Long before the release of Lords of Dogtown (2005), the feature-length film starring Heath Ledger, Lynn Coleman was commenting on Dogtown’s surf and skate culture. In fact, since the 1970s Coleman has been integral to the coastal Southern California surf culture and has been painting autobiographical narratives reflecting on that culture, or “surfurbia.”
Although Coleman had formal art training, and received graduate degrees from both California State University, Northridge and Los Angeles, her work acknowledges disparate influences from outside the mainstream world of art: the cartooning style of Rick Griffin, the wood engravings of Paul Landacre, and Disney animation. She credits Roberto de la Rocha, a member of the seminal Los Angeles Chicano collective Los Four, for having encouraged her to develop her distinctive graphic style. As a result, she was hired in the late 1980s to do artwork and write story lines for Thrasher Comics. Soon she developed her own comic strip about the environmentally conscious Alleygator.
Coleman has often found herself at the forefront of the crossover between surf/skate culture and art. Coleman was the inspiration for the central character Jacaranda, a female artist and surfboard airbrusher, of Eve Babitz’s novel Sex and Rage (1979). Babitz also profiled her for a 1974 Rolling Stone magazine article. Like Babitz, Coleman has also written about the cultural scene, including a seminal 1988 article on Los Angeles lowbrow artist Robert Williams, prior to the launch of his successful art career or his art magazine Juxtapoz. She has also done design work for surf industry notables, such as Larry Gordon and Skip Engblom among others.
Coleman’s art has been featured in mainstream publications, such as Esquire, Beach Culture, The New York Times, and Surfer’s Journal, and in seminal museum exhibitions looking at the crossover between art and popular culture, such as Kustom Kulture: Von Dutch, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, and Robert Williams (1993); Surf Culture, The Art History of Surfing
(2002); and In the Land Of Retinal Delights: The Juxtapoz Factor (2008).
Works in Our Collection
Hot Night at the Dogtown Follies
Mixed media on paper, 1991
30 x 40 inches
From the Stuart and Judy Spence Collection, donated April 1999 by Judy and Stuart Spence