Artscape: "Mall Curb"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

If you never ditched last period in high school to go skateboarding, here's pretty much how it went: You grabbed a board from your locker, found the one kid with a car and hit the local strip mall. You'd toss him about $1.18 for gas.

Upon arrival, you'd grind a waxed-up curb for 15 minutes before a store owner came out yelling. Then everyone drove around with windows down, eating Funyuns and blaring an old Eazy-E cassette that only worked on one side.

What you set out to do wasn't nearly as important as where you ended up. It was grand.

The joyous nostalgia and hilarious antics of youth in revolt come alive in Mall Curb, a new show by Thom Lessner and Patrick O'Dell debuting Saturday during Gallery Hop at Mahan Gallery. The show runs through Feb. 27.

High-school friends who later moved from Columbus to opposite coasts, the two artists have remained close. They've also stayed immersed in the shared passions that form the basis of the show - skateboarding, rock music, hanging with friends and rowdy late-night adventures.

"With all my work, I'm a pretty sentimental guy," said Lessner, who moved to Philadelphia in 1999. "I think about what's been around me, what's been inside me all my life. Everything is honest. Everything I do, I do because I care."

You might've peeped his work at Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace - a collection of colorful acrylics of childhood heroes like The Ramones and Bucky Dent. His latest set follows the same aesthetic but focuses more closely on the periphery of skate culture.

Mall Curb's namesake piece, for example, is smothered with graffiti, populated by a bunch of harmless ruffians and speaks to those special times when kids have nothing better to do than hang out and dream.

More than 30 other new works will capture that same charm of being young, free and confident of what you love. Lessner's blocky, rudimentary painting technique gives his work a warm, endearing quality. It's as if he's each subject's biggest fan.

"[My art is] who I am, so it's what I want to present," Lessner explained. "When I put out music or art, I want to put out something that's a celebration, rather than a big think piece or something."

O'Dell, who now works in Los Angeles, will offer a series of photographs capturing similar themes.

Like Lessner, O'Dell is ruthlessly autobiographical, giving an unfiltered view into a funny, fulfilling and gloriously imperfect life. His shots have the energy and immediacy of a great night out.

Archives from a skate 'zine the two worked on in high school will also make an appearance.

"It's really cool just to be working with friends," Lessner said. "It feels like such a loose, easy show. It feels good to come back to Columbus and have fun with it."

What: "Mall Curb" opening reception

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6

Where: Mahan Gallery, Short North