Friday, March 23, 2007


Bob & Bob was a flaky performance art team in the 1970s. They painted themselves yellow and silver and conducted "happenings" in rooms filled with popcorn or foam rubber. They named their happenings "Sex is Stupid" or "Forget Everything You Know." Sometimes Bob & Bob would perform songs against materialistic society:

People go to school and learn from books
Then they get degrees
Then they get a job and drive a Porsche
Bob & Bob had no apparent drawing skills. A booklet of their work describes the team's technique for drawing:

The drawings were nothing more than scribbles but the two found something harmonious there so they decided to draw together on the same sheet of paper.
They also performed comedy routines. Fortunately, Bob & Bob faded away like disco with the dawn of the 1980s. So why am I wasting your time with them? Because recently I looked at some of their drawings and was astonished to find they were truly excellent. I think these deserve a wider audience.

As part of their campaign against capitalism, Bob & Bob copied photographs from the annual reports of banks and large corporations. They drew the corporate executives and boards of directors with magic markers in a crude way. The results were absolutely devastating.

Said Bob & Bob:"These poor bankers have spent their whole lives in classrooms and offices and all they have to show for it is money and wrinkles. We wanted to turn them into art." I find these drawings more lacerating than the art of widely acclaimed social critics such as George Grosz, R. Crumb or Gerald Scarfe.

I am surprised that two goofy featherweights like Bob & Bob were able to produce something so dark and trenchant. These drawings seem close in spirit and quality to the work of Francis Bacon and Marshall Arisman.


The alchemy of art is so unpredictable, unlikely artists sometimes produce surprising results. Were these drawings intentional or just a lovely accident? I don't know, but they are another reason why (as if another were needed) the time to stop looking with fresh eyes at new artists is never.


Anonymous said...

Another great post. Thanks for all the hard work!

David Apatoff said...

Rafiore-- hard work?? This is a frolic for me. I promise you, it's harder work for you to read these things than it is for me to write them. Thanks for reading!

Freudian Slip said...

I love the illustrations, they are really sharp :)

Anonymous said...

These drawings killed me!(*in a good way)

I'm always finding interesting posts here.. Keep up the good work!

Mary M said...

Mesmerizing. Seem to look into the souls of the men.

DorkyMalone said...

These are mesmerizingly awesome. I immediately checked ebay to see if I could somehow get my filthy hands on an original. Unfortunately Bob & Bob is not that search engine friendly...

Anonymous said...

i have an original bob and bob think sex is stupid signed painting. what do you think it is worth?

Jeremy White said...

The second one is the funniest to me.

Anonymous said...

Bob & Bob are GREAT! They were groundbreaking innovators in American Art and widely regarded as important pioneers in Los Angeles' seminal Performance Art world.

Bob & Bob began their multi media work in 1974 while attending the Art Center College in Los Angeles. For the next 10 years, they worked almost exclusively as an Art Team, producing drawings, paintings, sculptures, performances, happenings, short films, songs and artist books.

In 2006 they were included in Paris' Pompidou Centre's "Los Angeles: Birth of an Art Capital", and in 2011, Bob & Bob's work was featured in several exhibitions initiated by the Getty Museum's "Pacific Standard Time" including the Museum of Contemporary Art's "Under the Big Black Sun" and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions' survey of California Performance Art.

Bob & Bob have also shown at Berkeley Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Walker Art Center, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston and the Kitchen in NYC.

Bob & Bob's songs and audio pieces have been produced by PolyGram/Polydor Records, High Performance Records, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Art Institute. Their groundbreaking films and videos have been featured in film and video festivals and widely broadcast nationwide and abroad.

In 1980, Astro Artz published "Bob & Bob: The First Five Years" by Linda Frye Burnham with a forward by Llyn Foulkes , and in 1986 Otis/Parson presented a survey exhibition curated by Adolpho Nodal with catalog notes by Kristine McKenna and Peter Frank.

Bob & Bob are currently working on a new series of drawings celebrating their 40th anniversary of "making art that makes sense"!