Skating and Painting: SVA’s Rob Campbell at the Affordable Art Fair

April 2, 2013

For the 11th year in a row, SVA will be presenting a booth at the Affordable Art Fair (AAF), taking place from April 3 – 7 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City. The AAF provides an opportunity to buy contemporary art in all media from both emerging and established artists, with works priced between $100 and $10,000. This year, SVA’s booth will feature works by 11 students, including current MFA Fine Arts candidate Rob Campbell, whose paintings also double as skateboard ramps. Campbell recently took some time to talk about his work and practice with SVA Up Close via email.

Your interests in art and skating are quite diverse. What gave you the idea to create work that you can skateboard over?
Skating and Snowboarding have always been a part of my life; when I was growing up in Michigan, it was part of my foundation. I’ve kept a skateboard in my studio pretty regularly, but not with the intention of working with it as a tool. If I’m feeling in a rut, I’ll usually skate around for a little bit to clear my head. Since I’ve been in New York, I found myself more interested in surfaces that looked distressed or rugged; these surfaces appeared like a material history that’s embedded in a visceral experience. I guess that’s what led me to skate ramps. I’ve always admired the design of ramps and like how they evolve over time from the impact of skating.

Can you talk about how you make the paintings? What is the process you use to allow them to withstand their functional use as a skating surface?
At first, I abstracted the “ramps” into panels to place them within the parameters of a painting, but soon found simply “painting” on the surfaces was not enough. I started to place them on the ground and work with the actual board;

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it felt like the right thing to do because I could leave unique marks every time. I could then respond to these distress marks with geometric abstractions and images of what I felt like represented the “worn suburban dream.” I work with the same materials a normal skate ramp would be made with—usually plywood. It allows for the surface to be resilient enough to withstand the process. A coat of enamel on top of the wood easily preserves the evidence of the skating in the structure.

Who are some of your artistic influences and why?
I feel like there is a great deal of intuitiveness in what I do, but I tend to research artists madly. Off the top of my head I’d say any combination of research around Midwestern suburban city plans; the prose of Hemingway and Steinbeck; worn schematics; Cy Twombly’s cryptology; Ed Ruscha’s cynicism; the spatial awareness of Helio Oiticica; the playfulness of the Gutai Group; molded plywood of the Eames’s (as well as much of Mid-Century Modern Design); utopian ideas of Richard Nuetra; and to a certain extent the personally invested, yet somewhat abusive qualities of the work of Basquiat influence the art I make.

How has your time at SVA influenced or changed your work?
SVA has changed my method of questioning both of the artwork of others and my own. I actually entered SVA as a painter who focused on a combination of realism and geometric abstraction; since then, I find myself exploring different methods for realizing a project I’m working on. Now, I have a much greater concern for process and the viewer’s awareness of subtlety. I feel more invested in what I do now, even though I believe it appears much less literal.

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