For decades the automobile has served as an integral part of the spirit, ethos, and economic lifeblood of the Great Lakes Bay area, and the era of the ‘muscle car’, replete with powerful engines, sleek lines of design, and visual intoxication, represents an artistry that was fueled by high-octane inspiration, which captured the imagination of designers and consumers alike.
So it is through this link between imagination and creation that the Saginaw Art Museum is currently presenting their latest exhibition titled Luster: Realism & Hyperrealism in Contemporary Automobile & Motorcycle Painting, which will be on display through May 18th.
Comprised of over 55 paintings by 15 American artists who through their photo-realistic and hyper-realistic work share an adoration for the sensuous line and shimmering surfaces of motorized vehicles, each work offers the opportunity for the viewer to experience intimate aspects of glistening surfaces and radiant paint. Through depictions of steel, chrome and metallic finishes, the artists share their fascination with elements that elevate cars and bikes above mere modes of transportation.
According to exhibition tour director David Wagner, the idea for this exhibition grew out of a recommendation by painter Allan Gorman. “Allan recommended an industrial art exhibition, and subsequent discussions narrowed down the concept. Allan along with artist Ken Scaglia had exhibited in an earlier exhibition from The International Guild of Realism, and Allan's "Ruby & Sapphire" and Ken's "Saratoga 300" were both featured in this MASTERWORKS exhibit, and are now experiencing an encore in Luster. My objective for Luster was to create a touring museum exhibit that surveyed the very best realist artwork being produced by today's generation of realist painters of cars and motorcycles.”
Already familiar Gorman & Scaglia’s work, Wagner reached out to them along with Randy Ford, who was also a member of The International Guild of Realism, to seek out recommendations and discover additional artists to contribute to the exhibit.
“:My chief criteria for selecting artists to exhibit their work in Luster was: quality, quality, quality,” states Wagner. “I worked with each artist to narrow down final choices of artworks by each artist. The exhibit tour took off like wild fire, which since museum curators demand quality, is an indicator, I think, that we achieved an exhibit of the highest quality.”
According to Loissa Harrison-Parks, Registrar & Collection Coordinator at the Saginaw Art Museum, hyper-realism is a style of painting based off the concept of making a painting look like a photo taken with a camera. “The style emerged out of the 1980s and regardless of the media used, the objective is focused upon creating an unforgettable image that is an exaggeration of life. Some of the works are composites, but all of them fire off impressions in the viewer alluding to more than you can render through a simple photo.”
“We’ve organized this exhibition into different sections,” she continues, “so we have a ‘Performance’ wing featuring race and high-performance cars; a ‘Hidden Meaning’ wing featuring different themes allowing the viewer to find the symbolism within the paintings; and an ‘Engine Wing’, which celebrates the machinery of the vehicles, which are like a circulatory system for the machine that man created. In some of these works there is an illusion of speed conveyed by the artist bending light.”
Another poignant section is the ‘Rust Wing’, which features the timeless beauty of vehicles such as an old Jaguar XKE that is deteriorating with rust, but still carries an enduring charm through the power of its design. “This wing is more celebratory,” notes Loissa, “not looking at the car as piece of junk but as one of potential. Whereas, with the ‘Performance’ section you have classic MG and Rolls Royce vehicles, along with streamlining, which is something that happened in the 1950s when we started creating cars that alluded to rockets and space travel and different things going on in that era.”
When asked about this specific genre of hyper-realism and what he feels distinguishes the idiom best in terms of rendering this type of a topical and thematic exhibition, Wagner points to the visual seduction involved.
“For one thing, this style enables artists to capture the sheen, the reflections, the curves, the angles, the chrome, and the spirit of fast, powerful, beautiful machines. For another, the combination of car and motorcycle design, portrayed in paintings by virtuosic realist artists, is seductive and alluring. It is impossible to not be drawn in by the paintings featured in Luster.”
Additionally, the Saginaw Art Museum is presenting Fives’ Fast Track, featuring automotive paintings by the late Saginaw artist Jim Fives that will be on display through May 18th. Known for his many talents, the artistic skills of Jim Fives included sign painting and calligraphy with specialization in gold leafing, window lettering, cartooning, and graphic design. His works have been featured in numerous competitions such as Art Prize and Saginaw’s All Area Arts Award.
This exhibition will be accompanied by a public reception honoring Fives’ legacy and his many gifts to the Great Lakes Bay Region on April 12, 2019 from 6-8pm
Luster is sponsored by WNEM 5, Glastender, and Shadow Rods with additional support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Saginaw Art Museum is located at 1126 N. Michigan Ave. in Saginaw and open Tuesday-Saturday noon-5pm. Visit www.saginawartmuseum.org for additional information and event listings.
9th February, 2024