ROBERT WILLIAMS IS MR. BITCHIN’
The American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre recently screened the new documentary Robert Williams Mr. Bitchin’ (available now at Cinema Libre) about acclaimed underground artist Robert Williams, best known for his painting “Appetite forDestruction,” which Guns N’ Roses used as the controversial cover of their 1987 debut release.
Williams’ rise from hot rod/underground comic illustrator to hotly collected conceptual realist is explained in the film, winner Best Documentary at Comic-Con Int'l Independent Film Festival 2013, which offers a fascinating perspective on the contemporary art scene.
"This irreverent documentary delivers insight into multiple American counter-cultures by following the great American artist and underground legend Robert Williams,” wrote Juxtapoz Magazine, which Williams founded in 1994. “From Hot Rods to Punk and Metal, from LSD to the top of the art world, the influential paintings of Robert Williams defied categorization until they became their own art movement."
Entertaining and informative, the doc presents access and insight into a friendly, mild mannered man whose artwork is anything but. Williams’ images are provocative and incendiary and make some people question what exactly is art. But his stunning visuals are never boring, likewise, neither is Mr. Bitchin’.
Robert Williams was an artist in search of a movement. A prolific oil painter whose painstakingly detailed work often featured naked women, death, destruction, booze and clowns, he didn’t quite fit the fine art mold. In the early 1960s he was confronted with trendy abstraction and superficial pop art. Schooled in the Hot Rod Culture of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and Von Dutch, Williams emerged as a leader in the Underground Comic revolution along with R. Crumb. His antisocial paintings of an alternative reality were marginalized by the art world for decades although he became a hero of sorts for underground artists. His notoriety exploded when his painting "Appetite for Destruction" was used (and much vilified) as the cover for that 1987 Guns N’ Roses’ album.
When he started Juxtapoz Magazine in 1994, his movement found him. Legions of artists looking for a place within the contemporary art world for their cartoonish realism identified with his “LowBrow” aesthetic. At the time, Williams predicted that “Low brow and alternative art are the crack in the dam and with this leak the art world will never be the same.”
By 2010, the art world could ignore Willilams no longer and he was included in the prestigious Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Robert Williams Mr. Bitchin’aptly documents this influential artist as he rises to the top of the art world, always as an outsider.
Click here to buy Robert Williams Mr. Bitchin’.