Monday, April 23, 2012

"Steel Ponies"

Art Attack, 2005, by Russ Hess of Cowboy Customs. Detail
I opened with a detail of the motorcycle which is the finale of 
"Steel Ponies," an exhibition exploring the art and history that have 
sprung out of the subcultures associated with the motorcycle.
Art Attack was designed and constructed in 2005
by Russ Hess of Cowboy Customs. The motorcycle took 
Hess 800 hours to build and consists of a tooled leather seat, 
saguaro wheel spokes, forty-seven pieces of engraved 
silver overlay, and 115 gold flowers and rubies.
Art Attack, 2005, by Russ Hess
The show opens with a shining red and black 1948 
Indian Chief Roadmasterwith its trademark large-skirted fenders. 
The Roadmaster debuted in 1922 and was Harley-Davidson's 
main competitor in the V-twin heavyweight class.

1948 Indian Chief  Roadmaster

Visitors are then shown various examples of early motorcycles, 
beginning with a 1902 Indian Camelback
which is virtually a bicycle with a motor attached. 

1902 Indian Camelback, on loan from
the Smithsonian Institution, Museum of American History,
Kenneth E. Behring Center

The 1998 Harley-Davidson Road King shown below is owned by
United States Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who in 1992
became the first Native American to serve Congress
in more than 60 years.

1998 Harley-Davidson Road King
on loan from Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

Detail of the Road King showing
the eagle's talon kick stand.
To people "of a certain age," there are three movies which
described the feelings of alienation from society felt by many
young people, the motorcyclists depicted in The Wild Ones
the 1953 movie starring Marlon Brando; The Wild Angels,
which came out in 1966 with Peter Fonda; and the
iconic 1966 film Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda 
and Dennis Hopper as Captain America and Wyatt.
Detail of Captain America Bike from Easy Rider
While I don't remember the first two movies, I do recall
seeing Easy Rider and remember the dread and
revulsion I felt over the movie's conclusion. I haven't
been able to watch it since. Four used cop bikes,
Harley-Davidson Hydraglides were converted by
builders Cliff Vaughns and Ben Hardy to create the 
motorcycles for the main characters, played by
Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. Of the four,
three were stolen towards the end of production 
on the movie. The fourth, the Captain America destroyed
at the end of the movie, was rebuilt from the remaining 
parts by Dan Haggerty.

Foreground, Captain America bike from Easy Rider,
1969; background left, 1953 
Chino Bobber from The Wild One
and right, Dragon Bike
from 1966 movie 
The Wild Angels.


dive said...

Custom choppers are great fun, but those early Indians really hit the spot.
So good to see the rebuilt Captain America bike. I recall the same reaction to the ending (one that's left me with a lifelong loathing of right wing American rednecks), but I still watch it once in a while. I watch The Wild Ones a lot more though. I just love hearing the hep cat jive back when it was fresh. And the bikes of course were awesome.
I'm kinda glad we're of that generation.

Speedway said...

Hi, Dive. I just don't get the motorcycle thing. At all. But I do like the craftsmanship and design inspiration that goes into the creation of the motorcycles (and automobiles, too). I did find the older ones to be more interesting, too.