House of Vans Celebrates the Evolution of NYC Street Culture
This past week seminal post-hardcore band Quicksand and iconic metalcore group Converge closed out House of Vans' Summer Series in Brooklyn. Vans has been celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, with special celebrations, art exhibits, and performances around the globe. For the Summer Series, bands played to a backdrop curated by Brandon Stosuy and Brandford Nordean showcasing the cultural intersection of punk, hardcore, rap and skateboarding in 80's and 90's New York City.
Art has always been critical part of Vans' history and played a major role in the this year's anniversary events which kicked off with 10 consecutive celebrations around the globe. For this year's Summer Series Vans decided to also include an art experience. "We felt it added another unique layer and a visual richness and depth to the experience that we didn't have before," April Vitkus (Vans Senior Director of Global Brand Marketing), told us. "This additional layer really transformed the House of Vans to showcase that cultural intersection that we have between punk and hardcore and rap and skateboarding that has always been part of Vans' history and heritage. The art and the music were really how we have been able to transcend all of these cultures, which I think is why we've been so widely adopted by so many different types of people and why we have so many loyalists."
Ken Farmer (Photo: Laura June Kirsch)
As visitors approached House of Vans, they were greeted by Ken Farmer's light installation on the building's facade, inspired by a once flickering light that used to be a part of the building's burnt out marquee. Farmer has previously created site-specific adaptations with many renowned visual artists, including Vito Acconci, Rita Ackermann, Jonah Freeman, Justin Lowe, Marilyn Minter, and Guido van der Werve to name a few.
Bayeté Ross Smith
Inside, a wall of fully functioning boom boxes, stacked Tetris-style by Bayeté Ross Smith, commemorates '80s hip hop and street culture. Smith's boom box sculpture is part of a larger series of works called "Got the Power," referencing the role boom boxes have played in urban communities and within popular culture. "As a project that began while he was a public artist in residence at The Laundromat Project, Ross Smith traveled to historically-significant neighborhoods and invites community members, young and old, to collaborate in making a mixtape which archives their favorite songs and stories. Through a tower of boom boxes that the artist builds at each site, participants are able to play their own cassette tapes, add their favorite song titles to a public playlist, and record their memories about their community. Ross Smith then collects these contributions mixing them with ambient sound specific to the area, and creates a mixtape that can be played both online and through the boom box tower."
Opposite the boomboxes, New York artist Scott Ewalt's collage of vintage punk flyers wraps the walls, inspired by the walls of cbgb's and colored to mimic the reflection of the legendary venue's neon lights. Ewalt is best known for his album covers for artists as varied as Dolly Parton, Jayne County, Marc Almond, the Demolition Doll Rods and the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. For the exhibition Ewalt gathered flyers and posters from an extremely wide array of shows, making sure to honor lesser known artists and bands that were integral to the scene as well as more recognizable acts.
The walls wrapping the rest of the venue were covered by artwork by artists Nick and Matt Zaremba as well as graffiti icons Wane One and Stash. Wane One, who painted his first train in 1983, has had a long, celebrated career that includes among other things, creating logos for Gangstarr, Jeru the Damager and Group Home! His House of Vans wall evolved throughout Summer Series as he continued to add to and transform the piece.
Zac Scheinbaum, Sean Taggart, Nat Russell, Jill Reiter, Amy von Harrington, Gwenaël Rattke and many other artists also participated, contributing to the overall look and feel of the installations and adding to the overall music and art experience!