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MATI for ESPN.com

By Sebastian Carayol

Date: 16-05-2012


Interview with Balthazar by Seb Carayol for ESPN.com



If anyone were ever to use Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" artwork on a series of skateboards it could only be Western Edition Skateboards. And that's exactly what happen when they approached Balthazar Klarwein, son of the late Mati Klarwein, legendary painter and surrealist who hobnobbed with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Miles Davis in the 60's and 70's. Balthazar is a skate videographer on the streets of Barcelona Spain, whom just happened to run into Julio Arnau Cruz, manager of the FTC Skateshop in Barcelona, when they started talking about collaborating. The series of boards adorned with Mati Klarwein's art has made a splash in the art world and have become an instant collectors item. We caught up with Balthazar Klarwein to talk about his dad, growing up in a small town on the island of Mallorca and how Paulo Diaz and Quim Cardona showed up on his dads' doorstep.

ESPN.com: How involved are you in skateboarding?
Klarwein: I haven't skated properly for maybe four years, but me and my younger brother Salvador have been skating since I was 13. Deia, the small village we grew up in on the island of Mallorca (Spain), has only 500 inhabitants. It seems like skateboarding has always been a thing for kids in Deiá.

One year for our birthday, our dad got us a proper skateboard and also gave me a hi-8 video camera, so I started filming my friends and stuff. Then we moved to Barcelona with my mom and it turned into a few years making and editing my own videos over there. I did three skate videos called Analisis Skate Video Barcelona. We had parts with Julian Furones, Daniel Lebron and Raul Retamal. Sometimes I filmed... What's his name? "Butano"?

Enrique Lorenzo?
Yeah! Enrique. We lived in the El Raval neighborhood, we were pretty much the first people to be skating Macba. We used to skate just the back, never the front, cause it was quite dodgy back then. There were all the kids trying to steal our skateboards or my camera. When I go back nowadays, we've all grown up and we're all kinda friends. It changed a lot.

What did Mati think of skateboarding in general?
He liked it. I don't remember him saying he loved skateboarding specifically, but he was featured a lot in Juxtapoz magazine during the '90s and he always said he wanted to be reincarnated into a surfer in his next life. I'm guessing he just liked the freedom and the independence of that type of sport. It's kinda like painting, too.

The thing is, he knew, because he had a lot of skaters admiring him from the States. We developed a close relationship with Quim Cardona after him and Paulo Diaz randomly appeared at our house in 2000, which is in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere in Mallorca. My dad got a phone call one weekend from these two Americans who were in Barcelona on an Adidas tour. He told them, "Oh my kids are skaters too" and he passed the phone to us 'cause he was really busy that day.

So Paulo Diaz and Quim Cardona just showed up at your home?
Yeah! Three days later, they were there and they spent the weekend with us. We had a party in our kitchen, they really enjoyed themselves cause Paulo Diaz is a musician also, and my dad loved music. We hung out, and we skated around that flat area we got in the mountain where we'd practice tricks. It was really amazingI'll never forget that day.

How did Mati's artwork end up as a collaboration with Western Edition?
A few years ago, FTC opened a shop in Barcelona and its owner, Julio, is a friends of ours. My dad passed away in 2002, and me, my brother, my mother and my two half-sisters own the rights to his art. One night, my brother and I were hanging out with Julio at a bar and he offered us to do a collaboration with FTC or Western EditionFTC's board company. Julio showed me all the jazz collections they had done before like the Miles Davis quintet one. We were sold.

Why did you choose the image from Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" album?
Probably because it's one of his most-known ones. The interesting thing is, we can't find the original artwork for it. Hopefully it wasn't destroyed This one, together with some others, was in a private collection belonging to the Royal Family of Morocco. What happened is, the person who bought the paintings got kicked out. They took the paintings away from her and threatened her with destroying them. But we hope that two of those paintings will turn upincluding the [Miles Davis] Live Evil one. Good thing my dad always took a picture after finishing a painting. All 700-or-so of them. There's a lot of them that no one has ever seen


Did your dad ever tell you how he got to work with Miles Davis?
Anything I know is through his writings -he liked to speak more about the future or the present, he wasn't very nostalgic. From what I know, he met Miles Davis through these two girls from NYC who used to own a vintage store where Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis would go and buy their clothes. He also had a studio in Union Square, where lots of artists would swing by, from Andy Warhol to Jimi Hendrix to Miles Davis. Salvador Dali came by a few times, too. They connected because Mati was a very musical person, he played congas and always had music at the house, no matter if he was cooking or painting.

Is there some sort of meaning to this drawing?
I think so. He never tried to explain his paintings. He always said, 'What you see is what there is.' I just see duality, the black and white. In most of his paintings he'd put all religions and all cultures. It comes from my father growing up in Palestine, his father was Jewish and my mother wasn't- she was German.

Why do you think your dad's art fits so well on skateboards?
I think his art never really decays, it always speaks to the younger generations. Since skateboarding is a thing of the youth, that's the connection. Maybe the psychedelic side of it, the thematic, that whole era being seen as a time of rebellion. When you're a teenager you want to rebel against your parents or against the system. That sort of rock n'roll, rebellious side, trying to see the world differently, that works.

Skaters' heaven!
Without a doubt.