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Cruisin’ Califas’ Brings Lowrider Art To Oceanside Museum

Credit: Courtesy of OMA

Above: "Our Family Car," by artist Gilbert "Magu" Lujan, is one of three lowrider cars on view at the Oceanside Museum of Art's exhibition "Cruisin' Califas: The Art of Lowriding."

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They are a part of Southern California culture. Long, brightly painted, polished cars cruising low and slow through the neighborhood. Known as lowriders, these personalized cars first became popular in the late 1930s, in the wake of the automobile boom, and provided people who couldn't afford to buy a new car with a creative outlet to express their individuality.

But there is more to lowriding than just customized cars, motorcycles and bicycles. The lowrider aesthetic can also be seen in sculptures, photography and paintings. Lowriding even inspired its own genre of music, known as "lowrider oldies" or cruising music (think classic soul and R&B by Brenton Wood, James & Bobby Purify, The Dells and Billy Stewart). Both the vehicles and the culture of lowriders are being celebrated in a new exhibition at the Oceanside Museum of Art. “Cruisin' Califas: The Art of Lowriding” is the first time some of the most famous lowrider cars and images have been displayed together.

One of the three cars on display at the museum is "Gypsy Rose", a 1964 Chevy Impala built by the late Jesse Valadez, one of the godfathers of lowriding. The car, considered to be the most famous lowrider in the world, features more than 180 hand-painted roses, and made a cameo in the opening credits to the popular 1970s TV show, "Chico and the Man" (see video below and keep your eyes peeled at about 51 seconds in).

In addition to the cars, "Cruisin' Califas" features paintings, drawings, sculptures and photography created by lowrider artists—artists who have a lowrider automobile or have built one at some point in their lives. According to the exhibition's co-curators—brothers, artists and lowrider enthusiasts, Carlos C. de Baca and David C. de Baca—the artists in the exhibition "have come to recognize that lowriding is not just about cars, it’s a way of life." Model cars, memorabilia and a cruising music soundtrack compiled by local radio DJ/lowrider Xavier the X-Man also can be seen and heard in the galleries.

KPBS Midday Edition speaks with curators Carlos C. de Baca and David C. de Baca, about the art, artists and history of lowriding.

Cruisin' Califas: The Art of Lowriding” runs through September 30 at the Oceanside Museum of Art in Oceanside. The museum is free for all on Tuesdays and always free for students (with valid ID). For hours and admission info, visit

One of the most famous lowriders, "Gypsy Rose," is featured in the opening credits to the 1970s TV show "Chico and the Man." You can see it drive by at about 51 seconds into this video.


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