After decades on the margins, skateboarders have officially infiltrated the world of Fine Art. Collectors now clamor over Supreme decks, Gonz doodles, and Ed Templeton snapshots. Skaters hold shows at high-profile fairs like Art Basel and Frieze. And the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) even let us teach a class on skate videos.
Some may say skateboarding isn’t art, but it definitely produces a lot of artists.
What bugs me about many skaters-turned-artists, though, is how hard they pivot away from skateboarding to make their art. In trying to distance themselves from the imagined juvenility of the skate world, they make stuff that comes off as pretentious or too try-hard. They raise their brow so high it disappears behind the brim of their tiny beanie.
Louis Sarowsky, otherwise known as Lurker Lou, is not one of these highfalutin “skartists.” Unlike many who turn to art once their motivation to skate (along with their skills) starts to wane, Lou seems now to skate more and better than ever. He eschews the ease of skateparks, choosing instead to excavate the abandoned crust of New York’s outer boroughs.
He makes concrete casts of original D3s and Blazers, and films whole parts in pre-owned purple shoes sourced from second-hand stores. There’s a wry theme that seems to run through Lou’s life and work: Enliven the relics of the past, because, before you know it you too might find yourself forgotten in the dustbin of history.
This past Saturday, Lou’s latest exhibition, appropriately titled “Waste Not Want Not,” opened at Brooklyn’s E-Waste Warehouse. We checked it out in person so you could peep it online.
The show was the opening of Lou’s residency at this weird and wonderful warehouse in the industrial Gowanus neighborhood. It’s run by the Lower East Side Ecology Center and serves as a receptacle and recycler for outdated electronics, some of which they rent out as props for movie and TV productions. Lou wore this handmade VHS-Ghillie-suit while powersliding outside of the building.
Lou skated around the space in his costume made from celluloid streamers taken from three VHS tapes of sci-fi movies (e.g. Dune). A spontaneous choreography of well-caught kickflips, melodramatic bails, and faux-focuses made going to the show in person that much more entertaining. The suit must’ve been stifling though because every time Lou took off his mask sweat splashed on the ground. Lou’s a real showman.
Beneath Lou’s costume he was wearing the Jenkem x Lakai shoe we made back in 2016. We called it the “sexiest shoe in skateboarding,” and now I guess we can call it the most artistically-performative one too.
The crowd was a mix of old heads (Justin Strubing and Dave Caddo), skate media reps (Quartersnacks, Village Psychic, Skate Jawn, Complex, Pappalardo the Writer), and elderly people that seemed like they might’ve been accidentally donated to the warehouse by their grandkids. The art, along with the free beer and boxed wine, brought everyone together.
A class of children came by with their presumably cool teacher, and Lou took the time to talk to them about his art and explain the origins of his materials, like, telling them what in the hell a VHS tape even is. I can’t wait to explain to my future kids what those white things poking out of Nyjah’s ears are when I inevitably show them his 2020 gold medal run.
I’m a sucker for funky headwear (maybe from being a fan of Kenny Reed), and this piece, a baseball hat meticulously covered in computer keys, really banged me over the head.
In one corner of the exhibition, a bunch of tube TVs played a looped rough cut of a video Max Hull is working on that goes deep into Lou’s motivation and process behind his art. Max was there filming the last touches with a big-ass HDSLR rig, so the footage is going to be crisp and high-tech in a way its subject decidedly isn’t. Looking forward to eventually streaming it on my iPhone XXX.
In the center of the space, Lou set up a table with sculptures of old technology integral to the late-’90s and early aughts. By turning these once-cutting-edge-now-outdated objects into molds for concrete, foam, and plastic versions, Lou imbues a sense of permanence into the planned-obsolescence inherent in technology.
Lou told everyone to take an object home with them as a keepsake. Sorting through the resin tape cassettes, foam VXs, and brick phones turned into literal bricks, I felt like an archaeologist digging through the ephemera of lost civilizations.
If you grew up watching movies on VHS, you surely experienced the panic of hearing that crunching sound as your player chewed up a tape, destroying your chance to Fulfill the Dream. As a play on that anachronistic experience, Lou made a TV from resin and broken up VHS tapes. The only way to make sure no one will ever see your embarrassing sponsor-me tape.
Big thanks to Lou for being the creative person and opinionated guy that he is for as long as he’s been at it. If his art is any indication, I don’t expect Lou to let himself be relegated to the recycling bin just yet. And for that we should be grateful.