Taro Hirano: Skateboard File I

, 2010/02/26

Taro Hirano is better known as the photo editor of skateboard journal Sb, though its likely many have come across one of his more popular photo books which focused on abandoned skate pools in California. When Taro isn’t taking photographs, skateboarding or working in his darkroom, he’s probably downstairs in his own quaint gallery space, Gallery No. 12. The story goes back to the early 2000s when Taro was searching for a suitable darkroom however the inspiration for opening the gallery comes from the time which Taro spent in the United States, in particular a visit to New York.

When in New York during his student years, Taro recalls visiting the original location of the then, run down and dingy Alleged Gallery. It was that time and place which triggered thoughts about having his own functional art space. Acknowledging the artist community around the Alleged Gallery at that time, Taro believed he and his circle of friends had the same kind of community but were just missing a proper space. Once Taro had decided on the place, moved in and cleaned it up a bit, the idea to have art shows with his friends and the surrounding skate community, ended up being closer knit than previously thought- the first show at the gallery Taro jests was actually with his sister. Soon word spread and things picked up in the community and Taro got together his first group show for which he asked twenty skaters and artists alike to take their old and worn ordinary skateboard decks and hand cut them into a new skateable shape or sculpture. After exhibiting their own works, the showing evolved into an informal skate competition at the now staple mini ramp in nearby Komazawa Park. As the months passed, Gallery No. 12 extended its reach with international group shows which tended to feature artists like the editor of SLAP magazine Mark Whitely and professional skaters such as Jerry Hsu. But not wholly limited to the skate world, in 2004 Ari Marcopoulos, whom Taro met on a previous trip to California, was also invited over for a show at Gallery No. 12.

It was actually on one of Hirano’s several trips to California when a once elusive dream that had stemmed back to his teenage years, appeared in the real. “I grew up skateboarding and watching videos came along with that and I just had to eventually come to terms with the fact that pool skating was the only kind of skating that I couldn’t experience in Japan.” More than wanderlust, Taro’s fantasy of skating idolized pools in sunny California came to turn into a personal project. Over months of exploring and photographing around California, Hirano compiled somewhat of a historical compendium of an otherwise forgotten monolith of skateboarding. Entitled, Pool, the collection of photographs achieves more than serving as a personal document of skateboarding’s culture and physical aesthetic, but also allows more of an historical light to shine on the subject. In fact, one could say pools are a symbol in the legacy of skateboarding. A reminder of a place where actual vertical skating was born- an event, or dynamic in itself, which fundamentally changed the skateboarding world forever. Since pool skating has by and large been deemed illegal over the years, the chance to skate an abandoned pool still remains increasingly elusive and even something of an often secret, privy invitation. The fantasy still thrives throughout the skateboarding world and the back of every skater’s mind. More than occasionally, skateable pools are portrayed in photo and video as simply- the stuff of lore.

In 2008, Taro’s personal project evolved into a front cover shot for the beloved and cult (and now solely digital) skateboarding magazine, SLAP.

This Spring, Gallery No. 12 with play host to a reading room-style exhibition by Nieves which also publishes one of Hirano’s latest works.



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