When Robert Williams arrived in Hollywood 50 years ago, he was conscious of its status as the epicenter of outsiders. The Albuquerque painter-illustrator, who became the Norman Rockwell of the back-alley lowlife set, is the subject of a most boss new documentary, Robert Williams Mr. Bitchin, and he will discuss his work with co-directors Nancye Ferguson and Stephen Nemeth after tonight’s premiere at the Egyptian Theatre. Williams, who worked as art director for Rat Fink creator Ed “Big Daddy” Roth before graduating to the staff of outrage funnybook Zap Comix, carved out an admirably lurid swath of brilliantly realized psych-surreal visuals, all of which resolutely exploited West Coast–centric anomalies. “So much art started out here because there are so many diversions,” Williams says. ”Hot rods, surfing, tattoos, skateboarding, culture after culture that just erupted, and all of it had some kind of art associated with ’em.” Best known, after Guns N’ Roses used it on their debut album, for his deliciously shocking Appetite for Destruction, Williams’ achievements and penetrating observations are equally fascinating. Despite contemporary international acclaim, his defiance is unflagging: “I’m the clown that lies on the barbed wire while everyone else walks over my back. I’m a problem,” he says. “I’ve not been authenticated with those false fucking credentials of sophistication. I’m still in this lower phylum of art, but that is where the talent always is.”

Tue., July 30, 7:30 p.m., 2013

LA Weekly