It was an idyllic ski day when artists Yutaka Sone and Benjamin Weissman met on a Mammoth Mountain summit through their mutual friend, the artist Paul McCarthy. The air was crisp, the sky clear blue, the ski slope dusted with fresh, icy powder.
"It was a perfect moment," Weissman says. "We skied all afternoon; and then we were like, 'Let's go to the art supply store and make some paintings!'"
And so began more than five years of athletic and artistic collaboration. The result is the upcoming exhibition "Snow" at the Santa Monica Museum of Art.
Both artists had long been inspired by winterscapes, even before they met. Sone, who's originally from Shizuoka, Japan, and now lives in Los Angeles, had created snowflake sculptures carved out of crystal, and Weissman, also a fiction writer who teaches at California Institute of the Arts, once founded a zine called Snowflake.
But their shared passion for skiing and all its ephemeral pleasures — pine-scented forests, lofty mountain peaks, "drawing" on slick, white canvases of snow with skinny metal skis — further sparked their creativity and propelled their productivity.
On art-skiing expeditions, they often created separate works. Other times they painted on a shared canvas. Five paintings grew to 10, then 20 and "suddenly we had a show here," Weissman says.
The exhibition of snow-inspired drawings and paintings also includes whimsical papier-mâché and clay figurines representing the artists' "alter egos," a kangaroo skier (Weissman) and a cat skier (Sone). The show will be anchored by a giant free-standing sculptural mountain and ski lift in the center of the gallery space, which the artists built together.
The combination of different works, bound by a central theme, has a sort of "fanatical presence," Weissman says. "Flying around on skis, you're like a kind of hyper-animated animal rather than a sedentary human. Then you come down from the mountain, you come off of this high, and I think we just wanted to document it. Comment on it. Make little tributes to it.
"'Snow' is really about our affection for and devotion to skiing — it's about not wanting [the experience] to end and extending it with pictures."
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