The Petersen Automotive Museum

In past exhibitions, the Petersen Automotive Museum has recognized the work and beauty of the lowrider car.  Now, in its newest exhibit, the aesthetics of the lowrider is the focus with the opening of “The High Art of Riding Low: Ranflas, Corazón e Inspiración”  on July 1. 

“This exhibit is different,”  said Curator Denise Sandoval who described the work on display as being “A new lane.”

“We have taken it a step further. We will feature historic lowrider cars, but there will be fewer of them in order to place the focus on the evolution of the artwork itself and the artists who have reworked and re-imagined the lowrider.”

Artists in the exhibit include political satirist Lalo Alacaraz, El Moisés, Estevan Oriol, Germs a.k.a. Jaime Zacarias and Luis Tapia. Sandoval gives much credit to the senior artists who, over the last 50 years, defined lowrider art. But she also points to an open door for a new generation of artists contributing to the art form.  

Appropriately displayed in the prestigious Armand Hammer Foundation Gallery, the “high art” of the lowrider will include a range of work from installations to lithographs, sculptures to drawings, paintings to photography.

The cars on display  include “Our Family Car,” a 1950 Chevrolet Sedan painted by legendary artist Gilbert “Magu” Luján, “El Rey,” a 1963 Chevrolet Impala by Albert De Alba Sr., “El Muertorider,” a customized 1968 Chevy Impala by Artemio Rodríguez and John Jota Leaños, and “Gangster Squad ’39,” a 1939 Chevrolet Master Deluxe by Mister Cartoon. 

Sandoval, a professor at Cal State University Northridge has researched and documented the lowrider car as an artistic catalyst and cultural icon that appeared on L.A.’s streets and Chicano communities throughout the United States following World War II.  The lowrider car coinciding with the proliferation of Chicano art became traveling canvases that became an art form onto itself as well as the intricate mechanics and hydraulics that defined a lowriding car.  

Sandoval has also tracked the influence of lowrider culture worldwide, including its appropriation into the popular culture of Japan, Europe and even in the Middle East. 

Sandoval also noted the commitment that builders and artists invest in lowriders.

“The stigma of lowriders being connected to gang culture isn’t accurate.  There are people in suburbs like Diamond Bar investing $150,000 in their lowriders.”  

She’s traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico with local car builder and artist Chino Vega, who displayed his award winning bright green Monte Carlo  “Orgullo Mexicano,” or Mexican Pride.

“There was a positive response in Jalisco,” Sandoval shared.  “There is always a fascination and a lot of interest in the lowrider car.  With immigration back and forth to Mexico, people traveling and moving, there is the influence of culture going back and forth.” 

“Immigrants who’ve come to Los Angeles and traveled back to Mexico bring  the influence of Chicano culture back and forth with them,” she said.

“Chicano culture is so deeply intertwined with the culture of Los Angeles and automobiles represent a rich part of that,” said Terry L. Karges, Executive Director of the Petersen Automotive Museum. 

“We at the museum are honored to be in a position to share this vibrant and thriving culture with those who might not otherwise be exposed to it. ‘The High Art of Riding Low’ is going to be one of the most important exhibits we’ve curated.” Karges said. 

For more information on “The High Art of Riding Low: Ranflas, Corazón e Inspiración,” or on the Petersen Automotive Museum, visit www.Petersen.org or call (323) 930-CARS.

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