Matthew Barney Creates A Skateboard That Doubles As A Pencil

Barney’s 19th Drawing Restraint was tested out by the legendary Lance Mountain last fall.

Matthew Barney and Lance Mountain walk into a skatepark.


It sounds like the setup to a joke, but it’s actually a very real scenario that took place last fall at Ride It Sculpture Park in Detroit. Skateboard legend Mountain was in Detroit to be the first person to ride a graphite-tipped skateboard that Barney had donated to the local skate park, the 19th iteration of Drawing Restraint, a series he’s worked on for 25 years.

Ensconced in north Detroit, the Ride It Sculpture Park is one of those unlikely projects that seem so impossible anywhere else: four vacant lots that are slowly being turned into a hybrid skatepark and art site, with the help of dozens of local architects, artists, and skaters. To benefit the construction process, the visual culture mag Juxtapoz had invited Barney to create a custom deck for a benefit auction in 2012. What he submitted–a skateboard with a thick chunk of graphite on the tip–was quickly snapped up by a nearby skateshop last fall.

But Barney wanted the thing to be ridden, so Juxtapoz and Ride It decided to fly Mountain to Detroit and set up a shoot. The resulting drawings, scraped on the lip of the vert, are beautiful and repetitive, tracing the arc of Mountain’s path over and over. Juxtapoz editor Evan Picco calls the piece “a marriage of the conceptual mind of a fine artist and the grace and speed of a skateboard icon.”

If you’re not familiar with Drawing Restraint, here’s a bit of background. Barney started the series when he was just 20, still an art student at Yale. Each iteration is a drawing “exercise,” quite literally: in one, Barney installed a trampoline in his studio and drew a self-portrait on the ceiling. In others, he’s forced him to pull against a restraint to reach his canvas, or lift a massive dumbbell in order to draw. It’s all about injecting the process of making art with the ethos of athleticism. Though later iterations of Drawing Restraint diverge from the first six exercises, #19 shows Barney returning to his roots, mixing physical skill and discipline with performance art. After producing drawings by jumping, running, weight lifting, and rock climbing, he’s finally added skating to the list.

Head over to Juxtapoz for more on the project.

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.