Have you ever wanted to land a nollie heelflip on an art installation? Maybe you can’t skateboard (like me), and would simply prefer to enjoy the artwork as a work of cultural commentary? (I totally did an ollie once, but that was in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 with the cheats on.) Either way, Barbara Kruger’s latest work, Untitled (Skate), is on display at the Coleman Skatepark under the Manhattan Bridge, now through Nov. 19.
It’s a collection of the artist’s iconic phrases from over the years, in that distinctive white Futura Bold font on a red background, plastered on everything from the ramps to the rails. Kruger has been commissioned by Performa 17 for the series of site-specific works, which includes a billboard, a school bus, and MetroCards.
“Shit is whack. It’s fucking up the skatepark,” said one hostile skater, who told me to “get the fuck” out of his face because I wouldn’t pay him for an interview. At least functionally, the installation didn’t seem to have an impact on the skateability (if that’s a word) of the venue, but maybe true skaters prefer the non-commercialized, grungy aesthetic of concrete and amateur graffiti.
It could also be true that the anonymous skater doesn’t realize the in-your-face advertising is a critique of mainstream culture, and that he and Kruger might actually have something in common. But whatever, dude.
Others, like 17-year-old Xander Robertson, who skates at the park bi-monthly, said the amount of signage was overwhelming. “I’m not the biggest fan, to be honest. I get that it’s supposed to be in your face,” said Robertson, “But not on, like, every single thing in the park.”
But some people appreciated the artistic value of the artwork. Kenny Sanchez, a 17-year-old student, said it gives the park some character.
“I like it. It gives it a positive vibe in here. Before, it used to be all dead. It gives a good atmosphere,” said Sanchez, who was inspired to land a trick after reading one of Kruger’s short phrases.
Even non-skaters could appreciate the scenery. Gilbert Klein, an investment advisor, was at the park for the first time with his three-year-old dog, Katie. He was trying to acclimatize her to the sounds.
“She has a love-hate relationship with skateboards. She gets very excited, but also, she barks a lot at them,” said Klein. “So I brought her here so she sees a lot of them. Maybe she will make peace with skateboards.”
Kruger will be doing her first live performance, Untitled (The Drop), on Thursday, Nov. 2 at the Performa 17 Biennial Hub from 4pm to 8pm. Reps for Performa 17 could only talk about the performance off the record, but it sounds pretty cool. Tickets are going for $5.