Above photos by Becca Schwartz and Anny Ayala
Exhibition curated by Clement Gelly
Five Vegas-based artists hand painted portraits of five skaters on the bottoms of their boards: Adrian McCoy by Geo Uranda, Mario Gamboa by Clement Gelly, Chris Ruberio by Nima Abkenar, Jackie Michel by Sam Ganados, and Sherm by Nany Sanchez.
On November 18th, 2022, from 7-9 p.m., the skaters rode those boards at the Winchester Skate Park. In the process, the portraits were scratched, blurred, and otherwise distorted. These “used” boards were then redisplayed at the Winchester.
In 1919, the artist Marcel Duchamp hung a geometry textbook out on his balcony. He wanted to expose the proofs and postulates to the sun and wind and rain so that all this theory would, as he put it, “get the facts of life.”
Famous artworks are often displayed in museums, under ideal temperature, humidity, and lighting conditions. Or they are kept hidden in art freeports, where they become tax-free investments for the ultra-rich. The goal, in most cases, is to preserve these works so that they might live forever—for posterity and wealth. But to preserve them is to freeze them in time, to remove them from the facts of life, and thus, in a way, to make them dead.
What kinds of art are actually alive? Graffiti is one such art form: the paintings are exposed to the elements, get covered by other writers, and get buffed by local government. Tattooing is another: once an artist finishes a tattoo, they have to let go of it and let it learn something about the world. The same is true of the artwork on the bottom of a skateboard deck, which gets distorted as the skater rides it.
And skateboarding itself is an art like these others. Alongside the beauty and fluidity of difficult and well-executed tricks, skaters reinterpret the world around them with true artistry. The handrail helps people climb the stairs? The skater dances down it. A drainage ditch is for funneling rainwater? The skater rides it like a wave. Skaters bring out the hidden possibilities of the environment around us, making it come alive again.
Skate Away brings together these two media, insisting that art and the world stay alive, subject to the facts of life. These portraits, developed by the artists in close collaboration with the skaters, will be permanently changed when they are ridden. As the subject of a portrait or as an artist, it’s not easy to see yourself or your work forever altered; to really let them live is to come to terms with their loss.