I feel lucky. Not only did I get to enjoy CHILLED AIR, I was there for the build out. I’m a Resident Designer at Think Tank Gallery, so I had an up close and personal view as the curators, Luke Pelletier and Austin England, transformed the space in preparation for the big night. It’s worth mentioning that the air, thanks to our newly installed air conditioner, was indeed chilled. Throughout the install, I watched a growing crowd of happy loiterers build and test the skate line in the cool gallery air.
When opening night came around, my best friend from high school happened to visit LA. She brought with her a few blasts from the past – a small pack of our guy friends from school. There we were, as if twenty years hadn’t passed. We watched as outsiders, all in our early 30s, weaving through blurs of bodies as they rushed past. Joining the outer edge of the crowd, we stood with our free PBRs in hand and carefully positioned ourselves between the sea of colored caps pushed up against the chain-linked fence. We spoke about what an “older crowd” might at a show like this: about the “anxiety-inducing” roar as the wheels geared up towards the ramp and our need to look away in that sliver of silence, not wanting to see if someone got hurt. No one did, thankfully. We found this incredible, observing as they skated skillfully between one another, catching air on one ramp, and then another, skirting with one edge across the china bank flickering with geometric light.
One by one, skaters would leave the pack lining the fenced edge of the far stage (thanks Guitar Center), nod mutual appreciation to the band behind them, drop their way in through the maze and return to begin again. After watching several rounds, my friend and I turned to each other to discuss. She being a Linguist and me an Interaction Designer, we talked “pattern recognition” – the systematic placement of obstacles framing the path, the carefully curated pastel renderings skinning them.
We further discussed all the variables and how no two paths were the same – the route they took, the skill level, the choice of risk. We were suddenly armchair anthropologists (or, more appropriately, chain link fence anthropologists), noting how nothing was spoken, yet somehow self-governance was understood. “You know what, it’s your turn-go for it… This one’s for you… Not sure I’m going to make this but I’m sure as hell going for it anyways… No doubt”.
After a long while, we ripped ourselves away and toured the walls lining the gallery. Bright geometric prints, paintings and installations from a range of talented artists including Pelletier himself confirmed my suspicions that LA will be a hub in the new era of digital aesthetics. Of course, there was tons more to notice. Here’s a quick letter from the director:
‘Think Tank is a uniquely flexible and collaborative educational event space, entirely defined by what types of culture we export, and unequivocally developed by the creative talent that we import. Chilled Air’s success is in debt to its curatorial team, Luke Pelletier and Austin England, who dedicated themselves to harness the purity of skate culture. Chilled Air is set up to celebrate and educate around all skate culture has to offer. The Opening Night was a huge success, with over a thousand skaters and art fans came out. chilled PBRs in hand, the crowd enjoyed bands like the BODEGAS, Yarrow Slaps and the Go Gettas, and an acoustic set by Luke Pelletier. Partnering with key brands such as éS Skateboarding, Keen Ramps, Stance Socks, and GoPro meant Chilled Air had surround sound entertainment with extras like the Es/Stance Sticker slap and #trashcandollyshot. Skate arts means art that is not just on the walls, but on the floors and everywhere in between. Take, for instance, our skinned skate ramps co-created by a handful of hosted illustrators, or Bryan Peterson’s remixed skate videos. We’ve watched the work develop over the two years since our previous skate show success with Dude Monsters – from OGs like Michael Sieben (who inspired our curators to become artists themselves), to young guns like RISD student Dillon Froelich.
Truth be told, the park will continue to be shredded long after the doors have been closed. Chilled Air has made for one hell of a party, and has left behind a bit more understanding of the chaotic organization thatis skate culture. Of course, there’s also that big puddle in the VIP room left behind – from the dude that front-flipped into the PBR kiddie pool.
If you didn’t catch the opening, don’t sweat it. Come by for a quick skate during gallery hours, 6:30-9:30pm Monday-Saturday. I swear, once the roar quiets down, you’ll get to spend time with some of the best art around.
text AURELIA FRIEDLAND