The Solitary Arts crew hit the road for an ad hoc weekend of skateboarding and art.
The Solitary Arts crew hit the road for an ad hoc weekend of skateboarding and art, and find themselves slashing pools with a few familiar faces along the way.
For such a solitary pursuit, skateboarding has a funny way of bringing people together. It’s a simple, if somewhat contradictory phenomenon and – here’s the best bit – it can happen at the drop of a hat. Sure, impromptu sessions go down every day – pools get thrashed, sidewalks get surfed and abandoned cities get brought back to life – but they usually burn out as quickly as they start. It’s only when you throw a camera into the mix that those serendipitous moments shared by a few become immovable fixtures of skateboarding lore – snapshots of stories that get bandied about, long after the dust has settled and the action fades.
It’s lucky, then, that photographer Isaac McKay-Randozzi jumped at the opportunity to join The Solitary Arts crew on a recent road trip that, from the word go, seemed pre-destined to take a few twists and turns.
Founded by renowned artist Geoff McFetridge and organisational mastermind Yong-Ki Chang, The Solitary Arts is no ordinary skateboard company. With passion, not profit, taking the lead, each custom-built board boasts the unmistakable McFetridge stamp: in an industry that seems ready to churn out any ass-ugly, cost-cutting design, SA boards hover somewhere between rideable plaything and work of high art. So, it came as no surprise when The Solitary Arts was invited to take part in A Product of Design, an exhibition in Culver City’s Scion Space that saw designers from different disciplines showcasing personal passion projects – photos, artwork, installations and clothing designs – that blur the line between ‘product and art object, collectability and function’.
With McFetridge building a nine-feet tall installation called the ‘Curb Thief’, Chang gathered together The Solitary Arts team – a legendary little crew, with a mean age of forty-one, consisting of Virginia Beach local Bob Lake and Jef ‘All Hearts’ Hartsel of eighties’ Alva team fame – piled them into an ’86 Vanagon nicknamed ‘The Mule’ and set off from the Bay Area for an ad libbed skate tour for the middle-aged. “I wanted to share an experience that encapsulated our love as skateboarders for travelling, making art, showing at a gallery space, and getting some round-walls together as a family – all in a week,” explains Chang.
McKay-Randozzi adds: ”When Yong-Ki asked me to be the photographer for the trip, I knew it was going to be something unique. Solitary Arts doesn’t do events like this and with the recent addition of legendary Jef Hartsel to the team, I knew that the interaction between him and Bob Lake was going to be something special. It was: they fed off each other’s energy, skating like two kids who’d just downed double shots of espresso.”
Over the next few days, bowls were sessioned and good times had (in-between all the hard work going down at Scion Space, that is.) Things took a magical twist when Z-boys legend Jay Adams rocked up at Arto Saari’s Hollywood pool for a little spontaneous slashathon. It’s been over three years since Adams was released from prison, and the mythology of his past still leaves a trail. But now, having reconnected with Jef Hartsel to resurrect EzRyder Originalz – the custom-built skateboard company he first founded with his family in 1975 – Adams is piecing together the best bits of his history, one sidewalk-surfing board at a time.
With Adams dropping in to the sound of Suicidal Tendencies, and Hartsel, Chang and Lake standing by for their turns, the trip inadvertently morphed into a subcultural summit of sorts, as two generations of fiercely independent skate company owners found their like-minds interlocked.
No matter how grown-up skateboarding seems to get, that need to keep things totally DIY has a funny way of helping people connect.