Meet the artist: Low Bros goes from street art to galleries and back again
If we had to describe the art from the brother duo of Low Bros in one word, it would simply be cool. From the abstract ideas to the use of images and colors throughout, the art of Low Bros brings with it a mesmerizing display of characters that seem to fit perfectly in today's culture. We talked with the duo about everything under the sun to try and get a sense of what's going through the heads of these amazingly talented artists.
If you were a color, what color would you be?
At the moment [pause] ultramarine blue.
Christoph, Florin, you guys are brothers but your last name is Schmidt. Where did the ‘Low’ in ‘Low Bros’ come from?
As we got our roots in graffiti, we had to think about a proper crew name. But actually it was a bit different from that. The way we worked together was more than just being a team of two separate artists, but more like a fusion and becoming like one artist. So we gave up our individual artists aliases to go under one common name. We still wanted to show our roots, so we didn’t follow the trend of getting back to real names. We considered graffiti, skateboard art and our sub and pop cultural background as ‘low brow’ and just had to change it to bros — to also show we’re family.
Because there are two of you, how is the creative process when you’re working with another to create a final piece?
Since we made the decision to work as a team, none of us did any solo projects. We even tried to merge our styles to just one common, which should make us both able to create a complete Low Bros piece without the other. We just opened up to let our different personalities more space and each of us can focus on different aspects.
Our creative process most often starts with talking about the subject, especially when we’re heading in a new direction.
On your site’s ‘about’ section — it states you guys ‘suggest our generation as being one of fluidity; able to slip in and out of different roles like characters’ — can you elaborate on this?
The viewer should be able to reflect themselves and their surrounding through [our] characters. In older works, we switched between different characters a lot and gave each one his own unique personality. They told little stories and often showed kind of stereotypes. Later we wanted to give the recipients more space in their imagination and not focus too much on just inventing new characters, so we decided to work with one of our signature characters with the most basic shape. This reduction even gave us a lot of new creative possibilities while playing with and dissecting the characters and give the composition more value.
What’s the significance of your animal characters wearing cool-ass sunglasses?
To create a kind of coolness was always important in our works. As we got in touch with the hip-hop culture in the mid-‘90s, we were fascinated by all the style, energy and coolness it transported. So we also provided our first characters with a lot of cool accessories and features.
Going through the comments on your Instagram, a lot of people mention the work feeling very futuristic — but we also get a sense of the '80s and the early Internet. Is this part of that fluidity?
We like this ambivalence and it displays our own feelings pretty good. We were born in the early ‘80s and enjoyed the analog life. But always appreciated the benefits of new technologies and digitalization. So we always feel in between these worlds.
Our friend Sasha Bogojev wrote a nice article about us where he described our style as ‘retro futuristic.’ He brought it pretty much on point with this term.
Since you guys have such a unique sense of color, how do you get it right when creating murals with spray paint?
We first started to develop our style on wall with spray paint. There was already a wide color palette to choose from when we started working as Low Bros. And it got bigger. But it was quite a challenge in the beginning, working with so many tones. It was a process in which it got more and more intuitive and we got used to the different color ranges of the spray paint and which work good together. In retrospect, it’s funny to see that one of our insecurities became one of our strengths.
How has art changed for you since starting?
We started by putting our stuff out in the streets. There was a certain DIY mentality back then. There were hardly any offers. You need to organize it by yourself and make your work getting seen. It’s different from works, hanging in a museum or gallery. ‘Specially in galleries, the work usually reaches the people who already know about it and go there on purpose.
Unfortunately, the environment the institutionalization of art in the streets create, led to more pleasing works on walls. It’s easier for artists who go the more conventional way to get invited to certain projects. Even if we don’t like this tendency, we still think there is space for everyone on the streets, no matter how high their standards are. It’s a bit similar to YouTube, where everyone can participate and gets an audience. Which is good and a democratization of art, but in these times we are missing good curators in our scene who are able to see and appreciate quality and originality.
Who are you looking up to now in the art world? Any up-n-comers you’re excited about?
I’ve been really enjoying what’s coming out of Casey Kawaguchi, Nosey42, Frenemy, Richt, Taj Francis, Wingchow, Baghead, Frankzilla, Sixcoin, Royaldog, Junkhouse, Jay Flow, Artime Joe — man so many more. Ghostbeard has been doing these crazy illumination characters lately I really dig on, too.
Where to next?
We just came back from another trip to LA. Now we are happy to spend some time in Berlin and Hamburg and work on some new projects. We want to go further with what we showed in our ‘98 Windows’ show in SF, and already have a lot of new ideas we want to try. Some more installations and sculptural works. Chris recently moved back to Hamburg with his family, while Florin stayed in Berlin. That’s a three hours driving distance, which is ok. It’s not even the first time we worked like this. In the first year of Low Bros in 2011, Chris was already in Berlin while Flo finished his studies in Hamburg. It’s interesting that it even gives us back more energy to create. The sessions when we see each other are pretty intense and each of us can continue and focus on his part after.
There will be some more projects in Poland, Tel Aviv and Miami this year.