Philadelphia Pickup Truck Expo: an exercise in art more than automobiles

arts / Article

On Friday, July 5, Crane Arts hosted the 2014 Philadelphia Pickup Truck Expo in The Icebox. This one-night-only event wasn't a place to find parts, kitschy Calvin and Hobbes window decals, or even a new truck, for that matter. Each vehicle actually served as an installation artwork juried by Rubens Ghenov, Ryan McCartney and Timothy Belknap. Although the space vaguely resembled a truck show at the Convention Center, the atmosphere in the room was much more freewheeling and jocular than auto-centric.

Matt Giel and Amy Hicks, "Silver Era."

Most immediately eye-catching is the shiny metallic truck included by Matt Giel and Amy Hicks. Entitled “Silver Era,” like the second-place Golden Age, is an otherwise unaltered truck with the exception of a noteworthy amount of aluminum foil. Both inside and out, every visible part of the vehicle is coated in the common kitchen material, with the exception of the seat belts (safety first). Part college dorm-room prank, part tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist, this truck also rests on an inflated pillow composed of similarly reflective emergency blankets. By reducing the pickup truck to its form, we see it as an image and not just an automobile. This truck's glint also gives it a space-age vibe, and one wonders if it might actually blast off in some sort of DIY race to the moon.

Jerry Kaba, "Ball Pit Baptismal." Jerry Kaba, "Ball Pit Baptismal."

If you're looking for something truly transcendent, there is also the “Ball Pit Baptismal” by Jerry Kaba. This truck has the bed enclosed like a covered wagon, with two missionaries in short shorts and tennis shirts stationed just out back. They preach and cajole passersby to gather around and hear the good word of their 'brand new' god. Your old deity feeling a bit dingy? Well this pair of preachers does well to gather a flock like a couple of seasoned carnies. Inside, converts lie down in a McDonald's-like ball pit, don some headphones, and embark on a seriously trippy spiritual journey.

Susan Mangan, "Bucket O&squot; Bolts." Susan Mangan, "Bucket O' Bolts."

For Susan Mangan's “Bucket O' Bolts,” visitors get to utilize sheets of various nails, washers and other hardware to coat in pigment and create prints. All around the truck bed are dangling mechanical bits, and the prints resting on the open gate encourage attendees to take one and make one. Like an old, trustworthy rust bucket of a car, the boards covered in textures of nuts and bolts expose the components under the hood of the process while still functioning as a singular whole – in this case, an artwork instead of a vehicle.

Grant Cox III, "Pickup." Grant Cox III, "Pickup."

With a name like “Pickup,” the truck by Grant Cox III seems somewhat reflexive until it becomes obvious that he's talking about another type of pickup entirely. A psychedelic video plays in the back window, while a row of effects pedals beckons attendees to tweak the sounds coming from an improvised guitar device. Six strings tightened over a pair of magnetic guitar pickups are struck at seemingly random intervals by a wooden arm equipped with a pick. The droning sounds that wobble out from the amp echo through the space, providing an ambient soundtrack to the entire exhibit, which included a number of other artists, musicians, trucks and trailers.

Although the 2014 Philadelphia Pickup Truck Expo was only for an evening, Crane Arts and The Icebox space are always busy playing host to a wide array of art, music and performance events.

Crane Arts is located at 1400 North American St., Philadelphia; [email protected]cranearts.com.

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