M–F: 12–6 pm; Sa&Su: 11 am–6 pm (during exhibition only)
This exhibition of photography by Grant Brittain, Dan Mathieu, Jody Morris, Scott Serfas, Ed Templeton, Jon West, and others examines the culture of skateboarding in Canada in the 1990s.
Photography and video during this era was not as accessible as it is today, and only a small number of photographers were capturing the Canadian skateboard scene. Pulled from numerous archives, I Was a Teenage Skateboarder in the ’90s reflects on this period when skateboarding was coming into its own and the revolution was being defined in the streets of Canada.
Skateboarding has always been a counterculture activity, one that grew out of California’s surf scene. In the 1970s and ’80s, skateparks sprung up all over the West Coast as skateboarding’s popularity exploded. However, as tricks became increasingly challenging and death defying, the insurance liability became too great, and many of the purpose-built skateparks were closed by the late ’80s.
The early ’90s was a dark time for skateboarding, and many people quit. With the closure of skateparks, diehard skaters were forced to find new terrain: the urban environment. They began performing difficult freestyle skateboard tricks that engaged with city architecture. This hokus pokus involved flipping the skateboard into and out of slides and grinds and down larger and more challenging obstacles, all while pushing the limits of control over the board.
Skateboarders, with their “useless wooden toys,” didn’t play by the rules set by city planners. This reimagining of space, where one’s creativity and physical ability were the only limitations, created confrontations with business owners and police. City legislators saw skateboarders as delinquents, and tried to ban this questionable activity.
This confrontation helped define skateboard culture and attitude in the ’90s. Skaters questioned authority and developed their own aesthetic of “big pants small wheels” as well as their own lexicon to describe tricks and street obstacles. Skateboarding was as much a lifestyle as a sport. For most, skateboarding provided the thrill of pushing oneself physically in a society that was becoming ever more averse to risk. (Text by Michael Love)