What may look like a naked women on the bottom of a 90’s skateboard to one set of eyes might be progressive art that goes much, much deeper to another. Enter Ted Barrow, who has carved out a niche in our strange little world as somewhat of an “art” critic. Whether it be 90’s skateboard graphics or some Arizona kid rolling around his local skateboard park. And we love him for it. Maybe we all can’t be on Ted’s level when it comes to recognizing skateboarding within a historical art scale, but he is teaching us all well.

Sample:

Deliberately offensive provocation is a necessary tactic in our subculture’s cultural history, and should not, I argue, be dismissed. Done right, it is radical, not retrograde. Despite what McKee said about the marketing ploy, World Industries made a very limited run of these boards. And by presenting them pre-bagged, they ensured that opening the bag, seeing the shocking image inside, and skating it would be inherently and automatically thrilling. If you had this board, you were part of the avant-garde. Not only were you skating a board from the hippest, most subversive company at the time, you were also riding a board with, arguably, pornography on it.

So as repugnant as this graphic may look to our eyes today, this is what I would classify as radical, not retrograde. It was intentionally provocative and self-consciously gnarly, but also something that had never been done before. Part of a multi-pronged attack against the big 3—Powell, Vision, Santa Cruz—the golden age of World Industries decks speaks almost exclusively in a graphic language that might be unacceptable in today’s terms. But World graphics from that era were iconic because they were unprecedented; they had Never Been Done before.

Skateboarding is dirty. It has always been a snide, hierarchy-toppling activity. At their best, or graphics reflect our seedy side. They poke fun at what we hold dear, while simultaneously offering the ephemeral thrill of colorful, clean smut. They are precious. They are tactile. They are disposable. They are human. Colvin’s board embodied this paradox in the most graphic terms imaginable. It took the strange fetish idea always associated with the skateboard—skateboards occupy that uncomfortable place between a stuffed animal or toy weapon and an adult vehicle, all of which are sexualized—and made it explicit AS FUCK. Doing something for the first time which is deliberately offensive is about as close as we skateboarders could get, in the 20th century, to the avant-garde, a term I borrow from cultural studies of early Modernism to denote the first wave of soldiers in a military attack.

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Click to SKATEISM for Ted Barrow’s piece for the progressive skateboard graphics 

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