Is HELL ON WHEELS a show about iconography and a generation connection by icons? That’s what I’m saying…and I’ll say it again toward the bottom:
The Artists Lofts in downtown Lancaster has a show going on now, Hell On Wheels, and it’s all about skateboarding.
But what is skateboarding all about?
I ask this question for a few reasons, one of which is the idea that there is (potentially) something vital missing from the conversation on the arts in the Antelope Valley – actual conversation about the intentions, meanings, and significance of the art(s) in our community.
Another reason I ask the question “What is skateboarding about” comes directly from this show, which presents art on, literally on, skateboards. There are a few canvases too, and I have a piece in this show on cardboard.
Despite the outliers, this show attempts to put a particular culture or cultural figure at the front. That figure and culture has everything to do with the SKATEBOARD, a mode of transportation, a sport vehicle, an cultural identifier, almost an identity in itself.
There are tendencies and some amount of shared style across the pieces in this show, but…not as much as I would have expected had I stopped to make a prediction before going to the show.
The art in the show is not unified, not uniform.
Some of the questions that I was left with, standing inside the show, meandering from board to board:
- What do the people behind these boards have in common, as artists, or just a social, cultural beings?
- Is there such a thing as a Skate Culture today? Was there ever?
There is enough variety at this show to make me wonder about the coherence of such a skate culture. But I fully admit that I’m an outsider. I don’t skate. I never have. I always left that stuff to my brother.
Questioning the potential existence of a so-called skate culture is, maybe, beside the point anyway. This gallery show is a continuation of the Artists Lofts trend toward presenting something of an urban vibe in downtown Lancaster.
The colors are bright. The art is balanced between expressive and decorative, between a tattoo style and what I would call fine art. (Not to separate tattoos from fine art entirely, but there is a general distinction, I think, which is essentially the difference between drawing and creating figure, depth, and IDEA. Tattoos are rarely about ideas, as far as I can tell.)
Maybe we should talk more about tattoos and how they seem to mark an entire generation, both literally and symbolically, but let’s not talk about that right now. Hell On Wheels does bring up generational questions, for me, and those questions can include a discussion of tattoos, skateboarding, and the shift in the meaning of the term “urban”.
That’s the nature of my personal experience of this show. S0mehow it’s urban. But it’s not urban like Banksy. It’s not social commentary in the way street art is directly meant to be.
Hell On Wheels is urban in the way that it is all about making a personal statement, however implicit or non-verbal this statement may be.
Skateboarding and skateboards seem to be more about doing what you want to do, not talking about it.
If I say that this show, Hell On Wheels, is somehow saying that a generation unified by icons and iconography is gaining capital in the American cultural economy, I’m am probably taking a position that offers a lot to disagree with.
For the sake of conversation, I’m putting the idea out there because…I’m just trying to hear what this show is saying. I’m trying to understand Hell On Wheels as part of a conversation.
Hopefully, we can get a few more people to lend us their views on this show too and really get some kind of conversation going.