Monday, August 1, 2016

The Automobile and Contemporary Art During the 1980s

1963 VW Pelt
The Automobile and Contemporary Art
            This second intense reaction to a shortage of oil and gasoline unleashed another wave of discontent related to the automobile and its place in American life. One amusing response was the work of California artist Dustin Shuler. On the night of October 23, 1980 at California State University Domingues Hills, a 1959 Cadillac was illuminated, elevated on four oil drums, and then pierced by a 20 foot “nail” that was dropped 100 feet from a boom crane.24 The Cadillac was then pulled on to its side and left on display in an exhibit entitled “Death of an Era.” Schuler saw this act as akin to a hunt for a wild animal, and later he took apart the Cadillac in a way that left it “skinned,” like an animal pelt. So encouraged by this first work, Schuler subsequently skinned and created pelts of a VW beetle, a Fiat Spider and a Porsche 356C! Schuler summarized his activities this way:
            All the cars I have skinned and, for that matter, all the cars on the road can be considered an endangered species. While I am not arguing for the preservation of this species, I notice the ‘evolution’ that is going on right before my eyes [new cars coming off the docks and old cars being scrapped] and I want to collect a few good specimens before they are gone.25

Dustin Schuler -- Big Stuff

            Not all of the artists of the 1980s were this dark in their views concerning the automobile and its future, particularly after gasoline became more available and prices dropped precipitously. For example, at Meadowbrook Hall in Rochester, Michigan, a number of art exhibitions were held in conjunction with the concours beginning in the mid-1980s. In reflecting on their interest in painting cars, several of the artists commented on impressions made during their youth. Argentinean Hector Luis Bergandi attributed his interest in cars to a racing mania that swept though his native county when he was a teenager. He wrote that his work on racing cars was similar to his technique when painting horses: “It’s not only how they look, it’s mostly what they do, how they smell, charge, pump, sweat. . . . ” Dennis Brown, from Covina California, reflected on “spending countless hours with my best friend . . . taking apart his ’34 Ford coupe – polishing, cleaning and painting; watching the sun reflecting off that beautiful lacquer pint job or sparkling like a diamond in the chrome trim. The shadows were cool . . . almost liquid pools of pure color reflecting the grass or trees or the neighbors’ white fence.” While the play of light and emotions were the focus of many artists of this era, some attempted to reconstruct the place of the automobile in American life. Finally, getting inside the machine – a popular genre of art often found in automobile magazines, were pursued by New York City artist Robert A. Pentelovitch, whose paintings of engines and transmissions were intended “to provide insight to a world of wonderful shapes and forms otherwise unacknowledged for their beauty by a society which takes machinery for granted.”26

Santa's Supply Train by Hector Luis Bergandi 

H├ęctor Luis Bergandi for his biography and all he'll say is: "I was born at my grandparents home in Rafaela, province of Santa Fe, Argentina, ...

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