Introduction by George Petros to
One fine day in Woodstock, New York, I saw the future. No infernal time machine whisked me into unimagined eras; no black hole swallowed me and spit me out across the universe. No science fiction novelist used me as fodder for fantasy. All I had to do was step into a tent filled with snowboards.
The 2004 Woodstock Tattoo & Body Arts Festival featured the biggest names in tattooing as well as the hottest painters and illustrators. All over town, galleries glowed with creative genius. Fabulous pictures screamed from every wall and from every square inch of skin. A kaleidoscopic stew of icons, symbols and emblems, cranked out by the Lowbrow/Underground continuum's best and brightest, made Woodstock a garden of retinal delights.
I wandered the town, from gallery to gallery. Each exhibit appeared more amazing than the previous. After awhile, all the art blended together into a blissful montage, ocular overkill rendering my aesthetic nerves numb.
Already familiar with most of the art, I spent more time schmoozing with the cool cognoscenti than eyeballing the goods. I became jaded to the array of talent. I hardly noticed the modern masterpieces around me. Somebody said, "Did ya check out the snowboard art show?" I hadn't, and was directed to a big tent in an open field. So, I went into the tent …
Silence reigned. Hundreds of snowboards hung, long axes vertical, bathed in filtered light. Like a living museum grown on some magical plot, the tent's interior seemed stately and solemn. Fabric rippled here and there as the winds whispered outside.
I had passed into another world, in another time. The snowboards looked alive in some futuristic fashion, executed in media unknown to the present. Unseen forces held each in place. Slowly I discerned that each sported a unique design. Colors raged; fiery lines too fluid to view danced in harmony with the boards' streamlined shapes.
I saw the future of art; I mean, I saw what the next decade is gonna look like as far as illustrative design goes. Today's Lowbrow and Underground, fused with Tattoo, will be tomorrow's Fine Art. An amalgam of everything — biker art, Surrealism, pornography, Psychedelia, Anime et cetera — will morph into a singular visionary thing, extrapolated into new dimensions of unbelievable intensity. Thus shall shine the next generation of art stars!!!
I saw the result of kids learning to draw from tattoo flash rather than comic books, and of old timers discovering new forms. I saw the works of Rembrandts and Dalis and Warhols to come. I glimpsed the post-Lowbrow world in all its exciting, eclectic splendor.
That tent housed the Burton Snowboard Project, known in art-show parlance as the Rides of Passage Exhibition, sponsored by the Woodstock Tattoo and Body Arts Festival, Burton Snowboards, and Tattoo Artist Magazine. The curators, Curse Mackey and Bruce Bart, engaged the present era's flashiest artists and gave them each a blank snowboard — an interesting shape that kinda looks like a skateboard, but bigger. It suggests human appendages, reinforcing the exhibits's tattoo sensibility.
Sumptuous, symmetrical curves, tapered convexly, surround a flat surface upon which 117 minds projected visions of utility, chaos and pure design. The novel shape and size, the striking vertical format, and the escalating effect of snowboard after snowboard all contributed to a powerful presentation.
The art excited me. It beckoned from an exciting future, hinting at incredible things to come.
Many of the same artists whose work hung outside the tent, in the various galleries around town, contributed to the snowboard show. However, the show's context catapulted their stuff into a future tense, as if one were seeing their work of ten years hence.
Of course the more things change, the more they stay the same. There is nothing new except that which has been forgotten. In the snowboard show, traditional, classical, and standard imagery prevailed: skulls, flames, hot rods, daggers, death, and so on. Screaming faces, spurting blood, a burning sky — the usual. The artists' treatments, however, suggest evolution to a more expressive visual vocabulary. The illustrated effluvia of the ages coalesces, primary elements rise to the top, and a new style is born.
This is not to say that the futuristic vibe jumped out at me. It wasn't like The Jetsons or Forbidden Planet. It was a subtle collective effect; any one of the snowboards, isolated, could appear to be a throwback to the current age, done in a style firmly rooted in the present. But seen together — what a fantastic view of tomorrow!
I'd spent similar moments in near-future environments. In 1981 I saw H.R. Giger's first American show at Marshal Field's Gallery in Chicago, where the biomechanical surrealist's wonderful work hung in the Space Artistry Exhibition — and, of course, nearly 25 years later, doesn't everything look a lot like Giger? Other instances of cultural clairvoyance include the Joe Coleman/Alex Grey show at Chronocide Gallery in NYC, 1986 — and, of course, nearly 25 years later, doesn't everything look a lot like those guys these days??? My experience in the Burton snowboard art show ranks among a happy assortment of prophetic moments. Too bad you missed it!
This volume contains reproductions of the show's contents. I hope that you too will take a trip forward in time as you flip through it. To those who read this long after the fact, after the epochs described herein have become ancient history, know that we of the early Twenty-first Century are busy cranking out the cool shit, so that you can rip us off!!!