A Review of Sea Sick in Paradise at Depart Foundation, Los Angeles
In California in particular, you can learn a lot about a surf spot by its parking lot. To non-natives this concept might seem a little odd, but the lot of any great beach has all the dynamics of a city commons. People pull up (or never leave at all), claim turf, share stories, and march themselves down to the main event, all claiming their own relationship to the sea. Privy to all skill-sets, backgrounds and lifestyles, it's inevitable that just as much action goes on outside of the water as it does on it.
With various downtimes set in place by the nature of the sport itself, surfing covers a lot of time out of water spent socialising - all with a steady eye on the ocean, of course. It’s no mistake that the exchange of ideas that happens on the beach and in the lot provides ample material that develops in the car ride home, and finds itself being expressed in the studio days later.
With one of the most dynamic surf spots in the world across the street, the Depart Foundation’s Sea Sick in Paradise evokes both the sport and the social life that informs it, with a diverse series of mediums and eras represented. The archive of Hoffman Fabrics proves particularly relevant in the constant mining of 80’s surf culture in fashion’s recent history. With rare original drawings presented next to the fully developed fabric swatches, there is a tactile and DIY spirit evoked in creation of the California surf aesthetic.
Jeff Ho, legendary surfer and shaper, presents a large custom mural for the space, as well as a series of works on canvases. Mining from decades of creating iconic logos and color schemes that would define the surf look of the 70’s and 80’s, the influence of these artists on popular culture is instantly felt. Nearby, Brown Girl Surf, a women’s surf collective based out of Oakland, shares flyer work, shirts, and other ephemera, providing a contemporary voice committed to diversifying the sport.
Alex Cassiniti’s Tanned Man, is a standout devised of a visceral piece of rubber cut out in the human form draped into a beach chair. Evocative and humorous, it perfectly resonates the social culture that is at the heart of surf. Local artist and surfer Riley O’Neill’s Beach blanket cut-ups (Spud and Joe are at it again), made of vintage 80’s & 90’s wetsuits, is another clever observation of the surf life that happens out of the water. The neon pile of neoprene is woven together into a large form, in many ways not unlike the dots of surfers that line the coast, forming a mass along the sea.
Both Billy Al Bengsten and Roe Ethridge’s works in the show, characterize the ocean as a place of respite, reminding us of the churning dynamism of mother nature right before humans wake up and add their own elements to the scene.
Peter Fend’s Hawaii Energy Independence and Ocean Comes To Us both draw example to the environmental concerns that surfers rally towards. Hawaii Energy Independence in particular, is a prime example of the combination of math, currents, tides, and weather patterns, that all effect a surfer’s day to day enjoyment of the sport. The particular study and day to day relationships with certain surf spots also makes surfers distinctly aware of the changes going on with climate, setting the stage for the grassroots surf-led activism of groups like the Surfrider Foundation.
While the works span many mediums and eras, what they all do is evoke the town square atmosphere of the beach, the human aspect that descends upon nature day after day, who in their hours of swim and gab make up the devoted community that define surf culture.
Written by Nicole Reber, a Contributor to Arteviste.