Whether you call it “lowbrow art,” “pop surrealism” or simply “that cool, trippy shit I’ll never afford in a million years,” Jay Nailor and MiShell Modern are bringing it to Life Is Beautiful next month. The husband-and-wife team—founders of Palm Springs’ influential M Modern Gallery—is curating a special group show at the Western Hotel during the festival, the provocatively named Crime on Canvas. And for anyone who’s ever leafed through an issue of Hi-Fructose or Juxtapoz and admired the goods, this show could be even more rousing than the music playing outside.
“I thought it would be nice for locals to see what Los Angeles and New York are doing, as far as this particular genre,” Nailor says. He expects that most of the 80-plus artists whose works will be on display will actually attend Life Is Beautiful, making Crime on Canvas something of a pop surrealist art superstar festival-within-a-festival.
Scheduled to appear are works by Shag, Isabel Samaras, Travis Louie, Tim Biskup, Jessicka Addams, Luke Chueh, Brian M. Viveros, Camille Rose Garcia, Glenn Barr, Dierdre Sullivan-Beeman, Shepard Fairey and dozens of others. Some of the art will come from comparative unknowns—Elisabeth Ansimow is a 9-year-old artist recently featured on Nickelodeon’s All In With Cam Newton—while other pieces come from celebrities you might not have known were artists, including Frances Bean Cobain, Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd and Damien Echols of the exonerated West Memphis Three. And a number of Las Vegas-based artists, among them Casey Weldon, Amy Sol and Giovanni Morales, will also appear in the show, providing a chance for those international artists to see what Vegas is doing.
The artist turnout for Crime on Canvas was very nearly overwhelming to Nailor, who only began making the necessary calls a few months back. “We got pretty much everyone we wanted, with the exception of Mark Ryden,” he says. “He’s currently in the process of doing a ballet—the sets, the costumes, everything. He’ll be in the show next year.”
When Nailor says “next year,” he speaks with the confidence of someone who’s been specializing in this genre for a good, long time, and has seen it blow the hell up. “In the mid-2000s, we went from being one of six galleries in the world showing this genre to about seven or eight on one block in Culver City.” He grins. “It was crazy.”
And now, in 2016, the only thing that’s crazy about a show like Crime on Canvas is how much of its cool, trippy art you’ll be tempted to buy at the festival’s pop-up shop. Today, lowbrow is beautiful.