June 12, 2014

Slave Skateboards, Ben Horton and the Tradition of Skate Art

The symbiotic relationship between skateboards and art has been such a quintessential part of the skateboard scene for so long now that it may be difficult for many of us to imagine any situation otherwise. Still, at one time, boards were such that their design was often limited to the logo and branding of the particular skateboard maker, with little else in the way of art to be found on them. Moving into the 1970's things changed and the 1980's and 1990's saw a great flourishing of skate art with some of the most iconic examples of skateboard art coming from those eras -- names like Wes Humpston, Jim Phillips, Sean Cliver, Marc McKee along with others will quickly come to mind here.

But what of the contemporary era? I quite often hear the lament made that skateboard art has taken a downward turn in present times. Whether that is the case I really have no position -- and personally, I would prefer to avoid generalizations. Besides, to even form such an opinion I would need to take some time to consciously sit down and look at the different contemporary offerings and for the most part I find my attention primarily focused on the aforementioned eras instead. That being said, there have been some contemporary boards which have indeed caught my attention art-wise and in a very positive way; that I can say. I wanted to share one such example today coming from $LAVE Skateboards.

$LAVE Skateboards is under the art direction of Ben Horton. Ben, speaking in an interview on Memory Screened in early 2012 on the subject of skateboard art commented that while skate art can carry a message, "...I don’t think it’s necessary. Every graphic doesn’t need to be profound. Some ideas are just silly and meaningless, which is great. Skateboarding should always stay free. It’s an environment/Industry that has few restrictions on graphics and a great place to voice your opinion if you have one." This commentary struck a chord with me, for as one who has been involved in the art world more broadly with paint and brush, I can speak from experience that while some art does indeed carry an in depth message and meaning, at other times it is much simpler than that, more "merely aesthetic." To some extent I believe meaning and message in relation to art is as much a matter of private interpretation as anything. We bring our own experiences to the table and from that derive some sort of personal meaning. In other instances we may simply determine we "like" something with little understanding beyond that. But I digress.

The particular series which I wished to share from $LAVE is their "Wasted" series of boards:


Whether there was any particular message intended here in the art I know not. What I do know is that the deck art here strikes me and is of the sort which, I think, is firmly rooted in and an extension of that great tradition of skateboard art I have already mentioned. In part it is the use of color, in part the use of the entire board, but also just the overall design and composition, as well as the nature of the contents which have a certain edge to them. Here is a closer view of the Allie Oil Spill deck:


$LAVE Skateboards actually has a number of other offerings from different series which are well worth taking the time to take a look at. As just one example, here is the Anthony Schultz Howlin' Wolf Deck:


Do head on over to their site for a browse. They have some great stuff going on there from what I can see and what I've shown you here is merely the tip of the iceberg.

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