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Significant Work:
Jeffrey Kent, "Skelly"


The first time I heard a reference to the game Skelly it was in the 1994 Notorious B.I.G song Things Done Changed.

"Remember back in the days when n____ had waves 
Cazal shades and corn braids?
Pitching pennies, honeys had the high-top jellies
Shooting Skelly, m_______’s was all friendly
Lounging at the barbecues, drinking brews
With the neighborhood crews, hanging on the avenues"


The first time I saw a reference to the game Skelly, it was in Jeffrey Kent’s studio.

Jeffrey Kent Skully

Jeffrey Kent, Skelly Proof 104 (2020)  12in x 9in

The large abstract painting fires on all cylinders. It’s minimalist at first glance, followed by nostalgia. I found myself closing my eyes to remember the sound of street games from childhood, and then refocusing on the painting to appreciate its aura.


Jeffrey Kent, Playing On Wabash Street by the Alley (2023) 72in x 75in

Kent’s Skelly series also includes color studies heightened with vintage advertising memorabilia. The artist has sampled the formal language of the 20th century artists such as Frank Stella and Richard Prince and remixed it on a 20th century memory from his childhood. It works beautifully. 

It’s not a coincidence Kent’s Skelly series was created in 2020. During the pandemic, memories of earlier days and sweeter times haunted many of our imaginations. 


Jeffrey Kent, Skully Proof 437 (2020)  13.63in x 10.5in

Though Kent played Skelly in Baltimore, it originated in New York City and was popular from the 1950s through 1980s. While it’s less popular today, you can still see Skelly boards spray-painted onto the streets of NYC and in school yards. Skelly has existed as long as the crown-rimmed bottle cap, which was invented in 1892.

Artists have referenced Skelly in their work for at least that long as well. In addition to Notorious B.I.G’s song, U-God’s verse on the song “Knuckleheadz” also mentions Skelly. Painters have referenced the game, too, including artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who featured Skelly boards in his paintings between 1980 and 1982. And, if you’re a fan of author Jacqueline Woodson, you might remember her talking about Skelly in her acclaimed children’s book Brown Girl Dreaming.

SKELLY_SITE_2 (1)Neighborhood where Jeffrey Kent played Skelly


In the words of the artist, “Playing skelly in the street is one of those memories that stands out, an anchor point of my childhood. Skelly invites the community; The game is more fun with more players, and in neighborhoods that lack the suburban playground,for kids without scenic bike paths to enjoy, Skelly was a pretty good option for an afternoon of fun. Skelly also introduces younger players to numbers and teaches positive social skills.”


Jeffrey Kent, Skelly Proof 126 (2020)  13.63in x 10.5in

Working in cooperation with Jeffrey Kent, a selection of works from his 2020 series Skelly is being offered by guerilla gallery. Inquiries welcome. Price upon request. 


Guerilla Gallery showcases established artists in the Baltimore and Washington region. Led by Rachel Rabinowitz, art collector, and modern and contemporary art specialist.