Artists pay tribute to Bruce Brown’s seminal surf movie “The Endless Summer” — and its iconic poster art — at Venice’s 800 Main
By Michael Aushenker
“The Endless Summer” is more than just a movie about surfing.
It’s the movie about surfing.
Filmmaker Bruce Brown’s groundbreaking documentary about two surfers traveling the world in search of the perfect wave helped popularize the sport and its unique subculture around the globe.
It’s also part of the reason Italian-born photographic artist Claudio Santini now calls Los Angeles home.
“It’s something that made me curious about California,” said Santini, one of 10 artists assembled by curator Leonardo Ledesma to pay tribute to the film in The Endless Summer’s 50th Anniversary Art Exhibition, a free popup art show happening Thursday through Monday at the Venice art-and-event space 800 Main.
The roster also includes Venice artist Laddie John Dill, who is sculpting aluminum in ways that echo ocean waves; San Clemente mixed-media artist James Verbicky, who is collaging elements of 1950s and ‘60s magazines onto wood panels; Woody Risk, a San Pedro surfer applying his trademark wood panel and target-range sheets mashups to a surfboard; Dev N Gosha, a collaboration by emerging L.A. artists Devin Liston and Gosha Levochkin; Ryan Snow, a San Pedro artist who combines photography and painting; oil painter Miguel Osuna, who divides his time between downtown and Mexico; and Malibu abstract sculptor Brad Howe.
But chief among the show’s collaborators is John Van Hamersveld, the graphic artist who created the original iconic poster art for “The Endless Summer.” His simple Day-Glo ink design was so powerful that Dill attributes some of the movie’s success to it.
“Part of it was the appeal of the poster. The poster was extremely seductive and emblematic [of the surf culture of the time],” said Dill. “The movie did for surfing in the 1960s what ‘Gidget’ did for it in the 1950s.”
Ledesma, a Mar Vista resident who runs the West L.A. fine art consulting firm Art Seen, has been placing the works of artists in collections for 21 years. So he had no problem gathering artists who either surf or have surfed to create new works inspired by Brown’s film.
A lot of thought also went into where the exhibit should be held, and Ledesma considers 800 Main the perfect venue.
“It’s ideally located … just steps away from Venice Beach, a mecca of surfing,” he said. “The minimal post-and-beam architecture of the building, along with a balanced use of steel, concrete, glass and wood, is a work of art in its own right.”
800 Main designer and owner Jim Murez, founder of the Venice Farmers Market, also added interior walls for the show to create more exhibit space, Ledesma said.
Homages to “The Endless Summer” take multiple forms. Ledesma described Dill’s contribution as “a new series of work employing that same technique of [his prior work with] aircraft aluminum panels; colors resembling the sea, the water, the waves.”
Dill said he’s honored to pay tribute to the film and its renowned visuals by Van Hamersveld.
The two met while Dill was attending Chouinard Art Institute and in 1989 they collaborated to design original holiday banners for the city of Santa Monica that featured ocean and marine life scenes in place of the usual Christmas-time iconography, which Dill said “was really fun.”
But there’s another reason Dill jumped at the chance to surf-wax nostalgic about “The Endless Summer:” “I’m a surfer!”
Originally from Rome, Santini has called Mar Vista home for 20 years. When he’s not working on his photography, the Italian native loves taking boats out of Santa Monica Bay or the Channel Islands.
“I’m a sailor,” he said. “I love anything regarding the water in terms of the ocean.”
But until he got the call from Ledesma, Santini’s art had little to do with the water — in fact, “it was the first time I’ve done something related to this land [Southern California].”
Raised revering the photography of American and European masters including Richard Avadon, Bruce
Weber, Julius Schulman, Ernst Haas and Helmet Newton, Santini usually involves himself with urban architectural photography.
For this exhibit, Santini slowed down the film to extract segueing moments invisible to audiences watching at multiple frames per second.
“Watching the movie between the frames [there are] millions of photographs that the eye does not perceive when you see the movie,” he said. “Between the frames reveals some secret things.”
Santini’s approach mirrors his previous work with Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni’s “The Passenger,” starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider. The final scene of the 1975 film is a spiritual bookend to the seven-minute tracking shot filmed in Venice that opened Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil.” Santini illuminated the moments in between the frames of the 1975 film for the anthology book “Architecture de la Visione.”
This time, Santini’s work is a salute to his adopted home.
“I’m very happy to participate in this show,” he said. “For the first time I could express something about this new land where I live.”
The Endless Summer 50th Anniversary Art Exhibition is on display from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday through Monday at the 800 Main art-and-event space, 800 Main St., Venice. Free. laartseen.com; 800main.com