Artist Andrew Schoultz keeps the edge alive with his 'Infinity Plaza' skate park in Miami.
Like graffiti, the art world's interest and commodification of skateboarding is often tenuous, as both disciplines are based on rule breaking and freeform expression. Wrangling that into a gallery exhibition immediately sucks the danger and tension out, often lacking the context so vital to these arts—the actual movement. A visual artist whose work ties back into the physical act of skateboarding, not just its aesthetics, Andrew Schoultz's Infinity Plaza, which debuted at Miami Art Basel this past December, creates an interactive piece that communicates to both skateboarders and the audience.
"During Art Basel much of the work is presented in this sort of 'precious or fragile' way," he says. "A block away, there is literally a street art project where there are ropes in front of the walls and security guards. It's the opposite of the root of which this stuff comes from. You put something on the street you don't get to control it. The idea with this is to create a beautiful art installation and then let people fucking thrash it."
Organized by Mana Contemporary and Juxtapoz Magazine, Schoultz conceived the obstacles fabricated by artist Jason Ranft, designing surfaces where he could paint his ornate and vaguely psychedelic line work and iconography. The permanent public work located in Wynwood is more than just a dressed up skate park, as Schoultz's intention was to create a space that opens dialogue, calling back to the plazas he grew up skating, the ones that cultivated community throughout the 80s–90s.
"Historically, the civic plaza was a public meeting place," he says. "Maybe political speeches were given, maybe people would have debates about things that were deemed important or relevant topics of the time period would be addressed. However, rarely are they ever serving this purpose. They are left to the homeless, the drug dealers, the vagrants, and of course the skateboarders, yet they still make skating illegal at these places. I wanted to create a fantastical place to skate that combined the fun of skating, the public plaza, and the undertones of post contemporary politics into one experience."
When viewed without a single skater pushing through, the park conveys an almost unsettling feeling. Schoultz's work is bright and boisterous, almost dizzying, while the actual constructions and structures look damaged—the fallout of conflict. In many ways, there's nothing celebratory about Infinity Plaza, as the work creates a pensive landscape that can feel forbidden and even inappropriate—like skating on a war memorial.
"The idea appealed to me to create this sort of theatrical war scene, where there are tipped over pillars act as (skateable) ledges, a military tank blowing a hole in a wall, illuminati pyramids watching, oil sludge all over the ground," he says. "Maybe kids see this whole symbolism at the skate spot. It's indicative of what is going in this world, which is war, destruction, invasions of privacy, and rights, as well as our environment is about to go down the tubes, because of who just got elected."
Despite the provocative themes, Schoultz's work is ultimately still a skate park designed for use and enjoyment. With plans to create similar spaces in Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco, Schoultz is beholden to the utility of the project, emphasizing that while there's a socio-political intent with his work, the intent is to make something fun and accessible to skate.
"Sometimes I think skate parks are failures because they are designed with the intent of pleasing everyone," he says. "These are mostly obstacles that resemble natural streets and are simple and somewhat easy to skate. In my heart of hearts, I would still like to believe that skaters have the unique characteristic of looking at the world in a very different way. Things that are mundane objects for most can be fun to skate. At its core, it's a very artful way of looking at the world."
Watch a video and see more photos from Infinity Plaza below:
Andrew Schoultz's Infinity Plaza is an interactive skate park that communicates to both skateboarders and the audience organized by Mana Contemporary and Juxtapoz Magazine, located in Miami's Wynwood district.