Our friends at High Roller Society, the London gallery where SAFEWALLS made its first stop in February 2011, put together a solo exhibition from New York City-based art duo Skewville. Named Slow Your Roll, this exhibition runs until April 24th and features Skewville selected artworks from previous years and new paintings and sculptures.
SAFEWALLS took this opportunity to interview Skewville about their art and the philosophy behind it, their famous flying wooden sneakers and more!
SAFEWALLS>> The name Skewville comes from a building in Queens, NY you lived in in the mid-’90s. Tell us a bit about that place.
Skewville: We grew up on one of the last farmlands in Queens. So we were blessed as city kids to have ample land and resources to build many clubhouses growing up. When we first moved out of our parents house we found this spot that quickly rekindled that childhood passion. But to call it a building was a kinda a stretch. The name Skewville was coined to describe this dilapidated Skewed structure with crooked walls and slanting stairwells. The second you walked in the door the warped floors would lead you in a strange direction, and that’s even before you smelled the smoke….
SAFEWALLS>> You’ve worked in numerous media — murals, paintings, prints, stencils, sculpture, installation. Your graphic sensibility throughout is strong and obvious, but what do you feel unifies Skewville’s work, in terms of intention?
Skewville: Thank you for noticing. Growing up as twins it was difficult for both of us to create single identities and we were often refereed to as “The Twins”. So when we finally started getting recognition for our sneaker mission we didnt want to be labeled or coined as a “one trick pony”… So I quess our main intention was always to not be pigeonholed.
SAFEWALLS>> Advertising art and strategies inform your work, but you seem to both celebrate the craft and critique the intentions. Thoughts?
Skewville: I (Ad) went to SVA in NYC to be an illustrator, then switched to graphic design and again got bored and graduated with and advertising degree. After working for many infamous ad agencies and over 3 grueling years of hundreds of Ideas being shot down by ignorant clients or stolen and reworded by crafty creative directors, I asked to get fired. So basically that one year of unemployment checks help fund the start of Skewville in 1996. Droo went to NYIT for architecture (hence the 3d influence) and then later went to FIT for marketing. He worked as a” day-job-sucker” for a few years as well then eventually quit to work full time for the cause.
SAFEWALLS>> Your Factory Fresh show at a former bodega in Brooklyn echoed Andy Warhol, even in its name. Do you see what you do as, in part, an extension of what Warhol started?
Skewville: Funny because, the basement of the the original Skewville structure was painted entirely silver. That was our workspace…. we did this only because we used every other possible color combination throughout the house and wanted to create a Blank-Zone so to speak… it was only when our mom (who is an art teacher) visited our new place and informed us about the Warhol Factory… and we have been influenced ever since.
SAFEWALLS>> The idea behind “Factory Fresh” comes from the fact that the gallery sits in a once highly commercial factory area of Brooklyn, that now (like most parts of BK) has been slowly transforming into stale condo-living. At the same time, your work brings to mind a lot of folk and outsider art from the Americas. Is that a source of inspiration for you?
Skewville: It’s always hard to pinpoint our influences. But as kids of a large family, we got many hand-me-downs and then whatever was ours evently got hocked in one of my moms many yard sales. We remember as kids going to the City Dump with our dad (he built the extension of the house we grew up in so I guess there was a lot of construction trash to dump). I think thats where we caught the bug for collecting stuff from other places… as we got older, still pre-eBay, we would travel on weekends to various neighborhoods to seek out distant yard sales. So I think with that drive to try and buy our childhood back, we came across a lot of other Americana that eventually influenced the Skewville Style.
SAFEWALLS>> Your Wooden Dogs project — silkscreening shoe-shaped pieces of wood and tossing them over power lines around the world — provokes several questions:
1) There are many theories about the origins and purpose of the sneaks-on-the-line thing… what are yours?
Skewville: Our main quest for starting the sneaker mission was basically to be untouchable. We did graff, stickers and whatnots on the streets, but felt like maybe we were just bandwagoning this undefined art movement. So, we knowingly reinvented the art of tossing sneakers… Using the vagueness of this urban legend motif to our advantage, we started throwing our sneakers wherever we went, sorta hoping it would provoke peoples own interpretations. But basically it was about the thrill of getting up and staying up.
2)When and why did you start the Wooden Dogs project?
3) You’ve tossed your kicks across the globe… what’s the one spot you’re most proud of?
Skewville: Honestly, the first pair, right in front of Skewville.
SAFEWALLS>> Who are some contemporary artists you feel an alignment with?
Skewville> All the artists we respect are either too big time or get no respect… and based on that whole fear of not being an individual, we’re gonna say nobody… yet