Bellevue Arts Museum to celebrate father of feral lowbrow art in new exhibition

July 12, 2019
Images: Robert Williams, "Death by Exasperation," 2010, "The Rapacious Wheel," 2008, "The Everywhere-at-Once Cabriolet," 2011.

July 12, 2019
Contact: Emilie Smith
Phone: 425.519.0755
[email protected]


Press Image Gallery
(password protected)

For access credentials, please contact Emilie Smith, Marketing Manager, at:
[email protected]

Robert Williams: The Father of Exponential Imagination is on view at Bellevue Arts Museum October 4, 2019 – February 2, 2020

Bellevue, WA—Robert Williams: The Father of Exponential Imagination, which opens at Bellevue Arts Museum on October 4, presents recent works from Los Angeles-based artist Robert Williams. Williams is a unique and contradictory figure in contemporary American art, best known for painting exquisitely detailed allegories and epic history paintings.

The Father of Exponential Imagination will feature over forty recent oil paintings alongside two of Williams’s major sculptures, The Rapacious Wheel and Errant Levity. The exhibition coincides with the publication of a major new monograph on Williams’s work by Seattle-based publisher Fantagraphics Books, due November 2019.

Williams began his career as a key figure on the 1960s hot rod scene, creating advertisements for Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, and gained a further following through his involvement in the underground art scene. He was a founding contributor of ZAP Comix, one of the most profane counter-culture comic books ever published and his 1981 book, The Lowbrow Art of Robt. Williams, gave name to what would later be considered an art movement.

Williams’s subject matter and commitment to craftsmanship in painting came at a time when conceptual and abstract art were ubiquitous in America, casting him as an outlaw figure in the art world. With their intricate details and emphasis on imagination and human emotion, Williams’s paintings present a case for the return of craft, observation, draftsmanship, and technical skill in painting, and for the consideration of the cartoon and graphic arts as on a par with ‘fine’ art.  

Says Williams, “many people, and our society in general, have a cautionary resentment regarding overt and gratuitous imagination. This admonition stems from concerns that the violations with respect to conformity engenders dangerous anomalies, character flaws, and worst, perversion. Possibly so, but more importantly it breeds new playing fields of ideas—and ideas, as they sometimes do, grow exponentially”

The upcoming BAM exhibition will pay homage to hot rod culture with the installation of a 1947 Chevy Woody in the Museum Forum. The car will be on view throughout the run of the exhibition, offering visitors a glimpse into the excitement of Southern California’s Kustom Kulture and the cultural moment in which Williams began his career.



Robert Williams (b. 1943) grew up immersed in Southern California’s Kustom Kulture, Rock n’ Roll, and EC Comics. He became the studio art director to hot rod innovator Ed “Big Daddy” Roth in 1965, and was a founding contributor to the underground ZAP Comix in the late ‘60s while also working as a commercial illustrator. Frustrated with the venal contemporary art scene of the 1980s, in 1994 he founded Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine, a publication dedicated to the underground, which has become the top-selling art magazine worldwide. He lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

Robert Williams: The Father of Exponential Imagination is presented with thanks to the artist, Suzanne Williams, Dave Shuten & Galpin Auto Sports, Juxtapoz Magazine, Fantagraphics Books, Karl Meyer & Gentle Giant, and John Gunsalis. Media sponsors: KCTS 9 and The Stranger. In-kind support from Seattle SignShop and Hemlock Printers.


Bellevue Arts Museum provides a public forum for the community to contemplate, appreciate, and discuss visual culture. We work with audiences, artists, makers, and designers to understand our shared experience of the world.