All of a sudden, decks had become provocative manifestos. They talked about the violence of society, sex, politics, racism, drugs, religion, and international affairs. A new school of artists had taken over, and was deliberately willing to trigger something, anything, a reaction in the viewer. Skateboarding was a counter culture again. – Seb Carayol (Agents Provocateurs; Gingko Press, 2014)
Skateboarding and its culture changed my life. I grew up going to a conformist private prep school, and I had no therapeutic outlet to vent or focus my frustration until I discovered skateboarding. Skateboarding is creative and rebellious and it provided the most perfect balance of visceral and artistic rabble-rousing I could hope for. When I co-founded Subliminal in 1995 with my skateboard friends and fellow artists, Alfred Hawkins and Blaize Blouin, our goal was to put the spotlight on the artists doing the amazing skateboard graphics who had contributed significantly to the visual identity of the culture that shaped us profoundly. AGENTS PROVOCATEURS is the kind of exhibit that Subliminal Projects was founded to showcase! The vibrant, creative, fearless, culture of rebellion that is the distilled essence of skateboarding, and what drew me to it in the first place, is what AGENTS PROVOCATEURS is all about. There are a ton of killer deck graphics and fine art pieces by the same artists in the show. If you’ve ever ridden a plank with four wheels, listened to the Misfits and Public Enemy, but never to rent-a-cops, you need to be at this show! – Shepard Fairey, 2014
SUBLIMINAL PROJECTS is pleased to present an exhibition of work focused on provocative skateboard graphics and the pioneers that hurled skateboard artwork into the counter culture limelight. Curated by author Seb Carayol and Erica Overskei, Agents Provocateurs brings together a selection of decks and fine art by artists including: Alyasha Owerka-Moore, Andy Jenkins, Ben Horton, Cleon Peterson, Donny Miller, Ed Templeton, Marc McKee, Mark Foster, Michael Sieben, Nil Ultra, Sean Cliver, Todd Francis, and Winston Tseng.
Skateboard graphics took a magnetic (and welcomed) leap in offensive expression after the sport was reborn aesthetically and otherwise in the 90s. Artists such as those featured in this show brought dark humor and politically incorrect topics to the forefront of their illustrations. Since the 90s and continuing to this day, these artists do not just decorate and sell skateboards. They raise serious issues, questioning values and challenging authority, deliberately evoking reactions from viewers.
The mentality of “skaters” didn’t begin and end with these artists’ designs. It was encapsulated in their practice and their attitude towards convention, what was deemed acceptable behavior, and who had the right to define those parameters. Skaters and skate culture have, for a long time, embodied a rebellious mentality that exists in all of humanity but that many of us are too cautious to exercise in an open setting. Skating in and of itself comes with a certain degree of danger, pain, selfless abandon, and mischief, while also adhering to a sense of camaraderie and a belief that we should be free to explore how and where we want. Often times, those who make the rules and enforce their regulation are also guilty of their own abuse of power and ethical misconduct, hypocrisy that fuels skaters’ anti-establishment behavior and suspicion of the establishment. Agents Provocateurs provides a thoughtful presentation of this boundary-pushing artistic genre, its place over the years, and its presence today.
In addition to the fine art and collectible decks, the exhibition will feature a limited edition skateboard deck, signed and numbered by artist Ben Horton, and the release of three special edition prints by Sean Cliver, Marc Mckee, and Todd Francis. The decks and prints will be released opening night for in person sales only. What does not sell opening night will be made available for online purchases the following Tuesday (January 27th).
This exhibition also celebrates the 20-year anniversary of SUBLIMINAL PROJECTS. Subliminal is a multifunctional gallery space promoting diverse forms of art while providing a forum for contemporary dialogue. It was established by Shepard Fairey, Alfred Hawkins, and Blaize Blouin in 1995 and played an integral part in introducing skateboarding culture and design to the art world. Twenty years later, the gallery continues to offer a platform for artistic exploration and innovation. Subliminal is excited to reach back to its roots in celebration of the beginning and the future of both the gallery and of creative rebellion.
Agents Provocateurs will be on view through February 21st, 2015. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 12 to 6 pm.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Alyasha Owerka-Moore (PKA Stack-Aly) grew up in Brooklyn during the 1980s, and was one of the founders of the iconic deck company Shut Skateboards. After a tenure at American Dream Inc. skateboards and pioneering what was “street wear” through various ventures, Alyasha is now a Brand Historian for PF Flyers and working on a new passion project: North Manual Vocational, a 1950’s specific inspired daily wear brand. He’s also moonlighted as a DJ for The Fleshtones, Mos Def (Yasiin Bey), Detroit pre-punk band Death and the Afropunk festival 3 years straight – spinning mostly 40’s-50’s R ‘n B, Rockabilly, 60’s Soul, Garage Rock and Punk.
Andy Jenkins is a writer, publisher, graphic artist, and art director. He began his career in 1984 as a teenager working as a comic artist and illustrator for popular skateboarding and BMX magazines. In the early 1990s, he co-founded Dirt magazine with Spike Jonze and Mark Lewman. The magazine was the first mainstream attempt to bring street culture to a large audience. Jenkins opted out of magazines in the mid 1990s to work full-time as a graphic designer. He was hired as an art director for Girl Skateboards and has since helped the company grow to be a powerhouse in the industry.
Ben Horton started in the industry designing a few skate shop ads and now owns and operates his own company, $LAVE Skateboards, from his garage in San Diego. Horton represents a new generation of brave and all-too-scarce politically minded artists with an underground style that stands out against today’s marketing-ridden, graphically bland, skateboard industry.
In Cleon Peterson’s anxiety-ridden world, violence is the status quo and deviance simply the norm. Besides working on movies and skateboard companies such as Foundation, Peterson describes his bedlam as “a gray world where law breakers and law enforcers are one in the same.”
Donny Miller owns IDCA, a clothing brand debuting this December in major action sports retail stores. He has collaborated with Skate Mental, Nike, Vans, Odd Future, G-Pen and “…a bunch of other cool brands that everyone wants to work with.”
Ed Templeton was born in Orange County, a sprawling suburb of Los Angeles. He became interested in skateboarding when he was in junior high school and eventually became a professional skateboarder. While on tour in Europe, he spent his free time absorbing art in galleries and museums. Soon after, he realized his first exhibition, a skateboard art show in Chicago. Templeton is owner and creative director for Toy Machine Bloodsucking Skateboard Company. He has exhibited his work worldwide including exhibitions at Alleged Gallery, New York, Roberts and Tilton, Los Angeles, Modern Art, London, and Aki-X Gallery, Tokyo, Museum Het Domein, Netherlands (2000), and Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2002). Templeton currently lives and works in Huntington Beach, California.
Working with Sean Cliver to make the skateboard graphics of the 1990s amazingly provocative, Marc McKee still works for companies such as Blind and Cliché. He strives to maintain the shock values he instilled in skateboarding over twenty years ago during his tenure at the World Industries empire of evil.
Besides being the only Englishman in the world able to equally enjoy muscle cars, ice cream and shooting an AK 47 all in the same day, Mark “Fos” Foster is also famous for having created a skateboard company named Heroin–the best way he found to depict his addiction to skateboarding.
Michael Sieben is a professional designer and illustrator whose work has been exhibited and reviewed worldwide as well as featured in numerous illustration anthologies. He is currently the managing editor of Thrasher magazine and has a monthly column in Juxtapoz magazine. He is also a founding member of Okay Mountain Collective in Austin, TX as well as the cofounder of Roger Skateboards. He lives and works in Austin with his wife Allison, son River, and daughter Eve.
Nil Ultra is an art director, illustrator, and collagist living and working in Los Angeles. He has worked with identities such as Obey Clothing, Baker Skateboards, Volcom Stone, Smashing Pumpkins, and Roky Erickson. Nil Ultra spends his days working at Shepard Fairey’s Studio Number One and spends his free time cutting up vintage porno, defiling collectibles, and occasionally assisting fellow artist Cleon Peterson.
Sean Cliver has created some of the most scandalous skateboard graphics of all time from the early 1990s on. After landing his first job in skateboarding at Powell Peralta in 1988, Cliver worked alongside Marc McKee under the umbrella of World Industries skateboards and its mastermind Steve Rocco. He’s also the acclaimed author of the Disposable book series, one of the most comprehensive surveys of skateboard graphics to date.
Blessed with the skill to tell one story in one striking image, Todd Francis is also responsible for having built the legendary image of Antihero skateboards in the mid 90s. His style is the epitome of beautiful, gruesome genius, spiked with the mandatory dash of second-hand embarrassment.
Winston Tseng is a graphic artist who is best known for his work as former Art Director at enjoi Skateboards, a company that redefined print advertising as we know it. Other companies he has designed for include Adidas, Popwar, Etnies, Emerica, and Altamont.