Spirit of Summer

June 21 - August 31, 2014
Path of A Wave Warrior: Selections from the Fletcher Collection 

MOAH is proud to present selected works from the Herbie and Dibi Fletcher Collection. Selections include Herbie Fletcher’s signature art work, vintage surfboards, photographs, and historic film footage. Herbie Fletcher is globally recognized as a surfing legend and a pioneering inventor who helped shape—literally and figuratively— the way surfing is practiced today. Herbie and Dibi’s story embodies the passion and determination of America’s trailblazing, entrepreneurial spirit:

 

Herbie and Dibi Fletcher first met in Waianae, on Oahu’s west side during Dibi’s family’s annual trip to the Makaha Surf Contest in 1964. Her dad, Walter Hoffman, was a contest judge and her sister, Joyce, was competing on her road to the women's surfing world title. Herb was looking for his board which someone had given to Dibi’s sister to hang on to, as they were in the same surf club. It was a brief encounter that would change both of their lives.  They saw each other frequently on the surf contest circuit that was filled with the colorful characters of the time and by the Makaha contest in '66, Herb was competing and filming with Greg MacGillivray who was making Free and Easy with his partner Jim Freeman.

 

By 1969, Herb and Dibi called the house at Pupakea home. It was idyllic, no footprints on the beach, no TV, phones, radio, or newspapers, a tropical paradise. The first thing Herb did was build a shaping room in the back yard where he continued working on the downrail and mini gun that he and Mike Hynson had been perfecting in the winter of '67/'68 when they were first exploring the waves at Pipeline Rights, now known as Backdoor and Off The Wall. Herb could shape and glass a board in the afternoon and have it in the line-up by morning, allowing him almost instant feedback on his design ideas.

 

Soon thereafter the Fletchers started the Islands first Clark Foam franchise and began to take part in a fantastic time of innovation in surfboard design and construction. Boards were getting lighter, and faster allowing the surfer to get farther back in the tube and still make it out alive. Gone were the days of the surf style from their father’s generation where the surfer took off and trimmed: standing in one place on the board out in front of the break. Now the goal was to get deep in the barrel, so the shapers were creating a new vocabulary in board design to keep up with the needs of the surfers who were pushing themselves and their equipment like never before.

 

With the need to support a growing family the Fletchers decided to head back to the mainland. They opened the Herbie Surfboard Shop on Coast Hwy in Dana Point to reintroduce the longboard that had gone out of popularity with the advent of the new modern short board. Herb realized that the high performance boards that he had help popularize were keeping people on the mainland from enjoying the surfing that's available on the California coast. They started a campaign "The Thrill is Back" with his square nose, turned down rail, fast moving, nose riding flying machine, built for hot dogging, nose riding and drop knee turns. Having grown up in the generation of long boards and personally being part of the short board revolution Herb took the best from both and created light weight, highly manoeuvrable boards that the guy who worked behind a desk during the week could still go out on the weekends and have a blast instead of sitting on a short board in the line up like a buoy, unable to catch anything.

 

Although successful, retail was something Herb found extremely difficult. He had a much more entrepreneurial/ inventor type mindset and the day to day was far better suited to someone else. He started experimenting with an elastomere that he was positive when applied to the tail of the surfboard  would eliminate the use of wax and give more fin and rail control, something completely extraordinary. He thought it would not only revolutionize surfing, but boating, bath and shower bottoms and pool decks.  He called it Astrodeck. Like all inventors, he was so passionate about the advantages, he was sure he had a Hit. He never thought that the surfers wouldn’t jump at the chance to experience a new, light weight, technically advanced way to have more control over the board. It was an interesting lesson in human nature to see how reluctant individuals are to change, but our sons Christian and Nathan became perfect test pilots for Herb’s fertile imagination. Herb had been experimenting with video as a promotion for Astrodeck and with film left over, the idea of capturing the most awesome surf with the greatest contemporary surfers all riding his product was irresistible. He was back to Oahu’s north shore with secure access to the Pipeline and the most select group of fearless tube riders that the Pipeline was becoming known for.

 

Over the course of the next eight years Herb made 5 videos in the Wave Warrior series that took the viewer deep into the tube at Pipeline, screaming down the face at gigantic Sunset, blasting into the air on a Jet Ski over mountains of water out a Second Reef Pipe and speeding down the line at Maaleaa, sailboarders doing aerial 360’s on Maui, surfers, watermen, pushing the boundaries like never before.  These videos showcased the who’s who of Rad, and documented the progress of modern surfing, that started with their father’s generation trimming, to the generation of surfers who got so deep in the barrel and at the last moment spit out with amazing speed, to the abstract expressionists who took surfing into the air. Dibi and Herb’s son, Christian Fletcher lead the aerial assault and caused quite a stir in the mainstream surfing establishment that Herb documented with relish. With more than 60 video titles capturing forever the history of surf that today has finally seen the coming of age of a style that seemed blasphemous a few decades earlier. Surfing has come a long way and seen the awe inspiring big wave adventures of a few complete madmen, our son Nathan included riding 60’ tubes over razor sharp reefs in a couple of feet of water with photographers in tow capturing every breath taking moment, it all has a feeling of déjà vu as the dreams we had a youngsters in the early years in Hawaii are now a reality.

 

During the years Herb was most actively filming, he was also shooting stills of the greatest surfers and has hundreds of thousands of images that he’s used in a variety of ways to tell his story of a surf life, from huge blow ups in his collaboration with Julian Schnabel to photo collages that seem like a short movie themselves in their ability to capture the imagination and allow the viewer a glimpse into a rarefied behind the scene atmosphere of life lived on the edge.

 

As a surfboard shaper/glasser that depended on design to be able to manoeuvre in the most critical circumstances it seemed perfectly natural to use the board itself to create art as an extension of his life and passion. It’s been a honour to have the young surf greats of today saving boards they broke at the Pipeline to be part of the Wrecktangle series. It’s been a fantastic journey and the show “Path of a Wave Warrior” pays tribute to Herb’s love affair with a lifestyle that has given them so much.

The Art of COOP: Surfers Cross I and II

Los Angeles Based artist COOP (Christopher Cooper) is among a group of second generation pop surrealists working at the intersection of illustration and fine art with a focus on the hot rod, rock and roll, punk rock and the comic books associated with a “delinquent youth” counter-culture.   Working continuously since age 16, COOP started creating band posters, concert fliers and 45 record sleeves.  COOP was influenced by the renowned first generation Lowbrow artist “Big Daddy Roth”, the California hot-rod builder and the work of pioneering painter/illustrator Robert Williams, co-creator of Juxtapoz magazine; Williams impressed upon COOP the need to bridge the gap between commercial art, highly skilled representational painting and fine art. Moving to Los Angeles from Oklahoma in 1988, COOP put these influences into action creating graphics for the record industry. He subsequently held a studio at the Brewery in downtown LA which allowed him the space to move from small scale music industry posters and cover art to large scale paintings. His 2003 large format 6’ paintings earned him a reputation and he continues to work large format today, as shown here with Surfers Cross (I & II) 2014. This 144” x 72” acrylic & enamel on canvas diptych represents the cooption of war symbols and imagery by the surf culture. COOP notes his alliance to 1960s youth culture and the underlying thrust of Surfers Cross (I & II):

“I’m not a surfer. My experience of surf culture comes at a slight remove. I’ve long been obsessed with all the aspects of 60s youth culture (mind you, I’m not talking about hippies, but the real 60s youth culture - hot rods, rock & roll and surfing).”

The surfer’s cross is a commercialized version of an Iron Cross, the Prussian military decoration first designed by Karl Freidrich Schinkel for King Frederick William III, after the defeat of Napoleon in Russia in 1813. The symbol was used by the Prussian, and later German armed forces through World War II, and to the present day.

In the USA, post-WWII, the Iron Cross became popular as a symbol of nonconformity, worn by surfers, bikers, and hot rodders. In the beginning, these Iron Crosses were the real thing, war trophies brought home by American G.I.s after the war, but soon enough, smart operators like Ed “Big Daddy” Roth began to market newly-made medallions, decals, t-shirts and other items featuring the military decoration.

The surfer’s cross depicted is one of these, a cheap knockoff made to cash in on the surfing “craze”. –COOP, 2014

Doug McCulloh & Jacques Garnier: Photographs from On the Beach 

The real life characters photographed for On The Beach reveal the rich diversity and color of the beach as a social and cultural pageant. California’s beaches are a magnet, not only for the local population, but for the millions who visit California each year. This exhibition features images made over 2 years on California’s beaches, combined with a companion series made on the beaches of Florida. The show rises from a powerfully straightforward idea - go to the beach and capture a chance sample of beachgoers.

 

"The ocean's edge is a place of freedom and desire, a place to stare and to strut, to see and to be seen. Beaches are half display, half voyeurism. This is the precise terrain of photography- one side posing, the other looking. Cameras belong on the beach." —Jacques Garnier and Douglas McCulloh

Curator's Statement: The Artists of the Film Mana

In 2012, while working on another project with Eric Minh Swenson, artist Alex Couwenberg proposed a documentary film idea on process and passion, specifically the passion associated with surfing and its relationship with creativity.  As a curator focused on Southern California, I found this intriguing.  Surfing’s connection with the history of materials in Los Angeles had been well-established, but the process had not really been discussed.  A call to the art-making community went out and the response was overwhelming.  I had no idea that so many serious artists were surfers.  After speaking with dozens of artists, the direction became apparent: all revered the power, beauty and complexity of the ocean, and the physical nature of their interaction with it, both in the water and out.

Based on their contributions as modern day pioneers of the Southern California art world and their availability to travel as a group to Hawaii, the birthplace of surfing, 10 artists were chosen to represent a section of the Southern California contingent. Several of the artists were born and/or raised in Hawaii and have family histories there. The film comprises artist interviews in their Los Angeles studios, as well as footage of them working, surfing and living on location in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. While in Kailua-Kona, the artists participated in a panel lecture at Holualoa Art Foundation’s Donkey Mill Art Center and an exhibition of their work at MELD Gallery.

The documentary was shaped by the directorial vision of Los Angeles-based filmmaker Eric Minh Swenson, who has produced over 500 films featuring major LA artists, curators and collectors. Footage by celebrated cinematographers Marcel Morin and Sarah Mueller of Vitae Sessions coupled with beautiful water images from MANA artist Ken Pagliaro compliment Swenson’s aesthetic sensibility. Our team crafted a feature length film focusing on the brotherhood of a group of artists selected for their artistic contributions in the Southern California art world, each working on their own terms within the Light and Space, Finish Fetish, Design and Assemblage movements that have come to shape and define the Los Angeles art scene. As divergent as each artist’s work is in comparison, they all share a common thread in their process and vision and are constantly driven by the influences and forces of family, friendships, “stoke,” aloha and the common bond of the unseen mana (power) of the land and sea.

Their interactions and conversations with each other and the environment are the focus of the visual narrative. The film MANA, which debuted in Hawaii at the Kona Surf Film Festival to a standing-room-only crowd in 2014, became the impetus for the Museum of Art & History’s exhibition, The Artists of the Film MANA, which opened to record museum visitors in the summer of 2014.  I am extremely proud to present this incarnation of the original Museum exhibition here in Naples, Italy. I would like to thank Cinthia and Renato Penna for their support and facilitation, all of the artists for their willingness to participate, and especially Eric Minh Swenson for telling the story.

Allison Renshaw

Encinitas-based artist Allison Renshaw employs fragmentation as a means to offer multiple perspectives, discordant vocabularies and malleable visual boundaries spanning both her large scale and more intimate sized paintings.  Renshaw’s explosive imagery is informed by particles of our urban landscape and culture found in everyday life.  Fashion, modern architecture, surf culture, and the natural environment combine and collide.  Through her active, frenzied surfaces, Renshaw creates a textured universe that is seemingly random and difficult to decipher.  This chaotic quality becomes an apt visualization of today’s open-source culture of sampling and recycling.  Lines between the organic and human-made become blurred and a larger narrative is evoked through a banal fragment. Renshaw notes she is “interested in how memories occur and connect a life of partial meanings…fragments acknowledge interpretive ambiguities and open the work to sequences of spatial and temporal lapses.  Memory and fantasy synthesize and unravel like a half-remembered dream.” This distinctive approach to the painted surface situates Renshaw’s work at the crossroads of multiple art historical periods including Pop Art, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Contemporary Collage.

An avid surfer, Renshaw was born and raised in Orange County, California. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California and a Master of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2013, she was included in the Cannon Art Gallery’s Invitational and Biennial exhibitions. Other recent exhibitions include Helmuth Projects in San Diego; The Mirus Gallery in San Francisco; the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the Oceanside Museum of Art. She is Associate Faculty at Mira Costa College, Oceanside, California.

Vintage Pinball: Selections from the Thumperdome Collection 

The goal of Thumperdome is to preserve the history, technology, artwork and culture of pinball in America and promote pinball to future generations. Thumperdome houses one of the largest, and most diverse private collections of pinball machines in the nation.  The ever-rotating collection traverses the development of pinball machines from the early bagatelle-like games of the 1930s, to the introduction of pinball flippers in the 1940s, through the captivating and vibrant artwork from the 1950s, and 1960s pinball game themes which reflect the change in youth culture and current events. The 1970s solid-state games progressed alongside the computer age, culminating with the 1980s and 90s when the threat of video games finally toppled pinball from the hearts of American fun-seekers. This collection shares the beauty of the machines and the challenge of the games to entertain, educate and captivate a new generation.

 

These vintage machines take people back to a time when a pocketfull of quarters meant hours of summer fun spent on one’s favorite games with best friends. The games here in the Vault Gallery represent each of the 3 major pinball manufacturers of the era: Gottlieb, Williams and Bally.  These were chosen for their connection to surfing, summer and pop culture.

 

Thumperdome is the name given to the historic pinball collection of Amanda Cole and Art Perez in Pasadena, CA. Both grew up in awe of the silver ball, saving up their quarters to drop in to the nearest pinball machine.  A chance find of a decaying Evel Knievel pinball machine gave Art the opportunity to restore his favorite childhood machine and start the collection that would grow into Thumperdome. Amanda works in technology and Art and is an artist/photographer with a background in engineering. Together, their combined interests and expertise are utilized to restore and rejuvenate machines which they have collected throughout the Country.

John Van Hamersveld: Graphic Posters

Renowned graphic designer and illustrator, John Van Hamersveld’s quest for connecting image or symbol through an abstraction of reality reinforces the emotional connection we make with his images and captures his metaphor of modern life.  He uses the language of graphic design to communicate through visual representations of type, space, symbol, and image.  The essence of graphic design is to give order to information, form to ideas, and expression and feeling to artifacts that document our human experience from as far back as the middle-ages.  John Van Hamersveld combines these graphic design tools with bold color choices, often psychedelic images, and culturally significant events to create his iconic one of kind poster art. 

This 50 year celebration of John Van Hamersveld’s Iconic poster The Endless Summer will be bringing a pop of culture and color to the Museum’s main gallery.  John Van Hamersveld’s work is known for its brightly colored hues, bold lines and commentary on the culturally dominant ideas of the sixties all the way up to current times.  Looking at his posters we can see his relationship with color and the different styles and influences that impacted him and his work, from his education at Art Center College of Design and Chouinard Art Institute, to his work with Surfer magazine, and the influence of peers such as Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, and Rick Griffin. His posters are part of the defining moments of Pop Culture which is seen as a reaction to and an expansion of Abstract Expressionism.  MOAH will be displaying John Van Hamersveld’s art, which range from the iconic 1964 The Endless Summer movie poster to the 2005 Cream Reunion poster in the Main Gallery.  The display will consist of his eighty five posters of Pop Art from the last fifty years.  At the center of the room is the core of his work, created as a student and as a professional, each poster representing an experiment with technique, color, and culture. 

The Endless Summer movie and poster gave birth to the Southern California surf culture which promised un-crowded beaches, new friends, and the perfect wave.  It introduced a new “sport” and defined the style for the surf culture leaving behind a legacy of fashion, music, literature, and popular terms including surf’s up, hang ten, dude, gnarly, and stoked.  John Van Hamersveld’s created image being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant, having been created in Dana Point, a pioneering surf spot, it impacted the local coastal communities of Santa Monica, Venice, and Malibu.  The composition of his Endless Summer poster, the placement of the surfers and the single color tone and hard edge of each image, explore the psychedelic and spiritual side of the surfing culture as well as bridging the gap between locals and visitors. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
View or Download the Spirit of Summer Exhibition Catalog by clicking on the cover image or here.

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