Gleaming the Cubist

Artists freestyle on an unusual medium—skateboard decks

Try to keep your heart from popping an ollie. It’s time again for the acclaimed LVsk8, an annual handpainted skateboard extravaganza (now in its sixth year) that unites Thrasher readers and local visualists from all walks of the profession—tattoo artists (Hart & Huntington, Studio 21, Redemption), street artists, fine artists and comic book artists.

The show slid its way into the Get Up Gallery in Emergency Arts earlier this month. LVsk8 features 50 plain ol’ Canadian maple decks imaginatively adorned by artists as if the wood were canvas or, in some cases, sculpting clay.

A total of 70 decks were purchased by artists. Although they bought decks intending to complete them, when the deadline hit, they sometimes ended up without a deck they felt was good enough for the show. In other words, LVsk8 isn’t an uneven grab bag. Every deck on display dazzles.

Previous shows have inspired everything from Japanese woodcuts to Pop art to stenciled punk rock imagery to Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” references. This year, however, Get Up Gallery owner and LVsk8 co-curator Derek Douglas reached out to creators he knew would really push the show’s already radical boundaries.

“The pieces coming in so far feature quite a few sculptural elements,” Douglas says.

Look for Steve Whelan’s fully functional Swiss Army knife, as well as a tribute to Adam “MCA” Yauch, comprising broken records by New York City’s Greg Frederick. Other artists contributing decks include local pop surrealist Juan Muniz, known for his recurring bunny-suited character Felipe, who graces a deck looking poised to pull a hand-grenade pin. Also on board (pun intended): Vegas tattoo artist turned dark sci-fi/horror painter Mike Biggs, sex-obsessed Californian David Blake, figurative portraitist Jason Thielke from Colorado, and pop-culture mash-up master Imbue from the U.K.

So how did this show end up in the Get Up anyway? Well, LVsk8 founder Michael Todoran and Douglas attended UNLV art school together and have been friends for many years. When Douglas, who grew up skateboarding and BMXing, opened a gallery last January, he knew he’d love to host LVsk8.

“I just really tried to reach out to a broad range of artists,” Douglas says. “I love the idea of bringing together a diverse group to work on one medium—skate decks.” After the show, decks not sold return to the artist. The treatment application used in preparing the decks for becoming artworks often weakens them substantially. And the decks suffer delamination, when the layers that compose a skateboard begin to separate. So, skating on them isn’t recommended.

“But if a buyer or artist chooses to skate on these decks,” Douglas says, “more power to them.”

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