Beautiful Losers Contemporary Art and Street Culture

Posted on Tuesday, November 29, 2005 by Chapin

Beautiful Losers Contemporary Art and Street Culture
Words and Photos by Chapin Atchison

A collection of public photos of work by Shepard Fairey (OBEY)
Reas, one of my favorite cartoon nudists, actually, the only cartoon nudist I'm familiar with...
The Schminx, by Mark Gonzales
Alex Bowers showing Mark Gonzales love while Baby G and Durbin try to decipher what the hell is going on at this place
I'm blowing it, I can't even remember who this is...
Iconography at it's finest, Ryan McGuinness
A front porch, for the kids, by Thomas Campbell
Artist rendition of the Simpsons by KAWS
Larger than life, KAWS Chum (EBAY!!!) with a little side scenery
Artwork by Futura 2000
Pictures of subway/train graffiti
Slayer album covers (DEATH KILL GNAR!!!)
More books by artists such as Rostarr, Kaws, and more Mark Gonzales
A photograph of Run DMC
Books by a variety of artists including Mark Gonzales (poetry), Ed Templeton (photography/drawings), and Dalek amongst others
Some of the shoes out of the Limited Edition section of the show
A collection of Decks from a vast range of years, all I could think about while standing there was EBAY! Check out a close up version
A moving robotic rendition of graffiti artist Amaze vandalizing the walls of the gallery with "SMASH THE STATE" built by Barry McGee (Twist)
A different version of the same live robotic Amaze at work, spraying over Twist's standard geometic images. This one's face was so life-like at first glance I thought it was real
I like to think of myself as a Beautiful Loser. Not because of the typical paradoxical statements I could derive out of the two words to make a witty comparison, but because I identify with each and every work shown in this art-show-turned-culture-expose. It's very easy to see skateboarding's influence on this "street art" show, with works by artists such as Mark Gonzales, Ed Templeton, Shepard Fairey (OBEY), Neil Blender, Dalek, Evan Hecox (of Chocolate Skateboards design fame), and many more being displayed at Beautiful Losers.

I'm only 24, but I just happened to grow up skateboarding in all of the eras represented in the USF Contemporary Art Museum space dedicated to the "Limited Edition" section. The decks on display ranged from the early 80's up to a few that were made only months ago. When I first started skating, I bought boards strictly because of their graphics. I didn't care what shape, size, or weight it was at the time. If it was covered in sub-culture iconography that I identified with, then I was going to buy it. Out of the 80+ decks on the wall in the "Limited Edition" section, I remember skating and destroying at least 20 of them.

In the mid 80's, my lack-of-a-nose, wide board was covered in Powell Peralta Bones Brigade stickers, anarchy-patterned neon grip tape, and rail and tail protectors. I saw the transition from spoon nose, to square kick nose, and then to freestyle boards, which amazingly had both a nose and a tail of equal height and length. At the time I never realized the Andy Howell New Deal graphics and Mark Gonzales Vision graphics rooted themselves so deep in my memory that I would flashback to the exact places I skated those boards over 15 years later when I saw them hanging in an art gallery.

The trends developed over the years - some stayed, some faded. Eventually, when something from our skateboarding culture leaked to mainstream, we moved on and developed a new style for ourselves, constantly progressing to worse and more embarrassing gear. I won't lie, at one point in my life I wore oversized, stovepipe brown pants, a chain wallet, a tennis ball neon yellow shirt, a beanie with a bill, and football laced Airwalk's…all at once. Soon after the deck shape and fashion experimentations of the early 90's, boards began to take on their current shapes. Albeit, our wheels were smaller than bearings, but we skated practically the same shapes/concaves of today.

Then the punk rock ideal of being different than everyone else for your own reasons, finally revitalized. Now you see all genres of culture being represented throughout skateboarding. If you think about it, skateboarders are probably the most open-minded individuals out there, being able to absorb from worldly influences and create an individualistic, yet wholesome culture. This Show represented that ideal so well. From live mechanical graffiti displays to Slayer album covers, all aspects of this movement we've been experiencing for the last 20-30 years was recognized and distinguished in this traveling art show that will be on its way to Europe next month. Everything in the Show expressed the idealism of the word “punk.” No two artists represented anything even remotely similar, and I think that's what made the Show so amazing to see in person.

I was in awe at the insane amount of talent brought together in one showing, from photographers, to musicians, to skateboarders, to graffiti artists; every piece of the skateboarding sub-culture I've experienced was represented. I don't think my writing can accurately describe how overwhelmed you feel when you visit a show of this caliber. All I can say is the Show is open until December 17th, so if you didn't make it to the opening, you better haul ass down to the USF Contemporary Art Museum, get yourself a reality check, and cash in on an opportunity that only comes once-in-a-lifetime to your area.

Chapin Atchison

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