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
Think Tank Resident Designer
To understand what Twitter, universal connectedness, psychomagic, and rave culture have in common, one can simply sit down with recent Los Angeles transplants Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III. The two are the pair behind art collective FriendsWithYou, whose dream is to connect humanity one project at a time. Their style is Murakami-esque and post pop, creating pattern-draped, immersive installations and personified, geometric inflatables. They insist that no medium is off the table, their previous work taking on the form of plush dolls, large installations, screen prints, paintings, and, more currently, apps and a television series.
When I get to the FWY studio, Sam is waiting for me on a large straw mat with his shoes off and pizza-patterned socks on display. As Arturo, or “Turi” walks over, also barefoot, they invite me to remove my shoes as well and take a seat. Having just biked to their studio sans socks, I am a little worried to oblige, but after some good-humored coaxing from the collaborative pair, I realize that the mat (smelly feet and all) is a potent symbol for their dual creative process. Taking in the good with the bad, the pair transforms conventional dualities into experiential happenings, affirming their message of connectedness and well-being.
While I am generally a positive and optimistic person, I do possess a hint of skepticism—perhaps from reading too much critical theory during grad school. Yet, FWY cut through my skepticism regarding their seemingly naive goals, for their optimism is strongly rooted in realism. While it’s easy to be cynical about the often maddening state of our capitalist culture, FWY strategically acknowledge it—and then they move on. They’d rather spend their time thinking about the positive. They think cute is punk.
Turi explains, “The whole idea of modern culture and the systems we have in place to monetize and incentivize are based on a systematic bracketing of ourselves. They are also simmering down into predictable and limiting ways, and these things can be exploited. We decided early on that we would flow with the capitalistic system to see how it can work for us, and let the ideas flourish . . . There’s no accepting the capitalist system–you’re just in it. Take the thing and shift it to your purpose. Change it from within, and, to some degree, try to move the needle one way or another. I think that is in some ways more progressive than totally going off the grid and boycotting the whole thing.”
“I’m assuming you guys are optimists?” I ask. “I am Optimist Prime!” Sam responds. “OMG. That’s the best tweet ever. I have to tweet that right now. DUDE.” While Sam updates his Twitter status, Turi continues, “We are realists at the same time. We know that we have a long way to go as people. We understand the pain of it, but we are just being the symbol of hope and happiness and acceptance. Well, we are trying to be.”
Optimists, certainly, but not blind ones. The two have clearly worked hard to establish their reputation and credibility. They strive for balance, both internally and collaboratively. They don’t always see eye to eye, but that’s what makes collaboration such a fertile zone. Moving past their individual egos into seeing themselves in the other, their practice allows space for a dialogue to occur. “Part of making art is about generating something that is beyond you,” Turi implores. “It’s the same thing with our relationship. We have found honesty in each other. That’s where our most beautiful art has flowed from. We never have the problem where we don’t have any ideas. We always have five ideas, and the problem is deciding which one to make.”
Part of making art is about generating something that is beyond you. It’s the same thing with our relationship. We have found honesty in each other. That’s where our most beautiful art has flowed from. We never have the problem where we don’t have any ideas. We always have five ideas, and the problem is deciding which one to make.
Sam and Turi met in Miami while both part of the rave culture in the 90’s. Their group of friends at the time embraced their silliness and offered the two unequivocal support in the beginning inklings of their collaborative efforts. Their first joint project was creating a series of plush toys—Sam had asked for a sewing machine for his high school graduation. “We didn’t know about the art world,” Sam confesses. “We came and just Mad Max-ed this thing.”
The two relocated to Los Angeles last year to expand their horizons, and take advantage of the creative energy that proliferates the City of Angels. The broadcasting tool that LA has become—sustained in large part by the movie industry—strongly attracted them to the city. There is an opportunity here to reach an expanded audience beyond a more regional one in Miami. While FWY doesn’t align with any specific religion, they constantly talk about the spiritual and the psychic. Los Angeles’ unique blend of cultures and demographics surely speaks to FWY’s blend of spirituality. “It’s a kinda Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, African, Tribal mix. Just a happy- with-yourself kind of thing,” Sam smiles. With a Los Angeles-based solo show at Marine Projects in Venice and a MOCA book release party for their newly released monograph under their belt, Sam and Turi are off to a good start as newly minted Angelenos.
The comprehensive monograph, We Are FriendsWithYou, which includes the 12-year oeuvre of the team’s projects, features essays by Pharrell Williams, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Peter Doroshenko. The book is somewhat symbolic—the pair feel the freedom to close a literal chapter on some of their previous aesthetics, and dwell within some new terrain. “If we were trying to build an art career, we would have just kept doing [work in our older style],” Turi explains. “But we’re not just harvesting our career, we are trying to get to something else.”
It’s not that you are just an artist. You are a human first, then beyond that you are some cosmic arrangement of atoms. But then beyond that there are layers, and you have this social role to play.
By something else, Turi means global happiness, peace, self-acceptance, and love. It’s a lot to accomplish in one lifetime, but the pair are realistic about their lofty intentions. Dreamers, yet still grounded in the messiness of modern life. He explains further, “It’s not that you are just an artist. You are a human first, then beyond that you are some cosmic arrangement of atoms. But then beyond that there are layers, and you have this social role to play.”
As FWY foray into the future, working towards enlightenment, balancing internal energies, and managing their prolific idea base, they remain uncertain about which direction the work will take, yet committed to the flow of ideas. “What’s next?” I ask in closing. “Lunch,” Turi answers.
One step at a time.
text: LINDSAY PRESTON ZAPPAS
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