In the mid-1970s, teen skateboarder Jay J. Adams descended on an empty swimming pool in Southern California, with beers and board in hand. A drought had recently ripped across the state, forcing residents to drain their backyard swimming holes. For many, it was a disappointing summer. But not for a crew of misfit young skaters known as the Z-Boys. From their vantage point, those smooth concrete craters made perfect skate bowls—sanctuaries for a sport and subculture they were unwittingly pioneering.
I was born in November 1989 so I missed all but a month of the 80s and everything about its culture so this was cool to read from Artsy:
At the moment, our pop culture finds itself at peak ’80s nostalgia, as news outlets rush to publish their own guides to the decade’s easter eggs hidden in the third season of Stranger Things (2016–present). Those who came of age in the 1980s are now in their mid-forties, so perhaps it just makes sense that the kids who grew up are now showrunners, casting viewers in the nostalgic glow of their own youth.
One could also argue that ’80s nostalgia is on the rise due to some meritocracy of the decades—the eighties were just a cooler, quirkier, and kitschier time to be alive. My own recollections of the time are a murky haze of fleeting passions, both joyous and totally embarrassing. There are, for instance, the Garbage Pail Kids cards, which hit young male culture hard in 1985—pimply teens sneakily trading Boozin’ Bruce for Adam Bomb or Smelly Sally. I’ll never fully wash off the trauma of the humanoid animals residing in Zoobilee Zoo (1986–87). I’ll never live down listening to the Christian hair-metal albums by Stryper that my mom gently forced on me as an antidote to the more “satanic” alternatives. I’ll never forget the uncomfortable prominence of David Bowie’s codpiece in Labyrinth (1986).
More on the 80’s: Catch some retro 80s and 90s vibes with Retrogeist, Fumi Ishino’s ‘Index of Fillers’ chronicling Japanese culture in the 80s and 90s, and what if Game of Thrones was aired in the 80s?
Picture a modern art museum. Perhaps one like MoMA with all those white paintings nobody understands. Now think of skateboarding culture. How well do you think those worlds complement each other? Very well, in fact.
Artists like Ai Weiwei and Andy Warhol have lent their artistry to skateboards. From what started out as a niche collaboration became a money venture; according to CNBC, Sotheby’s sold a collection of nearly 250 Supreme skate decks to Carson Guo for $800,000. Oh, and he’s 17. I wish I had that kind of money.
But the important number today isn’t 17 or 800,000 – it’s 5. Because I’ve chosen 5 examples of modern artists who’ve inspired skateboarding culture. Or how skateboarding culture has influenced 5 modern artists. I don’t think the order really matters so let’s check them out.
It wouldn’t be an art-related Cultrface article without mentioning Basquiat. The neo-expressionist painted and drew on any medium he wanted. But never skateboards. Decades after his death and his work adorns quite a few skate decks including Demon, on a set of 5 decks, and Skull, one of his most famous pieces (and my favourite), on a set of 3. Although Basquiat never explicitly worked with skateboards, his early days as SAMO© was certainly imbricated with skateboarding culture.
One word: Obey. It’s primarily a verb but it’s synonymous with Shepard Fairey, the street artist who turned it into a clothing brand, based on his iconic André the Giant Has a Posse artwork. Fairey played a pivotal role in bringing skateboarding culture into the popular scene through art and clothing thanks to OBEY. His 2009 work Alva Frontside portrays skateboarder Tony Alva.
Robert Rauschenberg was an artist who pioneered the “Combine painting” style involving the mix of painted canvases and objects. He was also seen as a forefather of pop art alongside Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. Much like Basquiat, he never worked directly with skate decks but they were posthumously printed onto a series of decks including his works Doubleluck, Watermelon Medley, and Sri Lanka VI.
If you don’t already know Takashi Murakami for his solo art efforts, you might know him for his collaboration with Kanye West on his Graduation album artwork. The Japanese artist is more postmodern than modern but his style looks incredible on skate decks. They’re unique, vibrant, and exhilarating – just what you need for board used on death-defying air tricks, right?
The final artist in this list is Jim Houser. Born in Philadelphia in 1973, Houserʼs is well known in his city as well as galleries in Italy, France, Brazil, and Australia. Enjoi teamed up with Jim Houser to create a series of decks, showing a more whimsical side of skateboard culture compared to other artists. He also created a piece called The Line Up involving a collage of skateboards painted on a panel to complete the skate culture cycle.
Of course, there are way more than 5 artists involved with skateboarding culture in some way: Mark Gonzales, Skip Engblom, Banksy, and Keith Haring to name a few. Many had art printed on boards after death but the opposite was also true, as in their art depicted board life, whether it was on wheels or on the waves.
Postwar modern art, as it transformed into postmodern art, was the perfect aesthetic for youth culture to express itself. Skateboarding was just one such pastime that did the same. Graffiti played a part too. So it was only a matter of time before they all came together in some form and evolved through one another.
The impact of skateboarding on the arts and culture and vice versa is how countercultures thrive. Skate culture is for everyone, not just the men. It’s all about how far you can go before you land something big that’ll change the world.
This one piqued my interest. It relates to the multicultural facets of controversial rapper Tyler, The Creator. The thesis, written by Brazilian producer and musicologist Gustavo Souza Marques, discusses the ways Tyler, the Creator “shifts, but also maintains, some frames of gangsta rap discourse in his use of ‘hip hop mentality, skate culture, nihilism and Web 2.0 platforms to promote his art has made him one of the most prominent hip-hop artists from 21st century'”. That’s a lot. But also very insightful.
Check out the abstract below.
This article came from the homonymous PhD proposal submitted and accepted by Music School of University College Cork (UCC, Ireland) to be started in September 2015 under the guidance of Dr. J.Griffith Rollefson. It aims to point out and discuss the articulations made by rapper, producer, actor and video director Tyler Okonma, known by the stage name Tyler, the Creator, to shift, but also maintain, some frames of gangsta rap discourse. Noticed by his rape fantasies lyrics and ultraviolent shouts, most present in his two first albums, Tyler has been acclaimed for his notable musical talent but criticized for its misogynist themes. Despite this outrageous aspect of its music, his confessional and often self-deprecating lyrics have been a novelty for constant self-pride and powerful hip-hop lyrics. Moreover, it works as a compensation for his aggressiveness since it could be seen as a demonstration of fragility rather than sexual domination. The way he uses hip-hop mentality, skate culture nihilism and Web 2.0 platforms to promote his art has made him one of the most prominent hip-hop artists from the 21st century. Based on related authors on hip-hop topics like gangsta, misogyny, media and racial stereotypes this article discusses the ways in which Tyler, the creator reflects but also denies the most known and commented frames of rap music.The abstract from Beyond Gangsta: Hip-Hop, Skate Culture and Web Culture in the Music of Tyler, The Creator
But has it always been that way? Well, the truth is they aren’t the first hipsters to walk the earth.
A quick search of the term “hipster” on Wikipedia brings up two examples: one from “contemporary subculture” and one from “1940s subculture”. By definition, the former relates to the hipsters we know today, described as coming from a “mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior”. From this perspective, the term first came into prominence during the 90s before gaining a new life in the past five years but looking at the term’s previous history in the 1940s, everything changes.
In 1948, American literary critic Anatole Broyard wrote an article called A Portrait of the Hipster where he described the hipster as a “the illegitimate son of the Lost Generation” longing “to be somewhere”. Brossard’s article continued, describing terminology of the hipster such as “jive” – described as “a philosophy of somewhereness”, “solid”, “out of this world, and “drag” amongst others.
Norman Mailer in his essay “The White Negro” described hipsters as “philosophical psychopaths living on the fringe of society” but the crux of the essay depicted them as white people appropriating black culture through their adoption of black styles, vernacular and jazz music as their own as well as their choice of living in abject poverty. He also discussed the idea of hipsters living a life surrounded by death and choosing to disconnect from society with their own brand of existentialism.
Looking at the two produces stark contrasts in definition and subculture but in some cases, there are similarities. There’s a sense that the current hipster (or as I like to call them “fauxhemians”) chooses to look dishevelled and absent from the mainstream culture as do the hipsters of the 40s.
But getting into the nitty-gritty of their motives is where the likenesses branch off. Fauxhemians are more aligned with indie music while hipsters were lovers of cool jazz and the former’s association with organic produce is a unique development. The reason I call them fauxhemians is because their lifestyles seem to be closer to those of the bohos of pre-20th Europe (although they are said to be descendants of the 40s hipster) rather than their appropriating American counterparts.
Their disconnect from mainstream society isn’t related to a life centred around death; rather it seems to be a choice purely in the name of paradoxical individualism, as perfectly depicted on 2000s TV series Nathan Barley. They even have their own brand of racism and sexism, involving “ironic” Kill Whitie Parties and appropriation of Native American headdresses supposedly to satirise political correctness and repeated uses of the terms “bitch” and “slut” amongst others.
Truth be told, it’s a complicated subject to form a complete picture of how the movements are all related and what they truly mean to those involved. But one thing’s for sure – the new hipster isn’t going away any time soon and they’re not quite as cool as their 1940s cousins.
- Laren Stover – Bohemian Manifesto: a Field Guide to Living on the Edge
- Norman Mailer – The White Negro
- Robert Lanham – The Hipster Handbook
- Deborah Cowen – Hipster urbanism
- Jonathan Touboul – The hipster effect: When anticonformists all look the same
- James Campbell – This Is The Beat Generation
- Diane M. Huddleston – The Beat Generation: They Were Hipsters Not Beatniks