June 1977: With graceful aggression, skateboard legend Tony Alva flies the finger as he pivots a backside edger on the lip of a bone-dry swimming pool in Beverly Hills.
August 1981: Sweating through tattered jeans, a bald Henry Rollins, neck veins bulging, moves to the crushing chords of fellow Black Flag band members Greg Ginn and Chuck Dukowski during a gig at Costa Mesa’s infamous Cuckoo’s Nest.
May 1987: Glaring from behind dark shades, rapper Ice-T owns Sunset Boulevard in his maroon Porsche convertible.
“Attitude and integrity tie these images together,” photographer Glen E. Friedman said with a sweeping hand toward the 37 images hung in downtown Los Angeles’ newest gallery, sixspace. “For me it’s about inspiring people, with integrity and rebelliousness.”
For the past quarter century, Friedman has been doing just that. He became a published photographer in 1976, when he was just 12 years old. That first shot, of pool-skating pioneer Jay Adams, ran in Skateboarder magazine. Adams, Alva and the rest of Venice Beach’s groundbreaking Zephyr skateboarding team were featured in this year’s hit documentary, “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” which Friedman co-produced.
During the late 1970s, Friedman contributed frequently to Skateboarder, focusing on the sweaty snarls and elegantly contorted body positioning of bank- and pool-riding maneuvers. This penchant for capturing attitude and fury lent Friedman a smooth transition into his early-'80s documentation of punk rock bands.
Friedman said he enjoyed the same comfortable accessibility with emerging hip-hop acts a few years later, including Run-DMC, LL Cool J and Beastie Boys, among others.
“I skated, I went to shows all the time,” he said. These photographs show “my lifestyle too. And I just want people to see a person’s attitude.”
“His subjects are all people doing things he likes,” added Caryn Coleman, who, with her husband, Sean Bonner, owns and operates sixspace, packed on a recent evening with an opening-night crowd. By the ‘90s Friedman had created a weighty archive, capturing the formative years of a lot of progressive underground talent. And he had done so without selling out his subjects or compromising the integrity of his vision. For example, many newspapers refuse to publish the profane titles of two of Friedman’s mid-'90s skating/music photo books or the name of his current exhibition, which premiered in 1997 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and has since been seen in Sydney, Tokyo, Rome, Berlin, Stockholm and Chicago, among other cities worldwide.
This current hanging, however, marks this exhibition’s first return home to Los Angeles. For the occasion, Friedman added a select run of vintage skateboarding shots, fanning the surging nostalgia and coaxing out a few of the early Dogtown crew, including Bob Biniak, Paul Constantineau, Marty Grimes, Jeff Ho, Peggy Oki and Craig R. Stecyk III. By 9 on opening night, followers were shoulder-to-shoulder in Coleman and Bonner’s 2,000 square-foot gallery and at least 50 more were out front chatting and smoking.
Stecyk, who mentored Friedman in the ‘70s and worked alongside him on “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” loved the scene, saying, “This show is a serious effort trying to bring accessible work to an audience eager to care about it.”
Glen E. Friedman photography
Where: sixspace gallery, 549 W. 23rd St., Los Angeles
When: Through Saturday
Info: (213) 765-0248