CSUN Chicana/o studies professor Denise Sandoval has co-curated a “love letter’ to the to the craftsmen and craftswomen who have created some of the world’s most distinctive lowriders, currently on display at Los Angeles’ Petersen Automotive Museum. Photo of 1958 Chevrolet Impala “Final Score,” courtesy of the Petersen Museum.

Media Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler, carmen.chandler@csun.edu, (818) 677-2130

Denise Sandoval, a Chicana/o studies professor at California State University, Northridge, called the latest exhibit she’s co-curated with Los Angeles’ Petersen Automotive Museum a “love letter” to the craftsmen and craftswomen who have created some of the world’s most distinctive lowriders.

The “Best in Low” exhibit, which opened earlier this month in the museum’s Mullin Grand Salon and runs through April 2025, celebrates the intricate and labor-intensive work that goes into creating these custom vehicles.

Headshot of Denise Sandoval
Denise Sandoval

“I think that people forget that lowriders really are pieces of art,” said Sandoval, who is considered one of the world’s leading scholars of lowrider culture. “This exhibit is about highlighting the high level of customization skills within the lowrider community. No previous exhibitions have really focused on the craftsmen and women who do this amazing work. Other exhibits have leaned into the history, the culture and the car clubs. This time, we’re leaning into the car itself. In many ways, this is a love letter to the men and women who make lowriders so special.”

The exhibit, she said, also highlights the regional diversity of the lowrider culture. It includes cars and motorcycles from Southern California, Northern California, New Mexico, Texas and Japan. It also features cars owned and worked on by women. 

“For the past couple of decades, women have really come into their own in lowrider culture, both in customization and craftsmanship,” Sandoval said, adding, “This is the first time we’ve had a show that really looks at the diversity and celebrates that regional representation through customization and craftsmanship.”

She noted that among the vehicles on display is one from Japan that showcases a unique paint created by a Japanese craftsman that allows an entire vehicle to be “engraved.”

“It’s just so crazy,” she said. “It’s something you have to see to appreciate how amazing it is.”

The exhibition includes iconic lowrider vehicles and those new to the scene, all featuring customization in various aspects of the lowrider built, from paint and metal finishing to interiors and hydraulics. The development of these techniques and practices over time is explored.

In addition to the engraved car from Japan, the exhibit includes the 1964 Chevrolet Impala known as “Gypsy Rose” and three-time Lowrider Magazine “Lowrider of the Year” winners “Final Score,” a 1958 Chevrolet Impala convertible, and “Double Trouble,” a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. The exhibit also features “Dead Presidents,” a 1958 Chevrolet Impala built by respected craftsmen Albert De Alba, Sr. and Albert De Alba, Jr., the “Sphinx,” a 1954 Chevrolet 210 Sedan from Japan, and “Twisted Toy,” a three-time Lowrider “Bicycle of the Year” winner.

Sandoval, who teaches in CSUN’s College of Humanities, noted that “Best in Low” coincides with the end of anti-cruising bans in California, which were first enacted in the 1980s and significantly impacted lowriding, the mostly Black and Latino communities that participated in the culture. Gov. Gavin Newsom last fall signed Assembly Bill 436, prohibiting lowrider bans and anti-cruising ordinances across the state. It took effect in January of this year.

For more information about the exhibition, visit the Petersen Museum’s website.

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Media Contact: carmen.chandler@csun.edu - (818) 677-2130

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