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“Piston Head: Artists Engage the Automobile”, at Venus Over Manhattan, shows automobiles transformed into sculptures by modern and contemporary artists in the years since 1970.
“Piston Head: Artists Engage the Automobile” presents fourteen works that reflect art’s longstanding relationship with the car as a cultural icon and fetish object replete with physical and symbolic possibilities.
The exhibition will be presented on the top level of 1111 Lincoln Road, the open-air parking structure designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron.
The exhibition includes works by Ron Arad, Bruce High Quality Foundation, César, Dan Colen and Nate Lowman, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Virginia Overton, Olivier Mosset/ Jacob Kassay/Servane Mary, Richard Phillips, Richard Prince, Tom Sachs, Salvatore Scarpitta, Kenny Scharf, and Franz West. Additionally, Los Angeles-based artist Joshua Callaghan will create a new work – a signature “rubbing” of Ferrari’s LaFerrari state-of-the-art hybrid supercar.
By removing these works from the white-walled conventions of contemporary galleries and museums, and placing them in the context of a working parking garage, Venus Over Manhattan highlights the way the participating artists have exploited tensions between refinement and brute power, aesthetics and utility.
The artists represented in “Piston Head” have approached the car as both object and subject in numerous ways. Layered in Bondo, Richard Prince’s American muscle cars are monochromatic, neutral compositions reminiscent of Minimalist painting and sculpture (another brand of American muscle). Conceptual Art and Process Art come to mind when viewing Virginia Overton’s ruggedly elegant Dodge Ram, transformed by a mountain of sand to obscure most of the vehicle’s defining details.
In the painterly vein, Britain’s Damien Hirst offers Spot Mini, a classic, diminutive British automobile covered in the artist’s trademark colorful spots. Similarly, Keith Haring applied his own recognizable imagery to a well-worn Buick, employing his signature calligraphic style to transform the car into a rolling painting. In contrast to these more painterly works, the car of the late Viennese artist Franz West suggests a sculptural approach tinged with wit. West replaced the existing “Spirit of Ecstasy” hood ornament on his 1970 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow with one of his signature Passstuck sculptures. This small gesture transforms West’s personal ride into a commentary on the car as a conveyance of status, identity, and wish fulfillment. Bruce High Quality Foundation’s recently completed work – a pair of entangled Volkswagen Beetles – is a more suggestive take on cars as symbols of what the artists describe as “passion and suffering.”
Brute power has always been the companion of elegance in the world of automobiles and has been frequently addressed in 20th century art history. In a series of works called Compresions des Voitures and created from the 1960s until the artist’s death in 1998, renowned French sculptor César crushed automobiles in order to suggest the collision of classicism and contemporary art. “Piston Head” will present one of these celebrated works, a “car brick” from among the group César exhibited in the Pavilion of the French Republic at the Venice Biennale of 1995. César’s work will echo in the contribution of Israeli-born artist and industrial designer Ron Arad, whose own car compression has rendered a six-inch thick “canvas”.
Power of another sort – the destructive power of entropy and chaos that result from neglect and mistreatment – will be on view in a contribution from Dan Colen and Nate Lowman. Their collaborative work, created in 2008, is a dilapidated four-door sedan, stuffed with TV sets. Lucien Smith’s sorrowfully pockmarked and crumbling vehicle once served as the target at a shooting range. With it’s lyric-like title of The sound of the engine still running and for the last time they locked eyes, together again in the end, Smith’s work draws chaos away from the merely sad, toward the Romantic. From such glamorous nihilism, “Piston Head” comes full circle to the joyful, unbridled magic of Kenny Scharf’s painted dinosaur of a family vehicle.
from December 3 until December 8, 2013 Piston Head: Artists Engage the Automobile
111, Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, Florida
presented by: Venus Over Manhattan