Jim Phillips Celebrates 30 Years of the Screaming Hand at The Seventh Letter

By - Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

In skateboarding culture there’s arguably no more iconic image than the Screaming Hand. The ubiquitous logo has adorned everything from stickers to t-shirts in the three decades since Jim Phillips drew it, and last Saturday the image and its creator were celebrated with an art show at The Seventh Letter flagship store and gallery in Los Angeles.

In every respect the Screaming Hand has transcended skate culture to become of the one of the most recognizable logos in branding and advertising over the past 30 years. Just as subway trains became moving art galleries for graffiti artists, so too have skateboards for graphic artists, and Phillips is largely responsible for this unique modern art movement.

Just as subway trains became moving art galleries for graffiti artists, so too have skateboards for graphic artists, and Phillips is largely responsible for this unique modern art movement.

The scene was live on opening night at the art collective’s pristine white-walled space, as The Seventh Letter’s opening served as the public kickoff of what will be a yearlong international traveling exhibition. Phillips himself graciously held court on opening night as a plethora of admirers sought to meet the man that’s become synonymous with skateboard graphics.

“Thirty years later, wow, it’s special!” an ebullient Phillips told 12ozProphet. “As an artist there’s no way to know what winds up making an impression on people and what winds up lasting. You work every day on creating something, say a poster, and it gets put up one day, and then it can be ripped down the next. It’s really rewarding, especially at my age, that something like this [art show] can happen. I’m really stoked and appreciative of Santa Cruz, all the artists, all the people that came out, and my family who’s here.”

To honor Phillips and the Screaming Hand, Santa Cruz Skateboards invited more than 48 artists to interpret and put their own spin on the image that conjures up memories of youth and skateboarding. For the inaugural show in L.A., The Seventh Letter curated a collective of artists to give another perspective and show how the logo has influenced them.

“Looking back it really does amaze me,” Phillips enthused. “The Hand is more popular now than it was in the Eighties. Go figure!”

Featured artists included Jeremy Fish, Mike Giant, Steve Caballero, Eric Dressen, Sean Cliver, Benny Gold, Jason Jessee and Skinner, among many others. The Seventh Letter represented with Aroe, Axis, Defer, Ewok, Fate, OG Abel, Retna, Reyes, Slick, Steel, Trav and more.

Chatting with Phillips in the gallery’s upstairs lounge, he made it clear how grateful he feels to meet so many people who tell him how something as simple as a skateboard graphic influenced their lives.

“I have a grasp of the idea of [what it means to people], but it’s just really overwhelming that there are so many that have been touched by it,” Phillips said. “I’ve gotten a lot of emails over the years and those are really nice to receive. So, yes, it’s very gratifying to know this image means something to people—remembering their youth or good times skateboarding.”

Walking through the gallery it’s interesting to observe each artist’s interpretation of the Hand. From Mike Giant’s Sharpie-on-paper tattoo flash sheet, to Slick’s recognizable “L.A. Hands,” it’s clear the image Phillips drew in his Santa Cruz, California studio that fateful night in 1985 has withstood the test of time and remains more popular than ever. Perhaps most impressive though was Slick’s giant installation of the Screaming Hand constructed out of what else but 30 Santa Cruz decks. Now that’s how you celebrate 30 years!

“Coming here and feeling the love, the pure love that people feel for that ugly thing…” Phillips’s voice trails off as a big smile creeps across his face.

“There’s no magic formula” to creating a lasting image, Phillips said. “Part of it is fate, just right-place right-time, and when I designed it [Santa Cruz] was one of only a handful of companies. Now there are hundreds and Santa Cruz is still number one. I’m lucky to have such a long relationship with them.”

The 30th Anniversary Screaming Hand Art Show is on display at The Seventh Letter through July 19. The show then travels to Vancouver, London, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Sydney, Melbourne, Taipei and Tokyo before returning to the States next year.

The Seventh Letter store and gallery is located at 346 N Fairfax Avenue. Follow the collective on Instagram at @TheSeventhLetter and on Twitter at @The7thLetter. The show is sponsored by Vans, Santa Cruz Skateboards, NHS Skateboard Museum, Juxtapoz, Kidrobot, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Arts Council Santa Cruz County and Agenda. 

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