Private View: Friday 13 December 1996, 5:00PM - 7:00PM

Exhibition Run: 12 September 1996 - Saturday 5 October 1996

Artist: Martin Boyce, Jeremy Deller, Jim Lambie, Martin Macdonald, Jonathan Monk, Victoria Morton, Toby Patterson, David Shrigley, Toby Webster, Cathy Wilkes, Richard Wright

Curated by Toby Webster

There are plenty of obvious similarities between skate culture

and contemporary art, not least that both are somewhere out on the

margins of society as a whole. If you were in the business of making

comparisons you could maybe add obscure, complex, ironic, tribal, male-

dominated, acutely aware of their own short histories and tending to

alienate the uninitiated. Everybody knows that street culture is post-

modernism live and uncut, appropriating, recycling, spontaneously

generating new forms from the debris of the old. It’s the glamorous

differences though, not the similarities that have meant that street art

in its many forms has been eagerly assimilated by the gallery world, and

its iconography and language have influenced a generation of artists

for whom the street is, more often than not, just something you walk

down on the way to a private view. Skatewear is currently the look of

choice for the switched-on boys of Glasgow and the art scene is no

exception – Stüssy gear, Pervert T-shirts and beaten-up Vans abound on

the dance floor at Glasgow School of Art. It’s also primarily American

and Glasgow as a city often looks across the Atlantic for inspiration, an

activity made more attractive to many Scots as it involves turning one’s

back on London.

The point is that ISPFP is, surprisingly, a temporary reversal of the

usual cultural flow – an island in the stream, an island on the street.

There’s a low-key feeling to the whole event and the twelve artists

involved (only one of whom skateboards, you guess which) don’t seem to

be making a collective bid for street-credibility. It’s taking place in

Concrete Skates, a smart skateboard shop which also sells clothing,

shoes, shades and so on and there are plenty of decks on display,

casually arranged on racks and shelves so that the underside is visible-

the side that shows in all those photos of skaters in mid-air, pulling off

their best tricks, and where just about every board in the world is

painted, or screen-printed, or somehow customised. A dozen of those

here have been customised by the artists and they have a much stronger

kinship with their makers’ previous work than with the commercial

skate designs around them, designs which have mostly been handed

down to the market from the boards of real, live pro skaters. These

have a constantly developing language of their own, and an important

part of skate culture is the idea of authenticity , living the life.

Although skate art and fashion is notoriously eclectic and punk rock,

hip-hop, heavy metal, op-art, nineties corporate logos and seventies cop

movies have all gone into the mix at some point, there’s a vibe going

down, particular allegiances being expressed. In contrast , the custom

boards produced by the artists ignore the conventions, which means

both that they’re more inventive, more varied than the others and that

as outsiders their skate-world status remains in doubt.

This doesn’t mean they all look out of place: Toby Webster’s

Scotchlite rendering of an iconic modern hi-fi, Jim Lambie’s chrome

veneered deck, Richard Wright’s repeated skull motif and even Martin

Boyce’s screen-printed text contrasting shootings in two different cities

could all be taken for neat, desirable examples of the genre they’re

usurping, at least if the artists’ boards weren’t distinguished by their

lack of price tags. Martin McDonald’s goth-punk inscription ‘mutiny’ is

at the DIY end of the same territory.

The underlying difference in attitude is more obvious from the

other contributions. Jeremy Deller’s, for example, is a home-made

explosive device (manufactured by US artist Gregory Green) attached to

the underside of a board , making skating impossible and alluding both

to terrorist car bombs and to the ultimate trick move, vertical take-off;

Jonnie Wilkes has employed a sign-writer to letter ’54 glorious nudes’ in

yellow on black enamel, a tactic which time-warps the finished article

straight back to the fifties, the genesis of skateboarding and pop

art; David Shrigley’s paranoiac hand-written text lets you know that

‘even though you are an immeasurably tiny speck of shit, your every

movement is still being monitored (and found repulsive by those

employed to do so)’ ; Jonathan Monk can’t resist a good one-liner and

applies abrasive grip-tape on the wrong side- lighting a cigarette and

stubbing it out there for good measure- while Cathy Wilkes, Toby

Patterson and Victoria Morton have all treated the board simply as a

flat space on which to continue working out their own ongoing

aesthetic concerns.

The desire to get out of the gallery, escape the codes and get

plugged in to the life of society is a recurrent theme in contemporary

art and it usually ends in tears. ISPFP works because it never tries to get

its knee-pads on and jump breeze-blocks in the underpass, it doesn’t

make an issue of the situation, just uses it to let the artists involved

explore new possibilities in their own work. This is a low-risk strategy

and so the returns are not spectacular, but it’s still more adventurous in

its laid-back way than many more formulaic projects which have

attempted similar things. Once this is over, the artists’ skateboards will

travel south to occupy a white gallery space somewhere in London, and

things might be different there.