The Los Angeles-based California Locos artist collective and the family of legendary surf-psychedelic artist Rick Griffin have rolled out a new, limited edition of high-end collectible skateboards and merchandise sporting some of Griffin’s most iconic illustrations.
Among them are the late artist’s early-1960s Surfer magazine character Murphy, the Von Dutch-inspired surfing eyeball, Griffin’s 1970 poster for John Severson’s epic “Pacific Vibrations” surf movie, the spermatozoon surfers of “Tales from the Tube,” the surfing sea serpent in Backdoor, the Flying Eyeball with alien and thunderbolt, and the desert-themed Monument Eyeball.
Official street date: Tuesday, December 13, 2022. Check them out here.
The California Locos are contemporary West Coast art legends Chaz Bojórquez (73), John Van Hamersveld (81), Norton Wisdom (75), Gary Wong (80), and founder Dave Tourjé (62, the whippersnapper of the crew). Van Hamersveld and Wong were among Griffin’s classmates and friends at the Chouinard Art Institute in Downtown L.A. in the mid-1960s.
The Locos and their creative director, Nano Nobrega, design and produce high-end skateboards and merchandise as vehicles for their own art as well as images created by other influential contemporary artists they admire and respect – like Rick Griffin.
“Our deal is for the seven skateboard models, various merchandising, hoodies, ponchos, and t-shirts,” Tourjé said. “The decks are numbered, 1 to 150 – no trucks or wheels, just the decks. Our quality involves both the top and bottom of the skateboard, not just the bottom, so they’re very detailed. The completes, as we call them, are basic complete boards [with trucks and wheels]. We have four versions of those, including what’s called a surf skate, a totally specialized skateboard that relates more closely to surfing than anything else. The Locos manufacture, market, and promote them, and pay [Rick Griffin Designs] royalties on the sales.”
“We’re super stoked,” said Flaven Griffin-Clayton, Griffin’s eldest daughter and CEO of Rick Griffin Designs, of this latest addition to the colorful artistic legacy of her father, who died in 1991. “It’s been a long time coming. Pre-COVID, we were talking with the Locos about doing something together and the flame just kept burning. Now, finally, we’ve seen the product, and it’s all happening.
“My dad’s art crossed so many different genres, from surf to psychedelic posters and rock and roll,” Griffin-Clayton said. “One of our goals is to really get his name synonymous with his transcendent artwork and have him recognized as one of the great American artists of the 20th century. He deserves a place in that lineup.”
“It’s a limited edition,” Tourjé said; underscoring the fact, the top of each deck is inscribed with the phrase “A LIMITED COLLECTION WITH THE MYTH, LEGEND, AND EARLY LOCO ARCHETYPE.”
“When these sell out, that’s the end of it,” he said. “We’ve done other limited-edition skateboards, like with Robert Williams [of Zap Comix renown], Mister Cartoon [L.A. graffiti-tattoo art legend], and John Van Hamersveld [Surfer magazine art director and “The Endless Summer” poster artist, 1962-63]. But when they’re sold out, we don’t go back and do more. We’re already on to the next thing.”
Casual fans might think the line’s prices are a bit loco. But the partners think surf-skate-rock-art and pop-culture aficionados will appreciate the value of Griffin’s art, the creative designs and the quality materials the Locos use, and the rarity of this first and only edition.
“We’re a little higher than average because ours are a lot better than average, to be honest,” Tourjé said. “You can buy a Supreme – they’re very expensive. Or you can buy something at Walmart that’s very cheap. The truth is, they’re all wood, some with art on them. There’s no uniform pricing for skateboards anymore, so we just try to find a happy balance between us putting so much money into them and also making them accessible to our collectors and fans. So if you’re just looking to skateboard and don’t care about the art, or the quality of the details, these are not the boards you want. These are collectibles.”
The skateboards may be instant pop-culture artifacts, but Tourjé notes they’re not designed just for display. They’re also functional art pieces designed to shred.
“People call me all the time and say, ‘Gosh, I just want to put it on the wall,’ or, ‘My kid rode it and scratched it,'” he said. “I’m a skateboarder, so I’m like, ‘Look, a skateboard is not a skateboard without dings, okay?’ [laughs] They’re skateboards. It’s like buying a hammer and not using it.
“But I do appreciate these are collectible, and some people don’t ride, so they just want a beautiful piece, and want it perfect,” he said. “Then it’s just about the art and appreciation of the image in a different medium. It’s not on a canvas, it’s on an object. Okay, good. I don’t have any philosophical problem with that [laughs].
“At the same time, I’m a hardcore skateboarder,” Tourjé said, “so whatever the board is, I’m out to, like they say, ‘skate and destroy.'”
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Who Was Rick Griffin? A Brief Bio
Born in Los Angeles on June 18, 1944, Rick Griffin was a surfer and artist who came of age when his family lived in the nearby South Bay.
His cartoon characters and illustrations found their first national audience via Surfer magazine in the early 1960s, including Murphy, the bushy, bushy, blond-haired gremmie surfer.
Surfer publisher John Severson hired Griffin joined as a staff illustrator just after he graduated from Palos Verdes High School in 1962. Murphy made the cover of Vol. 3 No. 3 later that summer.
A few years later, his increasingly intricate illustrations for Surfer’s “Adventures of Griffin & Stoner” series hilariously depicted crazy surfing safaris to exotic locales (some real, some imagined) with photographer Ron Stoner.
A near-fatal car crash that badly scarred the left side of his face, studies at the Chouinard art school, psychedelics, marriage (to classmate Ida Pfefferle), fatherhood (daughters Flaven and Adelia, born in 1966 and 1970), and Christianity all factored into Griffin’s life from the mid-1960s well into the 1980s.
Attending Chouinard, he tuned in, turned on, grew his hair long (a style conveniently allowing him to hide his facial scars), and then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. Griffin emerged as one of the hippie counterculture’s most famous poster artists, album cover illustrators, and contributors to underground magazines, most notably Zap Comix, at the invitation of Robert Crumb.
Pop culture observers considered Griffin one of the “big five” artists to come out of the Bay Area, along with Alton Kelley, Mouse Miller, Victor Moscoso, and Wes Wilson. Among other highlights of the period, Griffin created the first logo for Jann Wenner’s new Rolling Stone magazine in 1967, and similarly lettered the title of the Grateful Dead’s third studio album, “Aoxomoxoa,” in 1969.
He moved back to Southern California that year. His later Murphy-on-acid adventures and “Tales From the Tube” comics combined surf and psychedelic culture, as did his evocative poster for “Pacific Vibrations” in 1970. Griffin also appeared in the movie, casually riding waves on a longboard and painting psychedelic designs on a funky old school bus.
By the early 1990s, after further adventures, art projects, and exhibits in New York and Europe, the birth of two more children with Ida (Miles and Katy, in 1980 and ’81), and separation from her in 1989, Griffin was again living in Northern California. He was exploring Celtic motifs in his art and enjoyed riding the breeze on his Harley-Davidson.
On August 18, 1991, three days after his bike crashed into a truck that was making a wrong turn in Petaluma, he died at just 47 years of age. The devastation his family and closest friends felt rippled through the art community and out to his most ardent fans.
After a nine-year probate, Ida Griffin finally secured control of her husband’s artwork and established Rick Griffin Designs to handle the sale and licensing of his images.
“She was his art director when he was alive, and now, she’s the historical art director for Rick Griffin Designs,” Flaven said. “She’s the foremost expert on my dad and his art, coloring, and style, and about what happened, when, where, and how. Our mom is the matriarch of the family and the top consultant for all of that history.
“But she’s been carrying that torch for a long time, and ready to kind of pass it on to us,” Flaven said. “I’m the CEO now and work with my husband Tod [Clayton], who’s our director of licensing and new product development. But we still run everything by Mom.”
Griffin’s Profound Influence on the California Locos
According to their website, the California Locos “began as a collective of artists – a manifesto of the unique DNA that was born in Southern California. LOCOS is a movement that embodies the innovation, multiculturalism, and rebellious spirit of its hometown of Los Angeles, sharing the stories and crafts of its collaborative artists. It represents the roots of SoCal subcultures – from hippie to punk rock, surfing to skateboarding, tattoo to graffiti, lowrider to hotrod, and lowbrow to fine art. Being a LOCO means being crazy about life, being creative, rebellious, and open-minded to the ethnic and cultural diversities of our city and the world. Our skateboards are the ‘vehicle’ to transport our message, and our language is universal – the language of ART.”
“I think Rick Griffin and his art have highly impacted every single one of us,” Tourjé said, one reason they refer to him on the skateboard decks as an “early Loco archetype.”
Van Hamersveld and Griffin met on the beach and surfed together in 1962 when Rick was still a high school surfer-illustrator. They’d soon both be working for Surfer magazine, as art director and staff illustrator, respectively.
“John grew up with Rick, had the early Palos Verdes surf community and Chouinard angles, which are super historic, and Gary also knew Rick from art school,” Tourjé said. “Norton, being a surf culture geek – he’s heavily impacted. And Chaz, West Coast graffiti, was super impacted. In fact, Chaz wrote the essay for a [Griffin] museum show.”
Catching the next generational wave, Tourjé said he discovered Griffin in the early ’70s, when he was in his early teens.
“I’d been surfing since I was about 12, and attempting to become an artist since I was about 2,” he said. “Those things came together when I ran into Griffin’s work, like Murphy, in the early Surfer magazines. I was already into MAD magazine and copying all that stuff. I had [Ed] ‘Big Daddy’ Roth plastic car models I would build, and draw them, and [Roth’s] monsters. So I was into that culture. Rick’s later work definitely knocked me sideways, especially the early ‘70s stuff when he was really going off, like the Zap Comix style. Huge impact.”
Van Hamersveld on Griffin’s Symbology, Legacy
Rick Griffin’s legend has only grown since his death. His family’s line of skateboards and merch with the California Locos adds to his legacy and underscores how his tremendously influential art and fascinating life story continue to connect and inspire successive generations on the skate-surf-art-music scenes.
“That’s what’s so marvelous about it,” Van Hamersveld said. “Rick’s art has attracted all these young people, a new generation wanting to know about hippies and surfers, and this mystical relationship he had with all that in the symbology he used.
“What was so interesting about the time we lived in during the late ’60s,” said Hammer, who frequently took the hour-long flight from LAX to SFO to visit the Griffins, “was that emblems that represented all different kinds of things, like symbols from different religions and cultures, were pulled together into the Haight-Ashbury message, into the [hippie] culture.
“Rick used a lot of symbology through the bands’ album covers and magazines and newspapers,” he said. “He was the master of that. His is a more elaborate cartoon image; my images are a little flatter and more modern. In the era, while he was still living, he was worshipped. Everybody thought Rick Griffin was the drop-dead guy, better than all the other poster artists. But Rick was also so mysterious and strange to most people, with his long hair covering the scars.”
Find out lots more about Griffin’s legend and legacy here.
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How Chouinard, Family Ties Brought the Locos & Griffins Together
Chouinard Art Institute connections and longtime Griffin family friendships paved the path for the California Locos-Rick Griffin Designs collaboration.
When Locos Wong and Van Hamersveld attended Chouinard with Griffin and his wife Ida in the mid-1960s, their close circle of art school friends also included Boyd Elder (the Texas-born “artlaw” who Griffin nicknamed “El Chingadero“), Elder’s partner Luann Finlayson (who was also assistant to the dean at Chouinard), and Terry O’Shea (whose “Finish Fetish” artworks illustrated the L.A. style of the era). Griffin, Elder, and Allen were so tight, classmates tagged them the “Three Amigos.”
O’Shea and his partner Laura Pfefferle (Ida’s sister) had a daughter, Tara, who as she grew up was close to her Uncle Rick and Aunt Ida’s first two kids, Flaven and Adelia. The girls were also friends with Flaunn and Shaula, Elder and Finlayson’s daughters.
After O’Shea died in 2002, Tara inherited her dad’s art archive. Years later, looking into his Chouinard connection and discovering the Chouinard Foundation, she reached out to Tourjé, who in 1999 had co-founded the nonprofit organization to honor the Institute’s legacy (the school was founded in 1921 and merged into California Institute of the Arts in 1961; the original campus closed in 1970).
“Tara contacted me to find out more about her father attending Chouinard,” Tourjé said, “and basically, we started a conversation. I ended up buying pretty much all the artwork she had, in the process learning how Terry and Rick were best friends. Because Tara and Flaven and Adelia more or less grew up together, I connected with them [and Rick Griffin Designs] at Tara’s urging.”
“Tara was working with Dave and told him, ‘You gotta meet my cousin – she’s been handling the requests [for Rick Griffin art],” Flaven said.
Meanwhile, in 2018, Flaven and her husband-business partner Tod, who reside in Hawaii, were traveling in California and stopped to visit Van Hamersveld and his wife Alida Post, a noted art collector-dealer who also represents John’s graphic art, at their Palos Verdes home.
“We spent an afternoon with John and Alida, just chatting,” Clayton said. “They mentioned they were working with Nano and Dave with the California Locos [on a skateboard design project]. We hadn’t heard of the Locos at that point. But once we connected with them, [our relationship] started to develop. So we’ve been talking to Nano and those guys for almost five years. And here we are.”
“There was no questioning whether we were going to do it, just how, and when,” Tourjé said, with a chuckle. “We all think it was a perfect cultural fit, a match made in heaven.”
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Launch Party on the Patio at Venice Beach
The California Locos artists and members of the Griffin family gathered with more than 100 fans and supporters for a pre-launch celebration at the Waterfront restaurant and bar on Ocean Front Walk in Venice on November 30.
The Locos, Juice magazine, and the Waterfront hosted the event, and Ida Griffin, daughters Flaven and Adelia, son Miles, and Clayton were guests of honor. Surf legend Herbie Fletcher and all five Locos were on hand to share personal Rick Griffin stories with the rapt audience.
Tourjé also introduced “Rick Griffin Interlude 01: Pacific Vibrations,” the first in a series of short films he’s producing with former Surfer magazine Travel Editor Steve Barilotti, projected on a theater-size big screen on the Waterfront patio, followed by the legendary Severson film in its entirety.
Dubbed “Woodstock on a wave” by Entertainment Today back then, “Pacific Vibrations” boasted an all-star cast of world-famous surfers including Jock Sutherland, Rolf Aurness, David Nuuhiwa, Jeff Hakman, Mickey Dora, Angie Reno, Chuck Dent, Mike Purpus, and Corky Carroll, plus “a cast of thousands,” according to the credits. It was a revolutionary time in surfing, as short boards and drugs were taking hold.
The soundtrack featured psychedelic-tinged music by Cream, the Steve Miller Band, Leo Kottke, Ry Cooder, Little Walter, Crosby, Stills & Nash (including CSN’s “Wooden Ships,” no less, also in Michael Wadleigh’s “Woodstock” film out the same year), and half a dozen other psyche-rock bands few have heard from since.
The film is now a cult favorite among fans of the sights and sounds of the era, and Griffin’s “Pacific Vibrations” poster, among his most iconic and enduring images, is prominently featured in the marketing campaign for California Locos-Rick Griffin Designs’ collaboration.
“The launch party – we couldn’t have been more surprised or excited about it,” Clayton-Griffin said. “That was pretty special.”
One guest observed how special it was that Griffin’s family was so dedicated to protecting and carrying on his legacy.
“We’ve got a good family,” Flaven said, smiling. “We just miss our dad.”
Stephen K. Peeples is a Grammy-nominated multi-media writer-producer and award-winning radio/record-industry veteran raised in Miami and Los Angeles by career newspaper journalists and music lovers. Based in Santa Clarita, California, and retired after a 40-year media career, he is (as of late 2022) conspiring with Cindy Johnson and Jeri Jenkins, founders of Home at Last, the Miami-based concierge service for rock stars recording at Criteria and Bayshore Studios, on researching and writing the dynamic duo’s memoir. Peeples is also co-authoring a new book with artist and pop-culture legend John Van Hamersveld commemorating the 60th anniversary in 2023 of Hammer’s iconic poster for Bruce Brown’s epic surf movie “The Endless Summer.” And Peeples is developing an art book-biography, “Boyd Elder, Artlaw: The Greatest Artist You’ve Never Heard Of,” about the artist who created the skull art for three classic albums by the rock group Eagles and much more (due in 2024). See the “About” page on Peeples’ website. More original stories and exclusive interviews are posted there and on his YouTube channel.
Article: California Locos, Rick Griffin Family Drop New Skateboards, Merch
Category: News and Reviews
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Article Source: stephenkpeeples.com