The Shibuya neighborhood in central Tokyo is constantly in a quiet buzz. When its a city of 30m plus people, its surprising to talk about the way in which the city has a crowded serenity, where even in its most cramped train cars, there is this sort of appreciation for an order and peace. In perhaps the most humid weeks of the year in Japan, the stifling heat has and even more subdued feeling over the city, but tonight, outside of the RVCA flagship store, something is beginning to take shape. MMA legend BJ Penn is about to start his signing. A line is forming. Across the street, Aaron Rose is putting the finishing touches on Beautiful Losers: Now & Then, a not-so-retrospective of the legendary and highly influential museum show and movement started in the US in the 1990s underground scene. A car full of professional skaters and surfers pulls up to the store. In a way, there is an odd connection: surf, skate, MMA, art.
But RVCA, the clothing and lifestyle brand that has seamlessly made these cultures part of the pillars of their ethos, this is almost normal. The RVCA World Tour, where these personalities from the RVCA family do citywide activations, is just as much about storytelling as it is about product. One night Zak Noyle is doing a slideshow of his surf photos, and the next day the Smith Street Tattoo Parlour is showcasing their new collection with RVCA. And, in one of the best dichotomies of the week, BJ Penn is doing a signing across the street from Beautiful Losers.
Its hard to call the Beautiful Losers show a retrospective or even nostalgic because the movement that came out of Aarron Roses Alleged Gallery the artists who define the moniker have never “gone away,” and in the passing years, have come to define a particular subset of contemporary art. That RVCAs artistic pillar, the Artist Network Program (ANP) has continued the tradition of camaraderie and unity amongst many of the Beautiful Losers that in itself is one of the most unique art movements of the last 25 years. Its not street art, or graffiti, or skateboarding DIY culture, its entirely its own thing. Beautiful Losers is a genre all on its own.
Seeing many of these artists in a room together again, with new and old bodies of work side-by-side, is a reminder of just how much of our aesthetic culture is wrapped into the works of Barry McGee, Steve Powers, Margaret Kilgallen, Johanna Jackson, Ed and Deanna Templeton, Mark Gonzales, Geoff McFetridge, Spike Jonze or Chris Johanson. And as much as many of these artists have come to define what an emerging underground scene means to contemporary art, there is still this underdog teamwork energy all week. Alexis Ross is helping Rose with the lighting. Steve Powers is holding court while finishing his installation of his signature sign-painting works. Ed and Deanna Templeton are cleaning their frames from dust. McGee and his cohorts come in and out, adding to the legendary feeling in the room. Tattoo stalwart Bert Krak provides a calm. Mark Oblow is snapping everyones portraits. It feels like family.
And thats the thing. To the extent that Beautiful Losers always felt like an extended family permeates with the RVCA operation. The personalities, athletes, artists and culture may have separate practices, this vibe all feels of the same wavelength. And even in the 100 plus degree heat going late into the night, as the opening night of Now & Then comes to a close, I see McGee with a grin and a little mischievous look as he wanders into the night. Seeing the RVCA family and reimaging the Losers had everyone feeling a bit comfortable and youthful. The backdrop of Tokyo seemed like the perfect stage for a reunion. —Evan Pricco