The feeling of the wind enveloping your skin and whipping through your hair is an unforgettable experience that is often relegated to the animal kingdom. The genius of the skateboard allows us to transcend that barrier and fly through the air without defying the natural laws. Humans have been searching for ways to fly like the animals for centuries, hoping to replicate the nuanced relationship between the natural elements and our abilities to work with those elements to create amazing experiences. The skateboard is one of the simplest yet most genius inventions by humans in the last century to give us the unforgettable experience of surfing concrete waves, of floating over rock, of being one with the wind.

Skateboarding is not a new phenomenon; it is well-known as a worldwide sport that has risen from an underground sub-culture to mainstream culture with its own style, attitude and aesthetic. The new exhibition, “Skate | Create: The Art of Skateboarding” at the Golden West College Art Gallery celebrated this culture with an opening reception on August 29, and remains on view through October 5, as it explores this passionate culture through the fine art of some of its heaviest hitters, historic contributors and local up-and-comers. 

(Evan Senn)

Southern California is the birthplace of skateboarding and has continued to remain one of the epicenters of skate culture since its inception. Born in the 1950s, surfers discovered skateboarding as a way to embrace the feeling of wave-riding on flatland. In the 1960s, a good number of surfboard manufacturers in Southern California such as Jack’s, Kips, Hobie, Bing’s and Makaha saw the skateboard market as a new business opportunity to capitalize on and started building skateboards that resembled small surfboards. After the late 1960s, skateboarding became a widespread phenomenon in television, music, publishing and with youths in cities across the United States. 

In the 1970s and 1980s, Orange County became a hub for this growing underground sport. Anaheim was one of the first places to house a publicly-accessed skate park, Surfer’s World, and also was home to other skate areas, like Sadlands, that drew hundreds of skaters from all over Southern California. The O.C. offered expansive space and room for growth for many surf and skate companies such as Vans, Etnies, RVCA, Volcom, Thirdchoice and Quiksilver, making it an epicenter for skate art and culture that has continued to thrive today.

“Skate | Create” at GWC Art Gallery in Huntington Beach highlights this unique culture by showcasing artworks by talented and respected artists, including Shepard Fairey, C.R. Stecyk III, Jeff Ho, Jason Maloney, Lance Mountain, Richard “French” Sayer, Dereck Seltzer aka “TMRWLND,” Tina St. Claire aka “TFail,” Ed Templeton, Jules Muck, Jennie Cotterill, and Jonathan Martinez aka “Art of the Endangered.” The exhibition also highlights the new generation of skate-inspired artists like Matthew Perdoni, Tristen Adamson, Brandon Davis and Brian Averill, among others.

(Evan Senn)

The work on view ranges in technique and style — from screen prints and photographs to paintings and sculpture. The range of work in the exhibition also touches on the variety of styles present in skate culture; we see elements of punk rock, tiki, geometric designs, nostalgia aesthetics, traditional academic painting, cult horror, animation and more present in the artwork on view. 

Shepard Fairey’s “Prevent Police Boredom … Skateboard” print and Ed Templeton’s “Skater Boy Gets Roughed Up by Security, Holland” bring attention to the longstanding friction between the youth culture of skateboarding and the long-arm of the law with humor and honesty. C.R. Stecyk III, Tristen Adamson and Jules Muck all delve into the history of skateboarding with references to legendary Venice skater Jay Adams, sidewalk surfing, bright neon colors and empty pools although with different styles of work. Stecyk with his photography and screen prints, Muck with documentation of her Venice mural, and Adamson with a painting. Other artists, like Jonathan Hunt and Brian Averill, explore the abstract beauty in skateparks and skate-inspired design, while Jason Maloney and Matthew Perdoni approach sub-cultures within the skate community in interesting ways. Maloney deals with the stigmas surrounding cannabis use and its prevalence in skate communities in his “Hey Bud, Let’s Party” series of small paintings. Perdoni highlights the presence of skateboarding in nomadic life in his painting of a train-hopping skateboarding hobo, representing communities in many rural American areas. 

Other artists like TMRWLND aka Dereck Seltzer and his former partner TFail aka Tina St. Claire are represented with gorgeous graphic fine artworks resembling their signature styles of street art infused with skate aesthetics, attitude and style. Showing a lesser known side to the skate art style, we see fine art painter Catherine Kaleel explore nostalgia with an homage to the lost art of cassette tapes and the musical and historical sides of skate culture. Topping the exhibition off, we have some physical play in the space with some large-scale wooden sculptures by fine artist and skateboarding aficionado Brandon Davis. Davis’s sculptures are skatable sculptures placed in the gallery in a particular route for skaters to enjoy one or all three of the sculptures as they shred their way through the gallery space. 

The history of skateboarding is complex and localized here in SoCal. While the culture and aesthetic has spread all over the world, we can proudly look to our local roots to find the source of this unique and powerful culture and style. Amply placed in the heart of Huntington Beach’s skate community, just across the street from the Vans Skate Park, “Skate | Create” at GWC Art Gallery gives a thorough sense to viewers as to where skate art and culture came from and where it’s heading.

“Skate | Create: The Art of Skateboarding” is on view at GWC Art Gallery through October 5, 2019.

GWC Art Gallery, Golden West College, 15751 Gothard St. Fine Arts Building, Rm. 108, Huntington Beach, 92647.