Long before his Barack Obama portrait dominated the election cycle, Shepard Fairey was just an art-obsessed South Carolina skate kid.

Long before his Barack Obama portrait dominated the election cycle, Shepard Fairey was just an art-obsessed South Carolina skate kid.

In Beautiful Losers, curator Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard (last seen as a victim in The Blair Witch Project) chronicle the evolution of Fairey and others from a disparate assortment of creative misfits into an international DIY art scene, powered up by a 1992 New York City show of skateboard art and a write-up in Thrasher.

In their own ways, major players like filmmakers Mike Mills and Harmony Korine and artists Steve Powers (aka Espo!), Barry McGee and his wife, the late Margaret Kilgallen, elicit a portrait of strange, solitary youthful years giving way to a migration of kindred spirits to NYC and other cultural hotspots, and the thrill and inspiration in a newfound sense of community.

As each is given time to discuss their work, segments in which Kilgallen and Powers shine, they also cover some central concerns, with Fairey speaking memorably about creative control and art versus commercialism.

Given the participants' early outsider status, a more inclusive, overarching sense of context would've been nice. But even without it, Beautiful Losers is an illuminating snapshot of contemporary artists who've helped bring down the wall around high art, or at least spray-painted on it.