Love & Guts / Thrasher XXX

Love + Guts

Thrasher XXX

If definitions were left strictly to the highbrow so-called “critics” at such illustrious publications as Art In America or ArtWeek, chances are fairly good that most of the work featured in the Love+Guts exhibitions wouldn’t rate beyond “outsider” at best. Patrons of the arts and their vast pocketbooks would certainly be steered far away from such venues, and would likely be encouraged to invest in “more important” works. The rationale for such exclusive attitudes can easily be perceived by the rest of us as an elitist stance, a tip of the hat towards the old canonical system governing art itself. Portrait painters under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte were instructed under penalty of imprisonment and possibly death to portray the vertically challenged, gout-afflicted, and ruddy-skinned emperor of France as a tall statuesque figure riding a stallion into battle. In reality, Napoleon rode a small mule. Trace the concept of the canon further back to the Vatican and the Medici family and their “support of the arts” which essentially cleansed art of any freedom of self-expression. Of course this has little to do with the value of art in general in contemporary times, as it is a completely subjective entity defined by singular viewers. Still the canon as it exists today, continues to attempt to dictate who is important, and what work is important. Skateboarding, by its’ very nature, is a creative pursuit built of self-expression and vanguard thinking. Most skateboarders are defined by their creativity both on and off of their boards. Our grand personality disorder. We don’t bow to the standards set by any canon but our own, and we are free to find value in the art of our own peers, elitist publications and their narrow value structures notwithstanding. And the bottom line here is that we aren’t trying to fit their mold anyway. We agree to disagree.- BLKPRJKT

our people

Ray Barbee - on point preparation

The Lab. The Anti-mall. Costa Mesa. Rough -hewn planks uphold the roof. A hodgepodge of wires, I-beams, concrete, columns and paint make up the place. The entire facility defies logic. It seems as though a giant child shook out a box of building parts onto the floor, slavered and drooled onto them, then mixed them up into a semblance of a building. I walked around a corner. I smelled coffee and heard laughter. In a tea house on my right, patrons hunched over laptops and steaming mugs. White Christmas lights sparkled overhead. I rounded another corner and immediately spotted Lance Mountain & Steve Caballero helping each other hoist art out of boxes and onto vertical wall displays. Ray Barbee, Christian Hosoi and the shaggy-haired Steve Olson were moving about the place, frenetically putting last minute touches on their art displays.

Steve Olson - final touches

There were several parts to the exhibition. In the corridor were the previously mentioned L&G artists and others. Inside a glass-fronted room nearby, the Thrasher Thirty Year photographic exhibition was housed. I walked by, peered inside and shuddered. Wall to wall and floor to ceiling, the room was filled with epic photographs from some of skateboarding’s great photographers and skaters. Just a glance was enough to suffice for the moment. Iconic images. Blood-stained heroes, losers, winners, unknowns and the unrewarded… they all held a spot somewhere on those walls. As I walked away, John Cardiel looked back at me from a photograph…  his eyes sparked defiantly. It was perfect Thrasher. Just a few steps away from these exhibits, an area was set aside and prepared for live music and man-beverages. Looking at skateboard art is thirsty work and Thrasher isn’t known for leaving anyone in the lurch when it comes time for a big can! Beer was to be available to all comers.

Thrasher XXX - photographic display

the photos on the wall, tell the story of it all

iconic

Steve Caballero and works

I pulled a few of the artists aside and asked them some basics regarding how they viewed the art represented, where their inspiration came from and the artistic process itself. I took a few notes. Steve Caballero sat with me on a small couch and immediately laughed when I presented my questions.  He looked away at the exhibit where he had some wonderfully detailed drawings and paintings. Pointing at his exhibit– eyes smiling–Stevie said- “Art is anything you put out there that can be criticised.” We both laughed. He was absolutely right. On a more serious note, I asked him about his art and the inspiration behind it. Steve replied “I try to produce something people have a connection with. I satisfy my needs  visually and hopefully someone else likes it as well. I aim for a positive impact not a negative one.” Steve told me that he works on his art when inspired or challenged and also to get ready for a show. He stated that his children have taken to drawing and painting as well. “Love and Guts is a great outlet for skateboarders to show our creative artistic side off our skateboards.”

Planet of the Apes - Steve Caballero

Christian Hosoi and his art

Nearby, I spotted Christian Hosoi. The guy just looks cool. He was slouched against a wall… frozen in an unknown thought. I interrupted his reverie and –with a flourish of my hand–asked him to join me on the couch for a quick Q&A. He smiled and nodded. I once hired him to come to Woodward Camp in PA. back in 1992 and 1993. We had some epic vert sessions together there with Buster, Andy, Miller, Frazier, Howard and Zitzer. Christian was texting on his phone and after a moment, he took up Cabs recently vacated seat. The hot seat. Christian is a pretty neat character. He thoughtfully pondered my questions. Christian told me about his father being involved with art. His father is a sculptor and Christian grew up around art & artists. “It was natural for me…. a passion. It is a way to simply express myself and my faith. I started really early on doing graphics for my skateboard company. It went from there. I do self portraits, crosses and other pieces. I recently completed one of Baby Paul Cullen.”  Christian told me that he doesn’t mind his art being shown as long as he is personally comfortable with the piece… as long as it flows. Pointing calmly toward a silver painting he recently completed, Christian drew my attention to the silver cross in the middle. It sparkled in the light like a  blazing religious metaphor. He leaned toward me and softly stated – “The biggest expression of love…  is the cross.” In that moment, I knew that he believed it.

Ray Barbee and photographs

I thought about art and inspiration as I walked over to the teahouse and bought some vanilla chai. On the way back I caught up with Ray Barbee as he set up his photograph display. Ray is always smiling and gracious. He took a few minutes to go get some food with us and answer a few questions. Ray Barbee began shooting photographs on a tour. He explained- “We were on a tour for a few months and went everywhere. I bought a pretty good ‘point and shoot’ camera and really got into it. It sparked my interest. After I returned from Barcelona where I shot photographs the entire time, my wife showed me how to use her Pentax camera. I didn’t like that my camera took the pictures for me… I wanted to take the images. I wanted to learn to recognize light and use it. I finally signed up for a Black & White photography class and have really learned a great deal already. I think I’ve turned a corner.” Ray told me that he likes to photograph people unaware. He enjoys capturing the moment and mood. Light plays an important part in all this for him. Ray admitted that one of his biggest supporters and inspirations is MRZ. “MRZ would give me cameras, lenses and techniques to try…  it helped me so much.” It was interesting to see Ray Barbee’s photographs and one could see that he certainly has turned a corner. The images are wonderful. Little slices of life.

Lance Mountain - dropping the hammer on art

Pink Motel coffee table - Lance Mountain

Lance Mountain responded to my questions by laughing. With his son on his left, he leaned back and made a comment that went something like this – “When I’m injured, I doodle.” Lance then told me about his father being an artist and how his father made window displays at Macy’s. “It started in school for me. My father always had us making models and doing different things. He was very artistic.” I remembered some old home videos that Lance had shown to Stacy Peralta & Craig Stecyk recently. They were really unique and I recalled seeing his father in them, making things and at work on various projects when Lance was young.  Lance described his art in the following manner. “It’s just an extension of my skating. My art isn’t art. It is skate-related trinkets and stuff.” He then smirked and jokingly added – “Calling yourself an artist is for fruits! I”m a skateboarder that wishes he could be an artist.” We laughed and laughed…

Compromise?

Lance told me that –as a kid– he and his friends would look at the art of Wes Humpston & Craig Stecyk and copy it … drawing it themselves. “We made our own crosses and graphics based on their art and stuff.” Lance looked away into the distance. He leaned back in his chair, arms behind his head, fingers laced together. “Neil Blender is the man! Awesome. He was a huge influence.” Pointing to some of his paintings, I asked Lance how he came up with the inspiration for them.  He readily answered- ” When my son started drawing at about four years old, I took his drawings and refined on them. I used them as graphics. I started painting them and then I was asked to box some of them up and send them to Chicago for an art show. The guys name is Dan Fields. I did as he asked and he ended up sending me a check. He had sold them. I’ve been progressing, refining and doing it since then.”  For Lance Mountain and the others, their art is simply an extension of their skateboarding and just another facet of their personalities and lives that they allow us a glimpse into.

Geoff Rowley and his little one

Lucero, Cab and Omar

Steve Alba and works

Pat Ngoho says it best

Chris Senn work

I saw many familiar faces. It grew crowded. Salba was there with his wife. He had a wonderful pool photographic display. Steve Olson, Chris Senn, Pat Ngoho and others had their works displayed as well. It was awesome! I wandered over to the stage/ beer garden area and watched from the fence as Ray Barbee played. His fingers moved nimbly across the fretboard and everyone really loved to hear him play.

the beer garden and thirsty workers

Ray Barbee- entertaining the mob

Good friends, familiar faces, skateboarding, art and great conversation were everywhere. Stories words rose up like smoke. Laughter followed. Smiles. All eyes glittered knowingly. Love & Guts. We have an abundance of both. Thanks to MRZ and BDWong for the images. Thanks to BLKPRJKT for the introduction. Skate- Ozzie

Lance Jr. and Sr. doodling....

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