinds of car gadgets.

However, the term, "lowrider" reaches far from just the cars. It's a way of life with a culture of family unity and a reflection of cultural pride. At most lowrider gatherings, the family is there as a part of the party, and with it comes the formation of clubs. Members go to the same church, school, live in the same neighborhood or drive the same make or model of car. The members of the club become the extended family and rely on each other to assist working on fellow members cars.  However, it always comes back to the cars, because they are the links that are considered an inanimate member of a lowriders's family.

Each artist featured in Cruisin Califas provides a window into the life and family of the lowrider. The exihbition was organized by Carlos and David de Baca, both members of the Califorina car culture for more than 25 years. Carlos is an active museum board member and David has been interviewed by national television shows to discuss the lowrider culture. Both enjoy their own lowriders. The show is at the Oceanside Museum of Art, 704 Pier View Way, Oceanside, CA. 92054.  Phone, 760.435.3720. The show runs until, September 30, 2012 and you can find a link to the museum  here.

Mike Pickels, "Bomb Burger." Water acrylic on board. Image © Mike Pickel

Show time at the Oceanside Art Museum. Image © Charles Thi

Salvador Gonzales, "Dale and Beach." Acrylic on Canvas. Image ©  Salvador Gonzales

Ready for the Family. Image © "Along For The Ride"

Teen Angel, "Familia," ca. early 1980s. Paint on paper. Image © Teen Angle

Jesse Valadez's "Gypsy Rose" the most iconic lowrider in the world.
Image © "Along For The Ride"

The "Gypsy Rose" was featured during the opening credits of "Chico and the Man," early in the 1970s.
Image © "Along For The Ride"

Eddie "Swoopy" Galindos, "Southern Califas," 2006. Colored pencil on paper.
 Image © Eddie Galindo

One of the Car Clubs represented. Image © "Along For The Ride"

David Lozeaus, "Slow and Low." Image ©  Randy Strain

The parking lot. Image © "Along For The Ride"

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  1. What was going on in at least L.A. in the early to mid 40's was Zoot Suit/Pachuco culture. Whatever happened auto/culture wise was a extension of that, meaning if guy was lucky enuogh to own a car during those tuff war years those cars were cleaned up to the best of their ability and resource,just like their clothes and attidudes were. It was always a extension of the pride they had in themselves and their ride. To me at least "Lowriders" as its known today is mostly attributed to what occured style wise in the 50's-60's and 70's.

    1. I agree Sal, especially the bomb type cars of the 40s.

  2. Nice work, John! I'm heading for a family vacation in San Diego in a couple of weeks and was going to sneak on out to Oceanside for the show--- you beat me to it!!

    1. Thanks Bill....You'll enjoy the show, It's cool.

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