Creativity Has No On/Off Switch, We’re Hot-Wired.
Everyday, Creative Director Kevin Lenaerts immerses himself in artistic oeuvres and curates the perfect selection of artworks and artists, crafting and proposing a unique identity and visual language for each of our collections. From there, a creative dialogue begins – a dialogue which, in Kevin’s case, never truly stops.
As we enter a new year, Kevin looks back on some of his favorite past editions and gives us a glimpse into the stories, styles, textures and contexts which infused each work and its creation.
NOLLIE PORTRAIT - ANASTASIA BAY
Anastasia is one of the artists I absolutely wanted to work w/ when I joined THE SKATEROOM —I’ve got a wish list as long as a summer’s day. Meeting her was incredible. Sharing a few creative moments, and partying w/ her as well.
These paintings are captivating for the ambivalence they convey. Neither woman nor man, these figures are essentially human and exude all the paradoxes of humanity. There’s a precarious balance between flesh and soul.
Thick, tangible flesh that you can, or want to, grab hold of and pull back to yourself, and a spirit that’s almost intangible, subtle, fragile in appearance, but powerful enough to contain its material counterpart. Divided between the finesse of the strokes and the harshness of the flat tints that blend into the mass, to the point of gradation.
COPPER SURROGATE - WALEAD BESHTY
This one is by far my favorite, because of the artist’s approach, his relationship w/ the material and the interaction w/ the audience.
There’s the mechanical, physical aspect of pressure and friction. And then there’s the chemical aspect, w/ the copper oxidation accelerated by human contact, a touch of the anthropocene on something that is supposed to be timeless. This anchors the human element w/in the work. What appears to be a cold, metallic surface becomes sensual, very organic. It’s extremely intimate! The inanimate comes to life under our touch.
To hell w/ the trophy-art that we display hidden behind a glass or mental barrier. We dance w/ the copper, and it spins us around on our toes, so that we’re both marked. And isn’t that the ultimate goal of art? To mark us, to shake us.
EARTH BLOOD - KORAKRIT ARUNANONDCHAI
For me, this edition is the quintessence of THE SKATEROOM. Beyond the visual, it’s an experience.
This one is the printed version of one of the unique works created by Korakrit, hand in hand w/ our Studio. From Bangkok to Brussels, via Seoul and NYC, after weeks of joint brainstorming, through videoconferences, furtive calls or written reflections close to manifestos.
In theory, it was easy to transcribe Korakrit’s practice into a unique work on a skateboard. In practice, it was intense. Like the fire that is both the content and container of his art, we were consumed by the passion and intensity of both process and purpose. Krit painted, cut and burned the denim in Thailand. In an act of both destruction and purification. Like burning sage.
Our Studio then mounted it on the skateboards, which had previously been covered w/ a layer of blood red metallic film. A second round of burns, extreme stretching, black smoke, soot and crackling.
It was so intense that, once the last original edition was finished, we remained silent for several minutes. As if trying to come to our senses. As if to give the last wisp of smoke time to evaporate.
Seeing this edition frozen in space, calm and serene, is a contrast.
SMOKE ME 2 - JOHN YUYI
Yuyi is part of a generation of artists that perfectly combine performance, the use of their bodies and social networks. It’s as if her being was the canvas, the city her frame —dark wood w/ fine gold gilding— and the internet her museum.
You feel the urgency of shouting out the liveliness of her emotions, whether unhappiness or happiness, to an audience that listens but no longer hears. All the ambivalence of increased visibility for each individual, the generalized loss of anonymity, while we all remain unknowns.
This visual is very striking. The artist strips down to her bare essentials, posing naked over a cigarette that burns itself. And burns her. The shape of the skateboard, in this case, recalls that of a keyhole, adding a voyeuristic dimension that raises our relationship to the voluntary display of our private lives in the public space. More of a cry for help (which ties in w/ Yuyi’s struggle w/ anxiety and bipolarity) than an act of exhibitionism.
On a more personal level, Yuyi has been a wonderful encounter. Very inspiring.
UNTITLED (FACE), 1982 - JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT
When I think about Jean-Michel BASQUIAT, I think about radicality. The king of radicality, hence his omnipresent crown. Maybe.
There is an urgency in the stroke, coarse and thick, like a candle about to go out, the last ritual of a dying liturgy. Which pushes him to be concise, to sacrifice the superfluous and concentrate only on the essential, to return to the roots. In short: be radical.
Unlike many of his works, BASQUIAT does not bother w/ symbolism or illuminations here. What you see is what you get. And we see a male face from which emanates excessive viscerality. No frills of course, but plenty of details and superposition of reading grids.
The face, overflowing w/ colors, is contained in a dark line, like a fence to contain the subject, to prevent it from spreading out, from wasting time. Time he doesn’t have. This lack of time pushes him into radicality.
SHRED 14 (LIGHT GREY) - MARC LESCHELIER
When Marc told us what he had in mind, over coffee at Café La Perle in Paris, a conversation about Raphaël Zarka w/ artist and friend Jonathan Sullam directly came to mind.
What he was proposing was the exact transposition of skateboarding into a work of art. His protocol summed up the antagonism between street furniture and skateboarding. Like marble sculpture, which starts from a block to become a statue, he conceived these editions not by adding material —like painting for instance— but by subtraction. He tore off layers of ink, paint and wood to achieve the final result. All in a chaotic choreography, as if directed by a furious wind.
There was a minimalist, uncluttered feel to the support, which contrasted w/ his cruciform sculpture made of cinderblocks and cement, built for the occasion and displayed at the foot of the works. This heavy gray behemoth, slumped on the floor of our gallery, overlooked by the editions, floating above it.
It was the meeting of brutalism and a form of zenitude. Like a Japanese dry garden shaped w/ a backhoe during a hurricane.
THREE BALL 50/50 TANK (SPALDING DR. JK SILVER SERIES, WILSON SUPERSHOT) SKATEBOARD - JEFF KOONS
Here we have the pope of Pop Art today, heir to a long line of artists that stretches from Andy Warhol to Tom Wesselman, via Evelyn Axell, Allen Jones and Marjorie Strider. His immense sculptures of dogs, bouquets of tulips and other snakes in color-saturated polished steel are inscribed in the collective retina, as if burnt by the sun reflected on their mirror-like surface.
The same goes for his representations of US TV heroes such as Popeye, Tweety and the Hulk, to name but a few.
But this edition is in a different league. It’s radical, in the etymological sense of the word, a return to Jeff KOONS’ conceptualist roots. It’s his version of Marcel Duchamps’ beloved Readymade/Found Object: Commodity Sculpture.
It’s a kind of showcase for one of the iconic references of American culture, through basketball. As if frozen in a precarious equilibrium in the middle of a water tank, as if this symbol of Western identity were fragile and suspended in time.
But beyond the work and the edition, it’s a whole extraordinary process, a hand-in-hand work w/ Jeff KOONS, Lauran Rothstein and our Studio that is felt through this edition. Imbued w/ artistic exchange, friendship and a mutual keen sense of detail.
The result speaks for itself. This triptych is proof.
FLYING CARPETS DIPTYCH - TOBIAS SPICHTIG
The first flying carpet reference that comes to my mind is that of King Solomon. It was a divine gift that enabled him to reach any point in his kingdom at the speed of the wind, carrying tens of thousands of men.
This object represents power, luxury and mystery. The mystery of an East/Orient we must not lose at the risk of becoming disorientated, of a magic necessary to the imagination and creativity. But not only. This mastery of the skies symbolizes power over nature, and everything down below. The flying tapestry represents a liberation from physics and gravity.
But just as Solomon’s rising pride caused the wind to remind him of humility by blowing his army to the ground, Tobias offers us a story in two times, vertically and horizontally. Of a soul that soars to the heavens, and a body that lies nailed to the ground.
The first part is delicately crafted w/ resin —a material Tobias discovered through his father, who used it on boats— and shaped to give it elegant movement. The carpet itself seems precious, woven in shades of saffron, ochre and ebony. Its amplitude means you can’t see the skateboard underneath, giving the impression that it’s magically flying. Ethereal.
The second one is a rough reality check. It’s a thick, rough, straw-colored doormat, monochrome and monotonous. It lies slumped on the skateboard, which is apparent, as if its banality allowed no mystery, no imagination. Heavy.
It’s this assumed dichotomy, this duality that transcends aesthetics, that makes Tobias’s sculpture so powerful and moving. And one of my favorite from TSR’s original artwork program.