Monday, May 1, 2006

written in stone...yet refreshingly recyclable

Molten Gold

Jett flakes, so Kreme flies solo and gets his art jones fixed at the Molten Brothers' "Deck" show

By Stephen Lemons

Article Published Apr 27, 2006

Don't ask why Jett flaked on me this week. Something about a free eightball and a three-way in Ahwatukee. Not that I blame her. I mean, the last three-way I was invited to involved me, myself and I, all buck nekkid in the hot tub. Talk about a tight fit! Like a Mr. Science demonstration on the phenomenon of water displacement. Either that, or Fat Bastard's sumo-bathhouse scene in Goldmember.
Minus my Foxxy Cleopatra for the weekend, I figure I might as well hit an event that the ADD-addled Pink of the PHX prolly couldn't get with anyway, the Molten Brothers' one-night-only "Deck" show at the Icehouse on Jackson Street in downtown P-town. An art show like none other here in Sand Land, "Deck" promised more than 100 local and out-of-state artists marking up, dismembering, painting and re-creating average wooden skateboard decks (essentially, the board minus wheels), thereby morphing them into hangable, modern masterpieces. There would be skate videos, bands and brew-ha-has. But since the Jettster ain't exactly a First Friday type, and what she knows of "grinding" usually happens horizontally, I was happy to be rid of the bisexual bizzatch for the evening.

The so-called "Molten Brothers" are actually local paint-slinger Kenneth Richardson and mixed-media maestro Mike Goodwin, First Friday fixtures who started working on this concept more than six months ago. The idea goes back further still, to a year or so ago, when Goodwin painted the now-infamous Ill Papa deck for Art Detour. The board, which was also hung in the show, features a creepy image of Pope Benedict XVI on a black background with the words "Ill Papa" above and "Joey Ratz" below, the latter being a reference to the Catholic Godfather's real handle of Joseph Alois Ratzinger.

"I have to give credit to Jon Stewart," admits the chain-smoking, dreadlocked Goodwin. "I think he was the first one to call the new pope 'Joey Ratz' on The Daily Show, but I thought it was appropriate, because it sounds like a professional skater. The piece was very popular, and it got Ken and I to thinking about doing a whole show of decks."

Goodwin and Richardson plotted strategy over drinks at the boho eatery Carly's Bistro on Roosevelt Street, and very quickly the show was blowing up like the World Trade Center, with everyone worth knowing in the local art world wanting in, from Empress of Outr Rachel Bess, Prince of Darkness Dayvid LeMmon, and Pop-Art Wizard Mike Maas to such well-known AZ art stars as Steve Yazzie, Lisa Takata, Luis Gutierrez, Michael 23, Roy Wasson Valle, Jason Hill, and renowned Zona landscape virtuoso Ed Mell.

As if the local deck daubers weren't enough, Amy Young and Doug Grant of Grand Avenue's Perihelion Arts leapt into the fray and were soon corralling humongo names from coast to coast and beyond: folks like Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo fame, Isabel Samaras, Shepard Fairey, Carlos Batts, Emmeric James Konrad, Christine Karas, Gidget Gein, Dave Naz, John John Jesse, and Japan's Naoto Hattori. Interestingly, it was these last three artists who boggled the backward-ass aesthetics of PHX printer Courier Graphics, which, according to Goodwin and Richardson, ended up reaming the project's full-color catalogue by demanding that images from Naz, Jesse and Hattori be censored.

Cali photographer Naz's deck depicts the disrobed backside of a young blonde, something you can see in almost every art history book ever printed. Brooklyn painter Jesse's board implies that a semi-nude brunette may be masturbating. But the worst thing you actually see are her panties and parts of her breasts. Objection to Hattori's piece seems unusually wack, since the deck portrays a benign, anthropomorphic toadstool worthy of Saturday morning TV. Allegedly, the imaginative minds of Courier Graphics saw something phallic in mushroom man.

(For the record, Courier Graphics VP Larry Babka denied that C.G. had any problem with Hattori's Shrooman, but admitted that C.G. did ultimately insist on obscuring the Jesse deck.)

"When it came down to it, they were objecting to it on more of conservative-feminist grounds," states Goodwin. "They said it was degrading to women. This is with a week left to go before the show. Our backs were to the wall. But we eventually got them down to blurring one image, the John John Jesse."

Fortunately, they figured out a way to subvert the Courier bluenoses by just printing up stickers of the John John Jesse deck on their own and giving one to each purchaser of the book with a note about the controversy. This bump in the road aside, "Deck" turned out to be a huge success, with an estimated 1,500 visitors of all ages, five bands, a beer garden, exhibits on the history of skateboarding and the premire of the Cowtown Skateboards' video Get on the Good Foot -- basically local Dogtown types performing all sorts of sick moves for the camera.

Not being a shredder myself, I'm treated to one of the weirdest sights I've ever witnessed upon arriving at the Icehouse: In a large, darkened room next to the "Deck" show's main gallery, an audience of about 150, mostly teens, is watching Good Foot being projected onto a large brick wall. Oohs and aahs are uttered every time some sidewalk surfer defies gravity, and the kids nearly go apeshit whenever some dude bails off his board and busts a lip on concrete.

The Icehouse itself is one of the dopest venues I've ever visited in the Valley. It really was an icehouse back in the day, way before there was anything like A/C. From the outside, it looks like some tall, stone mausoleum. The inside is all gutted out, with the big main room lacking any roof whatsoever. Two other rooms to the south and west lead onto a loading dock out back where there's a fenced-in "beer garden," and down below, a large, enclosed dirt area where a low bandstand is set up.

The exhibition itself takes up the main, roofless chamber, and, needless to say, it's off the friggin' chain. I'm blown away by all the different ways in which the decks have been transformed. Steve Yazzie carved up his deck into a bow and arrow, and Left Coast artist John Kiebler turned his into a working electric guitar. PHX artist Marc Marlowe's is made to look like a skinned fox, Phoenician Koryn Woodward's has kind of an H.R. Pufnstuf thing goin' on, and P-towner Ted Troxel's has been reassembled into a Voltron-esque turtle. Some of my faves are the simplest, such as the 'Nix's Colin Chillag, whose deck sports a chubby kid in tears with the phrase "Skateboarding is not a crime!" Or local dude Eddie Shea's board titled Floater, in which the black outline of a baby floats on a dark, purplish surface.

There are plenty of hot art chicks on tap, like this Japanese gal Yuko Yabuki who's got long straw-colored hair, a tan, and tattoos all over her arms and shoulders. Unlike most babes at the Icehouse, or anywhere, for that matter, she actually approaches me first.

"Hey, I saw you at Sadisco!" she exclaims. "You were supposed to buy me a rum and Coke."

I vaguely recall making such a promise long ago at Jugheads during a Sadisco night, then bailing to avoid a dent in my billfold: "I did buy it, but when I came back around, I couldn't find you," I lie. "What do you think of the show?"

"I have a skateboard in this show," she informs me with a blank expression. "Want to see it?"

It's nearby. On it is a black skull with black octopus tentacles and a big silver tongue wrapped around a coffin.

"This is Suicide Star," she tells me, then points to circles on the silver tongue. "These are his pain pills. It's about people who are really into what they're doing, they don't care if they have pain or whatever. They just keep taking drugs and continue. What they do might kill them, but it's going to make them a star in the end."

Nutty. Sort of a shrine to the Freudian death wish, I reckon. Freaky Japanese art chicks intrigue me, with their sense of independence and intelligence. Too bad the feeling isn't mutual, because there's more than one hottie in-house esta noche. Take Keiko Murakami, who's of Japanese descent to be precise, as she was born and raised in the Zona. Pixie-ish with a blond-black Mohawk, she has a playfully deviant deck, which she calls After I blew wise monkey 4 . . . I assumed position 3. It's populated by a group of drunken, foul-mouthed, cheese-cutting cats and simians.

"I purposefully tried to pick a really dirty title," she says, laughing. "The cat is my alter ego, and he wants to be one of these wise monkeys, but then he farts in the hot springs. On the back, you can see that the monkey who caught him gets a coconut in the balls."

"Hmmm, if you hadn't pointed all this out, I would have had no idea," I comment.

"I like the potty humor," she explains. "And playing off Japanese culture. What I can get away with. I figure it's okay because I'm Japanese."

No, I didn't just talk to the cute Japanese gals. Actually, I'd almost need another Inferno to do everyone justice, but I should mention this Native American cat Doug Miles, owner of Apache Skateboards in San Carlos. His deck is a graphic, poster-like rendering of Marlon Brando as Don Corleone in The Godfather. I ask him why he chose Brando, so he schools me.

"A lot of people forget or are too young to remember that Brando was a big supporter of the American Indian Movement," he relates. "So I did this one of Brando and called it Chief, because in The Godfather series he was sort of the chief of his tribe."

With the evening's end, so ends the show, though the decks will be for sale online at for the next two months. If you missed it, stay tuned, because the Molten Ones are promising a bigger, better "Deck II" show, same bat time, next year.

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