One of skateboarding’s biggest commercial booms was in the 1980s. With their robust royalty checks and penchant for partying, many of the big name vert riders of the decade were legitimate rock stars. Unlike today, it wasn’t the contest money or shoe contracts that beefed up their bank accounts, but monthly board sales royalty checks that often exceeded 10K (put that in the inflation calculator). Sure, kids were consuming these boards because Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi were household names, but it was the actual board art that was the true marketing tool.
Ghouls, skeletons, severed hands screaming in pain, and even exploded clocks — it wasn’t uncommon for a pro model to bear the same graphic for years. They created identities and branded each pro, but by the time the ‘90s rolled around, the industry had crashed and the attitude changed. You can cite the smaller budgets, smaller audience, or general lack of fucks given, but graphics suddenly became a place for social commentary, vulgarity, nudity, and general weirdness. World Industries became an industry giant by altering familiar kiddie cartoon icons into dope smoking memes, accumulating cease-and-desist orders like badges of honor. Anything went, because there was little to lose.
Because these decks were limited from the jump and often pulled out of production due to legal orders, collectors covet ‘90s skate decks. They were also the medium through which many became acquainted with Sean Cliver, Mark McKee, Todd Bratrud, Andy Jenkins, Evan Hecox, and other skate graphic luminaries. Tim and Sarah Anderson have one of the largest ‘90s collections out there, popularized by a site Tim started, Bobshirt, to archive the ‘90s video parts that idled away on VHS cassettes before the advent of YouTube. Active in their community upstate in Nyack, the Andersons have been working to bring a public park to the town, along with helping create a municipal skateboarding program, complete with scholarships for local kids in need.
The couple are lugging their deck archive, along with original artwork from some of the decks for a fundraiser art show for the Skateistan non-profit this weekend at the Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg. We obsessed with these obsessives about the ‘90s glory that comprises the upcoming Deckaid show.
Back in 2013, we held our first show (with just part of the collection) to raise money for a public skatepark in our hometown of Nyack, NY. We had an incredible turnout, with people coming from all over the tri-state area despite lack of easy access to public transportation. That night we raised over $12,000 for the park and then the boards went back into hiding.
The following year after the fundraising for the skatepark was completed, Sarah took an interest in Skateistan and suggested we do a NYC benefit show for all the people who couldn’t make it up that first time around. She got into contact with Skateistan through her contacts at the Tony Hawk Foundation. They were psyched on the idea and have been super supportive during the event planning. It’s a fantastic organization made up of bright and dedicated people.
I’ve never counted, maybe 200? I started holding on to them around 2003/2004. Back then, with no one to account for but myself, I likely spent too much. However, not too long ago, Sarah and I started a family and so my focus has changed a bit, as have my finances, ha!
I think Jacob Rosenberg (videographer for Plan B in the ‘90s) expressed my sentiments best in a quote he gave about the first show: “Most skateboarders who weathered the financial drought and creative boom of the early 1990s are proud and avid collectors of stickers, skateboard decks, t-shirts, shoes and worn out VHS tapes. Call them trophies or mementos, to us they represent how expressive of a culture skateboarding has always been and how for a brief moment in time, we were part of a rich secret culture that was re-defining itself before our eyes. The early 90’s were the wild west of copyright infringement and… creative expression.”
Well said by Jacob. I think anyone that saw that shift from the skulls, demons, and neon ‘80s, into the subversive imagery and appropriated graphics of the ‘90s was impacted by it. Speaking of, what was it like getting all these skate icons to stand in parking lots and alleys to discuss their graphics?
It definitely helps to complete the story of all this disposable artwork. It’s great to hear people’s takes on their own graphics. Each person has his own story to tell — his own distinct legacy.
Holding props in their hands during the interviews has given people something tangible to speak about, and perhaps speak from a fresh angle, through the lens of these artifacts. Bobby Puelo, Jahmal, Anthony Pappalardo [same name, but not the author of this post] and Gino Iannucci are all local skaters, too.
I’ve always appreciated the artwork of specific artists through the decades, like the work of Evan Hecox and Ian Johnson. So many rules were broken and lines were crossed in the 90s by McKee and Cliver, it’s hard to compete with that level of freshness. Hopefully with the movement back towards small brands, creative departments will give the artists more freedom.
Honestly, there haven’t been any truly crazy situations. Back in the early days it took a considerable amount of sleuthing to hunt down boards. At times, I found myself waiting for some potentially shady person that I contacted off of Craigslist in some random spot. Other times I engaged in a long series of telephone calls with complete strangers.
Often people with the greatest gems weren’t skateboarders and were unaware of the history of the art. My collection of Plan B Star Wars boards came from a woman across the country who had inherited her brother’s collection. We talked a bunch, mostly about life and about her brother, whom she sorely missed.
Trading is so much easier now, with people tracking a single board via Instagram from hand to hand.
The show is this Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. at Sideshow Gallery [319 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg]. It’ll be the first time we’ve taken everything out at once. While the collection of boards and original art is the main feature of the show, we have also collaborated with a few artists to be able to present art for sale.
Sean Cliver helped us issue a signed and numbered silkscreen print of Keenan’s first graphic on Blind. He gave the print a few original touches here and there. Drop Art, aka Thomas, designed a poster for us consisting of his collection of pen sketches of some of our favorite skateboarders, from Gino to Stevie Williams. The LB project, which is run by Lucas Beaufort, donated three original pieces of art for auction by Todd Bratrud, Jeremy Fish and Michael Seiben. We also will be auctioning off an original piece by collage artist Jay Riggio.
It’s going to be a great time. We’ll have free beer from Sixpoint Brewery, good music and great art, all for an awesome cause. There will be a suggested donation of $10… people can give what they choose with all the proceeds will go to Skateistan.