Geoff McFetridge just completed a mural at the historic West LA Courthouse skate spot. The mural is part of a greater project that reopened and repaired the spot, with Nike SB, local government and skaters working together to have it back open to public. Juxtapoz' Sam Graham went and snapped some shots this weekend. Public art, public space, skating... perfect.
We asked Geoff to talk about the project, about both the mural and the skate spot itself, and in his own words, this is what he told us.
On the Spot:
"The last time I had been to the West LA Courthouse was in the late 90s. My friends and I would take the bus to UCLA, which was at the top of Wilshire Blvd and skate all the way downhill to just past the courthouse. At that time it was really thrashed. The tops of the planters were coming off in some places.
"The fact that after that they skate-stopped it is crazy. When I heard that a group of locals and Nike had revived the spot and repaired all the benches I was stunned. This type of reversal on a street spot was something I had never heard of. It is more than the opening of a skate park, it is an attack on the paradigm.
"It is a tired concept to say that skaters see the world in a specific ways but it is true the West LA Courthouse being opened to skaters is unique in that it takes this "way of seeing" and manifests it physically. The courtyard looks exactly like a courtyard, yet the benches are now cleanly painted and discreetly edged in steel. There are no logos, no transitions or ramps. If you were to walk by it as a non skater you would just think it had a good scrubbing. Yet what has happened is a conceptual change.
"To talk about street skating as seeing the world differently is familiar rhetoric, but to make others think this way now that is a good trick."
On the Mural:
"My history with the West LA Courthouse was key to my inspiration for the mural. When it comes to creating skate inspirited art, I create images that are equal parts mental and physical, which is what I think skateboarding is.
"The mural moves horizontally, a bit like a human line of dominos. The Dickies, sneaker and white-T clad protagonists physically appear in skate-like posture, but the activity is ambiguous. Dancing? Yoga? Tripping? I was thinking at spots like this tricks are happening in a line, you are not thinking of the trick you are doing, but the trick that follows it, and how the present tense is a fleeting thing with skateboarding. In a lot of my work I am trying to draw things that are not often drawn in this piece it is the blankness, the emptiness that I associate with skating. There are a few images where a skater is using a board as a catapult to launch his own head into the air. I also elude to ramp like shapes, and people forming ramps that might appear to be jumps and jumps that are a bit like teeter-totters. I thought it was interesting that the lack of these things are what makes the West LA Courthouse spot distinct. It is a pure and remains unaltered.
"I think the best playgrounds are empty dirt lots filled with kids, not designed structures. Skateparks are great, and a lot of fun, but it is part of a whole different mindset and history of skateboarding. My interest has always been in how skateboarding grows out of an emptiness. It is abstract.
"The characters in my mural are plastic, they are barely representational, they are in the process of becoming abstract, and for me that is themagic of skateboarding. It is a practice of becoming abstract, and of abstracting the world around you."
All photography by Sam Graham