Taste the Sand

Two Kooks and the King of Creedle is surfing verite

Artwork by Thomas CampbellSurfing is so carefully planned, designed, marketed and sold that it's hard to see past the expensive ephemera and realize how fleeting it really is. But a cryptically named new art show in Laguna Beach, "Two Kooks and the King of Creedle," capitalizes on—and captures—the pastime's temporal, ethereal nature, as seen through the eyes of artists Thomas Campbell, Alex Kopps and Steve Krajewski, a.k.a. Estaban Bojorquez: surfers in youth and early middle age who understand that you never ride the same wave twice.

"It's such a pure thing," says Krajewski of Malibu, whose artistic—and actual—surname is Bojorquez, who's designed an Anderson surfboard model and who's known for his found-object assemblages. "It's kind of like those sand paintings before they started gluing them down: you create, but then you return it to nature. That's what surfing has always meant to me."

That's also the way he's always surfed, in a style Kopps, a graffiti artist from Oakland, calls "creedle": "Slang for someone who crouches a lot and spends their time in the steepest part of the wave," Kopps explains. "It's maybe more of a personal place to be on the wave. Steve was the king of crouching in the steepest part of the wave, and he's a much better surfer than we are." Kopps and Campbell, a Dana Point native perhaps best known for his surf film Sprout or else his cuddly, carefully painted little monsters, are the kooks: the lesser surfers.

In art, however, all three men are on a par. A painter who quit his day job a generation ago, Bojorquez will show a series of assemblages—large-scale collages of flotsam and jetsam, hubcaps, pieces of chandeliers, light rings from an old pool—that recall surfing's humble beginnings and its inherent simplicity. The board leashes, the rash guards, the sunblock are all the icing; his compilations—some blown through with actual surf foam—resemble what you might find washed up onshore a couple of hours south of Ensenada. Like a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich at the beach, you can taste the sand in his work.

Similar is Kopps, the secret painter, whose work sometimes comes in photograph form, mounted in or on rough-hewn shadow boxes on gallery walls, framed by flame-shaped waves. His "Kooks" material is mixed media—paintings and drawings—but his influences are the same. "Spending time in the ocean has inherently affected me as a person," he says. "You can't deny that when you spend hundreds of hours staring into the sea, waiting."

Nor can Campbell, whose "Kooks" offerings—hazy surf photos stitched onto paper—bridge the span between the cute, big-eyed monsters he's painted at places like RVCA in Costa Mesa and his surf film. Taken with a Polaroid instant camera, they're redolent of days at the beach, with the kind of near overexposures that come from gazing into the sun. It's not too far ahead of where the surfwear giants are going with their graphics—but the motivation, of course, is completely different.

"I don't find that the modern surf media or the companies relate or really even care about anything except selling products to the pawns," Campbell says via telephone. "To me surfing's just a beautiful activity."

As it is seen here.

"TWO KOOKS AND THE KING OF CREEDLE," THE SURF GALLERY, 911 S. COAST HWY., LAGUNA BEACH, (949) 376-9155; WWW.THESURFGALLERY.COM.

 
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