The Passion of the Skateboard: Haroshi's "I Versus I" @ NANZUKA UNDERGROUND, Tokyo
Continuing their program at their newly opened flagship gallery in Jingumae Shibuya, Tokyo, NANZUKA UNDERGROUND will be presenting a new solo exhibition by Haroshi between July 10th and August 8th, coinciding with the Tokyo Olympic Games. This year's delayed games will see the debut of skateboarding as an Olympic event. Haroshi's show will present the latest developments in his unique and self-taught methods of utilizing old skateboard decks in creation of original artwork.
"If you took skateboarding away from me, you get left with nothing," Japanese artist told us in an interview we did with him for our 25th Anniversary issue. "Everything, including my relationship with friends, as well as my work, has developed through skateboarding, and my first encounter with the work of artists was through the graphics on skateboards." Starting from such genuine passion for the sport/lifestyle, depending on who you speak to, Haroshi started developing his practice driven by the urge to reuse the object that provides so much joy and marks one's life, even once it's no longer usable. With that in mind, back in 2003 he started creating sculptures from skateboard decks, evolving his practice over the years and sprouting in different ways. From frequently collaborating with the street brand HUF led by the late Keith Hufnagel, designing the infamous BATB trophies, to having solo exhibition held at the NOVA section of Art Basel Miami Beach in 2018, and taking part in Tokyo Pop Underground which travelled to the galleries of Jeffrey Deitch in New York and Los Angeles, Haroshi single handedly redefined the differentiation or the connection between the craftsmanship and fine art.
And all those elements of his first 2 decades of artistic activity will come to light in I Versus I, an exhibition featuring all new works and based on the theme of “a battle against oneself," likely symbolizing the struggle and dedication required by skateboarders to overcome their fears and technical or any other disadvantage. Divided in three series, the presentation will introduced the main types of pieces which Haroshi is currently working with, including the Mosh Pit series, GUZO figures, and a series of recycled soft vinyl toy figures.
“Mosh Pit is a work that focuses on the beautiful, scratched and scuffed appearance of skateboards that have fulfilled their role," the artist explains in an elaborate statement about the upcoming show. "The graphics on the skateboard decks are damaged (painted) due to the skateboarder’s attempts in performing various tricks, and as a result their beauty progresses towards a state of maturity and at the same time to the end of its life. The sheer passion of skateboarders that collide against one another as if in a Mosh Pit of sorts are enclosed within the work through the use of skateboard decks that are a crystallization of such fervor. GUZO are god-like figures that express a profound respect for the self-sacrificing spirit of skateboards themselves that have supported endeavors of skateboarders. The way in which skateboards become scratched and damaged are highly dramatic in the sense that they could be described as reflecting 'the passion of the skateboard' and I felt that it was my mission to revive these decks that bear the brunt on our behalf as a series of deities of sorts. The soft vinyl series feature a variety of toy figurines that were damaged and covered with scratches during our childhood as a result of being subjected to fierce battles in park sandboxes and playful bath time shenanigans. In the narrative that I present, these figurines are repaired using skateboard decks that have sustained serious damage through the fierce battles we now engage in as adults upon the asphalt, thereby evolving into new forms as both wounded parties compensate one another’s shortcomings.”
In correspondence to this exhibition, NANZUKA will release a 520-page self-published catalogue archiving Haroshi’s works spanning from 2003 to present. —Sasha Bogojev
Photos courtesy of the artist and NANZUKA