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"Hellawood" Opens with Surfer Style

Leslie Velez |
April 9, 2012 | 8:53 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer


Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons and PinCheck
Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons and PinCheck
An ocean wave, sleek and scrolling, beckons a surfer to its face.  On his belly, the shortboard surfer paddles against the rising breaker and breaches the foam gathering at the sunlit lip, slipping over the wave’s edge.  

Another wave approaches, and the surfer, knowing the rhythm of the water, turns his back to it. He’ll ride this one. Lightly to his feet, he takes the drop and streaks along the wave’s face on his fiberglass and foam missile,cutting it from bottom to top until the washout at the end of the break.   A deft two-handed clasp of the board, then the paddle back out.

This stirring scene, part of a work of video art projected onto an Urban Outfitters store wall at Hollywood’s Space 15 Twenty, is one piece in an art exhibition and pop-up shop dedicated to surfing as a creative medium and a lifestyle.  “Hellawood,” rolled out Friday night for a month-long run, spotlights independent artists and designers from the United States and Australia who, wherever they are, keep one foot on a beach.    

Urban Outfitters director of concepts and trends Marissa Maximo first conceived of the idea for “Hellawood” when she met several videographers, visual artists, clothing makers, and surfboard shapers while traveling through coastal cities of Australia; it was Maximo, uniquely qualified in both fashion and fine art, who assembled this particularly Southern Californian trinity of surf culture, art space, and retail happy place in Space 15 Twenty. 

“Hellawood” fits nicely in the Urban Outfitters storefront there, a seemingly natural habitat for the surfing culture’s art, which has quietly resisted traditional art spaces.  It has proven problematic for surfing, an entire society and value system in its own right, to be moved to the echelon of high art, the kind sequestered in buildings known by acronyms ending in “OCA.”

“Hellawood” doesn’t pretend art and surfing are not part of a consumerist market.  In fact, it made it exactly that, to its credit, exhibiting art where people already come.  Work is placed directly in the sightline of a peruser of screen printed T-shirts, beside mannequins wearing beach frocks, across from fitting rooms, and near doorways.  True to the credo of surfing, the setup of “Hellawood” goes with the flow, working with the world around it.

The well-traveled artists of the exhibition capture moments in time: a long boarder poses in front of his VW bus; a surfboard, fin to the sky, gathers beach sand.  Sand transforms into a cement canvas for Argentinian-born Tin Ojedi’s spray painted truisms, “Nothing Will Change” and “All You Need is You,” presented as monochrome prints.  Dominick Volini, co-founder of New York clothing company Baron Wells, demands viewers’ close attention, nearsighted or not, in small pictorials centered in two by three foot pieces of heavy paper.  Concrete’s hard edge removes a subject’s head in “Concrete Wave,” and still, understated oceanscapes -- “Blur” and “Circle Surfer” -- reveal Volini’s understated sense of detail.

Professional surfer Danny Fuller uses night-long camera exposures to capture his large scale light-swept landscapes. Titled by time (3:28 a.m., 3:48 a.m.), the photographs are no less intense for their austere vastness.  The whimsical surf scenes of art photographers Vanessa Atlan and Kassia Meadeor have an Instagram-like color tint, as if burnished and forged into timelessness by the bright glare of summer sun.

There were, of course, surfboards at “Hellawood’s”opening celebration to display master craftsmanship and extend a charitable hand.  Custom boards by Curtis Kulig, New Zealand native Paul McNeil, and Travis Reynolds were auctioned off, with proceeds given to Rio Break Foundation, whose funding toward equipment and surfing competition fees provides incentive for kids to stay in school, and Beyond the Surface International, a nonprofit working to reintegrate underprivileged, homeless, and orphaned children back in society.  

“Hellawood” comes together with a cohesive simplicity.  Straightforward and yet beautiful in its design, products, and artwork, the exhibition does justice to the surfers and artists who live life with the sea.


Reach reporter Leslie Velez here.



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