After moving from Astoria to Lower East Side, Skewville, the prolific graphic pop-artists known for their trademark plywood converse shoes, have finally found a home in Bushwick. Just don’t call them street artists.
“No way we want to use the word “street art” ever again,” said Ad Deville, one half of the artist team Skewville. “Now it just seems that people put people’s art in the streets and then put the same art on a canvass in a gallery. It seems too formulaic. We’re going to try to change it up.”
The Factory Fresh gallery, run by Ali Ha, Deville and Deville's twin brother, known as DROO, also of Skewville, will have its Grand Opening on June 6, coinciding with Bushwick Open Studios and Arts Festival. The gallery’s debut exhibition will feature a solo collection of new work from Skewville before delving into work from like-minded artists in future shows.
“We have a 3,000 person mailing list,” said Ha, an artist who managed the Skewville-affiliated Orchard Street Gallery. “We have no idea who’s going to show up. We’re deeper in Brooklyn.”
Originally named after a dilapidated building in Astoria, Queens, where artists congregated, Skewville has been making art out of plywood and found materials since the late 90s. Deville even had Skewville, NY, on his New York State drivers license, confusing neighborhod police officers.
In 1999, ten years after Shephard Fairey started putting Obey posters throughout Brooklyn, Skewville began the Sneaker Project, where they tossed plywood Converse sneakers on telephone wires next to real shoes.
“That was our fame game project,” Deville said. “We knew what they were going to create.”
Skewville developed a cult following after the project and the shoes have become collector’s items. For each gallery opening, they make a new edition of the shoe, just like the Nike Air Jordans and other sneakers that feature new designs each season. The most recent incarnation is a plywood ski boot that says “All Terrain” which Skewville hung on wires in Salt Lake City and Detroit during their recent travels. The shoes are often donated for benefits though posters of the shoes and plywood prototypes are sometimes for sale. If you still want one, get a ladder.
“People are always finding the shows,” Ha said. “They fall sometimes. They haven’t heard anyone we know of.”
From the plywood shoes to 2-D posters grocery store crates to dark, to funhouse-style fonts of advertisements, Skewville has appropriated the urban world around them and created work to fit wryly within that environment. Their art is heavily influenced by illustration, graphic design and typography.
“It’s about street cred,” Deville said. “Anyone can do street art. The stuff we did worked with the environment. The crates, bolting a vent on a building, throwing sneakers had a reason of being there. Our stuff is more site-specific.”
For future shows at Factory Fresh, Ha is planning on visiting other galleries and show openings to look for undiscovered artists she can bring into her network.
“If something comes up that I love, I want to be able to put it in a show,” Ha said. “I won’t want to be locked in a year in advance. I don’t want to show what you’ve seen a bizillion times. I want to show all new work. It has to be new.”
Skewville and Ha are happy they ended up in Bushwick and have been impressed by the scene of other fledgling galleries, artists, and curators that have cropped up around Flushing Avenue in recent years.
“We’re not going anywhere for a while,” Ha said. “We didn’t want to get kicked out of another space. We’re in it for the long haul.”
Factory Fresh’s Grand Opening featuring a solo show by Skewville will be on June 6 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 1053 Flushing Avenue. For more information visit www.factoryfresh.net.