Skater dye: “Decked Out” exhibit features more than 100 decorated boards

Oct 30, 2007 at 7:34 pm

“Bring Me the Horizon” by Justin Kamerer
“Bring Me the Horizon” by Justin Kamerer
Perched atop a skateboard, a landscape easily transforms. One man’s industrial slag heap becomes another’s adrenaline-fueled playground. Stairs become an Ollie, sidewalk curbs become grinders, and shrubbery is no longer landscaping — it is a soft landing spot. For better or worse, skateboarding’s punk appeal has long captured the imagination of youthful outsiders who refuse to play by a community’s landscaping rules. Far from fence-sitting on the fringes of a subculture, however, skating’s outsider qualities are merging with local arts promoters in a new show that showcases skateboarding art. “Decked Out: The Exhibition” opens at Derby City Espresso on Friday in conjunction with the First Friday Trolley Hop, and showcases more than 85 mostly-local artists painting on a familiar canvas: the 8x32 wooden inches of a skateboard deck.

Emerging from a faddish start in the ’50s by bored California surfers, skating picked up speed by the mid-’60s but almost immediately crashed in popularity thanks in part to lack of board control from using clay wheels. Frank Nasworthy’s creation of urethane skateboarding wheels in 1972 helped cement the sport’s longterm success. Kicked out of public parks across the country and long suffering the indignation of authority figures, skating merged with punk music attitudes and underground by the mid-’90s and took a generation by stronghold. By the time ESPN started the first X Games in 1995 in Rhode Island, skating was no longer merely a pastime for the unemployed and existentially disenfranchised. Today, skateboarding and its peripheral art, music and cultural appeal is a multi-million-dollar industry.

“Intervention ... No, No, No (1 of 2)” by Micheal Koerner
“Intervention ... No, No, No (1 of 2)” by Micheal Koerner
“Decked Out” is the brainchild of local production group the Pedestrian Duo, founded by Jenny Wingo and Robby Davis. The pair focused on providing a forum for artists who wouldn’t typically be featured in a gallery setting. Many of the decks on display — more than 100 all told — have been created by tattoo artists, graffiti artists, skaters and musicians. Louisville artists Jeral Tidwell, Justin Kamerer and Jeff Gaither have all contributed decks. While most artists hail from the River City, Wingo notes that they received boards from Georgia, Ohio and even one artist from Scotland. The Pedestrian Duo’s lowbrow approach is an effort to capitalize on the momentum of the now-defunct Urban Graffiti Art project on Market Street.

“Skateboarding itself isn’t always well-received in a community, and we wanted to do something low-brow, focusing on undergrounds arts. We want to help showcase Louisville as a place for underground art,” notes Wingo in a recent interview with LEO. “So much attention is focused on the coasts, and we wanted to display the great talent that exists here. Although there were no qualifications for the show other than being over 14, some of the boards are truly amazing — outrageous even.”

Where skating art might once have been viewed as the playground of the subversive dilettante, it is nowadays the mien of respected artists, as the oft-cited influence of Pop Surrealism has gained a foothold in well-heeled circles. Skaters like Sean Cliver, Mark Gonzales and Ed Templeton (among many others) have gained widespread recognition through publications like Juxtapoz magazine and Cliver’s recent release of “Disposable: A History of Skateboarding Art” (Ginkgo Press). With a nod toward Stuckism, Pop Surrealism and a bit of Dada thrown in for good measure, the art behind “Decked Out” promises a broad appeal. Robby Davis of Pedestrian Duo notes that “art is important to any subculture, and skaters are artists just like anyone else. For skaters, the city is their canvas.”

Louisville deck artist Troy Burkhart agrees. “This is my first art show I have participated in Louisville. This project brought me back to why I got involved and fell in love with art in the first place,” Burkhart says. “When skateboarding took off, so did deck art. I can’t wait to see how people make a connection with the two.”

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‘Decked Out: The Exhibition’
Nov. 2-30
Derby City Espresso
331 E. Market St.
Free; 6 p.m. (opening night, Nov. 2)