The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Oct 21, 2011

For the love of bikes

Posted by vmiller

"Tête de la Course," the newest exhibition at Center Galleries and part of the College for Creative Studies, celebrates the world of the bicycle with photographs by Donald Dietz and custom-built bicycles by Detroit Artists Darrin Brouhard, Stephen Lambers Jr., Wayne Neeley and The EastSide Riders, Larry Parker, Neil Shaddox and Ted Sliwinski.


Today's subject is near and dear to my heart: Bicycles. A part of almost everyones' childhood, I hope you, wonderful reader, can remember the pure joy of being able to feel your body propel yourself out into the world. As a teenager, I was forced to take an extended hiatus from bike riding when a garage fire destroyed the light purple bike of my dreams. As a result, I used the insurance money to purchase my first brand new SLR camera, a decision that carried me all the way into this position of blogging for the Knight Foundation (so I would say it was a good one). However, once in college, the need for an easy, fast, fun, and cheap way to get around the city arose, so I headed out onto the streets with two wheels and a dream once again. Since then, I have used a bike to discover Detroit. I have pedaled hundreds of miles that have made me see the world in a completely different way.

Turns out, I am not the only person to have this affinity for my light and fast two-wheeled obsession. Cycling is not only a great way to stay in shape, get to know a place and protect the environment, it is an economical and viable way to give otherwise-stranded folks the freedom of their own transportation. Living in a city like Detroit, with sky-high unemployment and a bare bones bus system, bikes provide the means to get to job interviews, quality grocery stores and doctors, creating stability for themselves and their families and thus setting roots for the revitalization of communities. Programs like Earn-A-Bike at Back Alley Bikes have had this idea for years, teaching anyone willing to learn the mechanics of bicycles and, in return, they are allowed to rebuild one of their own. Other groups, such as The EastSide Riders, have adapted and built upon this model. Its motto: “We ride with traffic, yet we make our own way” is a testament to the ornately designed and decorated bikes they sport. It is impossible not to notice the riders as they make their way around the city. Traveling in groups, sometimes 30 strong, their uniquely designed cycles, trikes, low riders and custom designs covered in flickering lights make their transport safe and entertaining. Neeley, a.k.a King Wayne, of the The EastSide Riders is featured in the gallery show, his trike, with a grill on the back and on condiment basket on the front, is a stunning example of the creativity and practicality behind urban bike design.

Aside from all of the cultural implications of cycling, "Tête de la Course" is really a celebration of the art behind the mechanics. Objects that flex our imaginations and serve as bicycles are set amongst Dietz's photographs of bike path signs in Lyon, France. Understanding that these images are from a country with such great traditions within the cycling world and the worn lithographic quality gives them a nostalgic feel. The whole show seems to express an idea of where cycling came from, with a lens pointed toward the future. Featured artists Sliwinski, who borrowed ideas from the tricycle to the chopper bike in his creation of the two-person powered “Frankentrike,” and Lambers Jr.'s aerodynamic electric recumbent bicycle are examples of how far the imagination can take the traditional two (and sometimes three) wheels.

Overview of the show at Center Galeries

"Tête de la Course" opens on Oct. 21 and runs until Nov. 19.

Center galleries is located in the College for Creative Studies, Manoogian Visual Resource Center, 301 Frederick Douglas, Detroit, Mich.


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