Fine Art

The skateboard deck gets much love with LVSK8 5

Skateboarder or no, it’s hard to not be impressed with the level of artwork on display at LVSK8 5 at Empire Gallery.
Photo: Leila Navidi

The Details

Three and a half stars
Through August 28
Empire Gallery inside Emergency Arts, 520 E. Fremont St.

In 2006, local artist Michael Todoran had an idea: What if someone gave Las Vegas artists a skateboard deck and free reign to do whatever the hell they wanted with it? The result was the inaugural LVSK8 show, an exhibition in which skateboard love united high-brow, low-brow and everything in between.

Five years later Todoran has moved to Ohio, and tattoo artist and gallery owner Justin McCroy has taken over. McCroy, who participated in the first SK8 show and sponsored the second, brings LVSK8 5 to his Empire Gallery inside Emergency Arts.

Empire is notable for its meticulously installed shows that slyly celebrate classical drawing and painting skills under the umbrella of tattoo culture. McCroy has spent the past year giving tattoo artists a space to show the full extent of their artistic arsenal, presenting illustrative work concerned primarily with craftsmanship.

It’s no surprise, then, that LVSK8 5 has some pretty terrific boards by tattoo artists. A beautiful example are the decks painted by Stay True Tattoo’s Kent Kelley, Clark North, Kyle Montoya and Jason Murphy, each of whom painted an animal representing one of the four seasons. This exuberant bestiary of real and imagined creatures is finely rendered in the design tradition of Japanese woodcuts.

Non-tattoo artist Jesse Squints embraces a different low-brow vibe with “Untitled.” A deftly hand-stenciled monkey distracts from a surveillance camera attached to the deck, scrawled with the slogan “quick steal that one.” It’s political and street smart, with a Banksy influence providing part of its charm.

Snatching words from classic punk tunes and perverting universal one-liners, JW Caldwell conquers the difficult task of incorporating text into painting. His shark infested “Business Plan” is old-world typography meets Ed Ruscha meets Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

Tattoo artist Anthony Ortega’s “Untitled” disarms with a deck that doubles as a plinth carrying the flora and fauna of an insect-like creature straight out of a Ray Harryhausen film.

And the talent isn’t limited to the tattoo crowd. Roslyn Anderson condenses the expressive, decorative line work of her compatriots into a mass of squiggles that takes the shape of two hands breathtakingly on the brink of touch, a la Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam.”

Jessica Starkey’s hilarious mixtape of tiny Michael Jacksons careening through “A Michael Medley” somehow makes complete sense across from Vivien Chua’s oddly gorgeous portrait of a rooster in the succinctly titled “Cock Block.”

LVSK8 5 continues the grand “group hug” tradition of allowing diverse creative concerns to slam headlong into the great unifier that is the skateboard deck. Street art, fine art, conceptual art—all are welcome here.


Danielle Kelly

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