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High art, lowbrow style
Tattoos, punk, pinups, comics and skateboards are among subculture's inspirations

Published on: 12/06/2007

DEDICATED TO HOT RODS, pinup girls, graffiti, monsters and other pop culture subjects not typically recognized by mainstream museums, the lowbrow movement is like the punk rock of the art scene. With backgrounds in comics, tattooing, rock music or graphic design, these artists often draw from what they know rather than what they've been taught. While high art galleries might still shy away from lowbrow and its more fantasy-based pop surrealist cousin, the movement has gradually gained national credibility thanks to artists like Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, Frank Kozik, Mark Ryden and Tara McPherson. And Atlanta's lowbrow scene is thriving as well with numerous galleries and artists dedicated to the craft.

Bean Summer's 'Encyclopedia Studies' art incorporates images that are 'appropriated, re-shot and re-contextualized.'


Bean Summer (aka Ben Worley) may be better known around town as the guy who books the bands at Lenny's, but he's starting to gain notice as an artist, too. His show at Beep Beep Gallery is an experiment in cohesive randomness that involves the manipulation of images from an old encyclopedia.

The name of your show is "Encyclopedia Studies" and features collage-like works. Are the images actually taken from encyclopedias?

Yeah, it's all images from a 1957 World Book Encyclopedia appropriated, re-shot and re-contextualized. ... This show is just the letter A, and I just layer them and build on them and do as much as I can. The reason I limit myself to one book is there are so many images out there, I had to [put some sort of boundary on it] to create the artwork itself. It's kind of interesting how by limiting yourself you're able to do so much.

Each piece has a very nostalgic feel, but it seems like there might be political messages in some of the combinations. Is that intentional or random?

A lot of it has to do with the period and culture we're in. ... I didn't pick specific images that spoke to what's going on today, but it was interesting to have them make their own statement in a modern context. It's kind of a way to take the past and reinterpret what's going on now with it. There was randomness when I created it, but there was specificness out of that randomness.

You also have a band and teach art. What do you teach and what kind of music do you play?

I'm teaching to pay for my master's at Georgia State. I try to integrate technology and art in what I teach. They're trying to move into more digital technology and I'm trying to make that move with them. For years I did a noise night at the old Lenny's, the Kirkwood Ballers Club [now at 11:11 Teahouse]. One of the things that came out of that was Toy Party Disaster, which was kind of a joke. I never practice and just find elements at thrift stores during the day, usually children's toys, and I perform with them live, sometimes breaking them, smashing them and attacking the audience with them. It's part of the performance base of my artwork.

Of all the creative hats you wear, which would you say is the most fulfilling?

The stuff that I do with the bands is important to the city, but in the long run I want my art to be something that sustains me, and working with musicians and artists does that. As long as I can keep doing that, hopefully it will all grow into bigger and better things.

THE 411: Noon-6 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. Artist talk 5 p.m. Dec. 9. Through Dec. 16. Beep Beep Gallery, 696 Charles Allen Drive, Midtown. 404-429-3320,,

— Jonathan Williams

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