Having a rooted fondness for lowbrow, or at least kitsch, representation, I have had to defend against more than smug deadheads. Chiefly, my own sense of smarter palate, open-mindedness, and learned catholic guilt (if you don't feel at least a pang of guilt for your bawdier pleasures, where's the fun?). It can be a trick to argue for soupier formalities without making a mere sugary dessert of them compared to deep-dish concept and content.
Nor does it help that some of my retro-fittingly illustrative "high art" faves can still disappoint. I probably had my hopes set too high for the recent Whitney look at Charles Burchfield and found the collection to be physically thin and imaginatively lazy (at least in the manner that attracts me to stranger visions), getting more out of the conceptually intangible Christian Marclay exhibit and throwing in to question my whole stance. (Or does it? Marclay's work exploits a colorful wackiness.) And a long held undergrad crush on Larry Rivers, born from the discovery of a magazine/gallery art hybrid, has withered greatly after Manny Farber singles out the artist as the visual example of stylized mediocrity in his 1957 essay Hard-Sell Cinema. Stories of a creepy fixation on his daughters breasts don't help looking at his already dusty work either.
Farber's essay is not just talking about painting (Dave Brubeck and Saul Bellow are picked on in their fields before moving on to film), but he does well to site the problem offered by the continuing practice of the kind of work I am championing. The hybrid illustrator-artist must use skill for more than acrobatics. When I like a work that might be dismissed as kitsch, or sensational, or just plain old-fashioned in it's function and literalness, it is usually because there is an aboutness to it's idiosyncrasy. Tony Oursler doesn't just use Disney projection effects, his mad creations are about projection. Robert Bechtle's work doesn't just deftly reduce and render photography to paint, it is about the hand's personal reaffirmation of the strangely familiar. And crazy, so-bad-they're-good, neo-mainstream catastrophes don't just display labor amok, they are about some of the most volcanically literalized exaggerations a person can stumble across.