Now & Then: One Night With the RVCA World Tour As It Hits Tokyo
The Shibuya neighborhood in central Tokyo is a hive of constant quiet buzz. While a city of 30 million-plus people, it's kind of marvelous to consider city possesses a crowded serenity, where even in the most cramped train cars, there is a sort of aspiration for an order and peace. In perhaps the most humid weeks of the year in Japan, the stifling heat bestows an even more subdued feeling over the city, but tonight, outside of the RVCA flagship store, something is beginning to take shape. MMA legend BJ Penn is about to start his signing, and a line is forms. Across the street, Aaron Rose puts the finishing touches on Beautiful Losers: Now & Then, a not-so-retrospective of the legendary and highly influential museum show and movement started in the US during the 1990s underground scene. A car crammed with professional skaters and surfers pulls up to the store in an exotic connection of surf, skate, MMA, art.
For RVCA, the clothing and lifestyle brand that has seamlessly fused these cultures as part of the pillars of their ethos, this is almost normal. The RVCA World Tour, where personalities from the RVCA family ignite citywide activations, is just as much about storytelling as it is about product. One night Zak Noyle is doing a slideshow of his surf photos, and the next day the Smith Street Tattoo Parlour is showcasing their new collection with RVCA. And, in one of the best dichotomies of the week, BJ Penn is doing a signing across the street from Beautiful Losers.
It's hard to describe the Beautiful Losers show as retrospective or even nostalgic because the movement that emerged from Aaron Rose's Alleged Gallery, the artists who define the moniker, have never “gone away,” and in the passing years, have come to define a particular subset of contemporary art. RVCA's artistic pillar, the Artist Network Program (ANP) has continued the tradition of camaraderie and unity amongst many of the Beautiful Losers that in itself is one of the most unique art movements of the last 25 years. It's not street art, or graffiti, or skateboarding DIY culture, but entirely its own thing. Beautiful Losers is a genre in and of itself.
Seeing many of these artists in a room together again, with new and old bodies of work side-by-side, is a reminder of how much our aesthetic is wrapped into the works of Barry McGee, Steve Powers, Margaret Kilgallen, Johanna Jackson, Ed and Deanna Templeton, Mark Gonzales, Geoff McFetridge, Spike Jonze or Chris Johanson. As much as many of these artists have come to define what an emerging underground scene means to contemporary art, there is still this underdog teamwork energy all week. Alexis Ross helps Rose with the lighting. Steve Powers holds court while finishing an installation of his signature sign-painting works. Ed and Deanna Templeton clean dust from their frames. McGee and his cohorts amble in and out, adding to the legendary feeling in the room. Tattoo stalwart Bert Krak provides a calm. Mark Oblow is snapping everyone's portraits. It feels like family.
And that's the thing. Beautiful Losers always felt like an extended family, and that permeates the whole RVCA operation. Although the personalities, athletes, artists and culture may have separate practices, their vibe travels the entire wavelength. Even in the 100 plus degree heat simmering late into the night, as the opening festivities of Now & Then comes to a close, I see McGee with a grin and a look of mischief as he wanders into the neon skyline. Seeing the RVCA family and reuniting the Losers injected everyone with comfort and joy. The backdrop of Tokyo seemed like the perfect stage for a reunion. —Evan Pricco