The professional skateboarder shows his soft side by entering the art world with colourful and delicate pieces
Tony Cox spent 15 years a professional skateboarder but has been pursuing a career as a professional artist since 2002. Having left the world of professional skateboarding, Cox presents his first New York solo exhibition, White Trash Mystic, a collection of three years worth of work which Cox describes as “recycled relations”, multimedia collages which harness found materials to abstractly represent the places he visited during his time travelling as a professional skater. We speak to Cox ahead of the opening of White Trash Mystic to discuss these spiritual scrapbooks of his travels and to draw parallels between being an artist and being a professional skateboarder.
Dazed Digital: The title of the show is White trash Mystic, why?
Tony Cox: It is something i made up and the sound of stuck with me. I grew up in Kentucky so the term White Trash was pretty commonly used and there were a lot of Native Americans living there, so it’s just stating a root of orgin of were I started my roots. A lot of the new works are depicting mythical gods or saints that have heavily embroidery. I still make cityscapes but now they’re more symbolic. What I do now is I take the cigarette packets and I paste over them so you don’t actually realise you’re seeing the logos from the cigarette packs any more, to make a disguise in the language. The imagery comes rather unconsciously from living in these places and walking around and picking up on the architecture of the churches and the mosques and the designs and shapes of them.
DD: What is the significance of using such ordinary items people might recognise from their everyday lives?
Tony Cox: I like to use the everyday things people pass in the street but they probably don’t think anything about. Taking something that is like nothing like a toothpick or a plastic spoon and turning it into something else, into a different way of looking at it. I pick these things and commit them to memory and later down the road so I could make a tapestry of patchwork memories of the place's I went to, to later remember the feeling the place gave me. I call these things recycled relations because I keep some fabric our old chair from spain or pieces of material to carry over through the works so they all work together and can carry connection over a three year range of works.
DD: Embroidery is not an incredibly common technique in serious art, what is the significance of it for you?
Tony Cox: By stitching my work with embroidery it’s almost like my work has a subconscious that is not a conscious piece I made. I tend to like the backside's of the piece's better because they’re not so controlled. This will be the first exhibition where I am displaying both sides. There will be one piece that will hang from the ceiling. It is made from old bar flyers ad toothpicks and filters. It’s called 'The House of Transformation'. It’s about the 12 steps of astrology dealing with death and transforming into a new stage of development and it will be four panels across and three down and I’ve done it all with metallic thread so the back has all these symbols and codes. They’re meant to be seen in the sun. They’re from a series called 'The Secret Language of the Sun'. This is the first time I’m exhibiting that so people will get an idea of the work and the time that’s involved in the pieces.
DD: Can you draw any parallels between being a professional skateboarder and being an artist?
Tony Cox: I’ve always looked at skateboarding not as a sport, more as like a moving meditation and I have applied a lot of things from skateboarding that i learned through the discipline of skating that i applied to my art practice.. you pick the things you skate and you pick the material' s and tool's you choose to make art with.. I have learned to manipulate the body in skating or tool's in art so it become's your own language. I like to think of my work as a universal language as opposed to just one counter culture.by using every day item's people can find some sort of relation. It’s also very similar, breaking into the art world as for the skating industry. If you go into it not knowing enough about it you will be taken advantage of so you’ve got to approach it with the same kind of caution and seek good advice in order to have longevity in side of just a flash in the pan.
White Trash Mystic by Tony Cox, presented by Rassa Montaser & Grear Patterson opens Wednesday, October 6th, 211 Elizabeth Street, NY, NY.