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Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Automobile in Art

Automobiles are designed to "knock your eyes out." This was never more so than
in the phantasmagorical 1959 Cadillac. When artist, David Chapple, transports it
to New York's Times Square, the viewers eyes may never be the same again.
Having dwelt at length on "Car Art," less than a week ago (09-14-13), and some months before that on Automobile Design (04-03-13), I decided then to also explore the impact this vital transportation device has had on art itself, specifically painting. I've limited this to painting in that there are simply too many photos of cars to deal with as art, and I eliminated the sculptural element simply because the automobile, is a 3-D work of sculpture in its natural state (ever more so in the hands of a creative artist/owner as covered with the "Car Art" item).
Speeding Automobile,  1912,
Giacomo Balla
The Dynamism of the Automobile,
1912, Luigi Russolo

The automobile has made its presence known in painting almost from the first flat tire. The Italian Futurist, Giacomo Balla painted Speeding Automobile (above, left) as far back as 1912, the same year his friend, Luigi Russolo painted The Dynamism of the Automobile (above, right). The best that can be said regarding these early efforts at automobile art is that painting is never at its best in depicting movement. In 1941, Salvador Dali contributed his Surrealist bit to Automotive art for General Motors with his Special Automobile, a 1941 Cadillac, which appears about to launch into some mystical dream world. In the same year Dali painted another '41 Caddy, Automobile Clothed, in an effort to combat the tendency artist have always had toward painting naked cars.
Special Automobile, 1941, Salvador Dali
Copyright, Jim Lane
Varoom-Varoom, 2001, Jim Lane,
(yes, the painting is wider than the frame).

Peddle Car Cruiser, Airborne Creations
Few male artists have not tried their hand at painting their beloved automobiles (at least once). I've probably done as many as a dozen cars I've owned (or would like to have owned). Add to that approximately a dozen more automobile portraits painted for collectors over the years, and I'd like to think I've gained some "feel" for the subject. Yet, seldom does an artist ever grow comfortable painting such shiny, anamorphic shapes while utilizing cubistic-prone, two-point perspective. Add to that the difficulties in balancing the local color of glistening paint with the ambient colors and reflections of the environment, and virtually all automobile artists run screaming and yelling for a photographer (or try to be one themselves). Perhaps second only to painting the face, depicting an automobile in paint may be the most challenging task an artist can face.

Future Rolls Royce, 1967, Cyd Mead. Just as paint is not well-suited for depicting movement, the same is also true of any effort at prognostication.



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