By Patricia B. Dwyer
Ornate motorcycle gas tanks and surfboards encased in metallic car paint are helping to establish the theme at Us Versus Them, a Gaslamp gallery, retail space and counter-culture basecamp.
"Our events document subcultures ranging from surf, skate, lowbrow, low rider and tattoo to photography and music," says Us Versus Them president and CEO James Banuelos of his venue's frequent art shows.
A surfer/skater from Santa Cruz, Banuelos says he stays true to his subcultural roots by cultivating a community among the local artists he collaborates with for Us Versus Them's apparel designs and art showcases.
"It's about being from the culture and participating in it," he says. "I have watched billion-dollar corporations build their businesses around iconic individuals and leave them high and dry."
Banuelos sees a distinction between his company and "Them," large-scale, heartless corporations that exploit artists for monetary gains. The "Us," according UsVersusThem.com, are those dedicated to "Keeping your head down, working your ass off, being creative, following your own path and respecting the community."
Supporting artists, it seems, is good for business, as Banuelos has recently inked a deal with skate company Stussy to distribute Us Versus Them t-shirts and hats worldwide.