Bike Art! at the Dairy

I went to the Bike Art! exhibit at the Dairy Center for the arts in Boulder. This exhibit was curated by Mary Horrocks and consisted of two hundred and forty six pieces of art that spanned a wide range of media. This show is exactly what its title suggests, artworks that put bicycling and bicycles at the forefront of content. Work was gathered from all over the United States by a call for entry through a web site named CallForEntry.org or CaFE. Over four hundred submissions were considered, of which one hundred twenty plus artists were selected by committee. This show left me wanting. Wanting to reorganize it from start to finish. It was way too much art for the space and way to many mediums packed together.

I had never been to the Dairy Center before, so I had no idea what to expect as far as the space was concerned. What I found on entering is that it does not really hold a feel of an art gallery or art center as much as it seems like a community center. The entrance is a very small space that has a box office, which was closed at the time. I almost felt like maybe I was in the wrong spot. Looking through the doorways, left and left again opened up to ramp leading to a large room of which there were a few people watching what looked to be an artist at work on a metal sculpture. On the walls behind were many pieces of art hung in a salon style that covered just about every inch of space. The ramp followed the entire length of the room leading to a concession stand, which I mistook for the front desk where I might have to pay. Fortunately it was just that, concessions and entrance to the exhibit was free. I have never been to a museum that has a concession stand that reminds me of one at a sports stadium.

The spot where the artist was demonstrating had three old couches and a few folding chairs for viewers to watch. I must say that I always enjoy watching artists at work, but it seemed a little forced and I didn’t have the urge to stop and watch. He was working on a large sculpture made exclusively form bike parts that were donated specifically for this reason by the community. The artist works to create otherworldly objects from a science fiction genre that take the form of robotics simulating human appendages. To the side of the artist was a DJ (DJ Cola), who was pumping out beats for the artist to flow to. He looked quite bored by the show, and the six or so people watching looked like the wrong type for the DJ’s loud beats. But, I may be wrong.

Directly behind them the wall of art hung in all its majesty. A large installation made of bike tubes by Jessica Bernstein appropriately named Inner Tube Installation stood out above all other. The jet-black tubes reached out like deep-sea tubeworms and took up a substantial portion of the wall. The texture and scale of the work was quite beautiful. Paintings, photographs and other two dimensional works surrounded the installation, hung to address the contours of it. I found it kind of interesting, but also way to busy. I really didn’t know how to stop and enjoy all of the artworks, as they all seem like they were hung by where they could fit and not by any other process. On the next wall there was more of the same, only this time they hung pieces even higher than the last. A beautiful bike frame wrapped in different color threads hung so high that it was impossible to enjoy, and again the mix of media was boggling.

What I considered the real gallery space is through a set of glass double doors. This was a room of its own that seems like it was built with the possibility of doing art shows in mind. However, once again the multi-multi-media was overwhelming. I really don’t know how they thought that they could put so much in such a space. There were paintings, photos, furniture (which had no signs but seemed like maybe you were invited to try it out, but maybe not as it is art), manufactured bicycles of varying sizes, ceramics, metal sculptures, wood sculptures, and of course a few videos. One of the videos was shown on a TV, which was situated on the floor directly across from a furniture piece that seemed like it was set up to sit and watch from. One, I didn’t feel comfortable sitting on a piece of somebody’s art that didn’t explicitly invite me to, and two, why was the television on the floor so nobody could see it from a decent angle. The other video was even worse. It was a projection on the wall of a man dancing with a bike wheel; a very nice performance piece done in almost an old silent movie style that I would have liked to enjoy a bit more. It was set up in a corner of the gallery projecting over a large bicycle. The bike was a nice piece as well and definitely didn’t deserve to have a stack of small boxes set in front of it to hold the projector, not to mention the projection on the wall behind it. The lights that were set up to illuminate the bike in front of it along with the art all around it drowned the projection out. It was definitely the wrong place, which must have been addressed, possibly by the artist.  I went back to see the space without the artist at work and the projection piece was no longer there.

All in all I liked a large portion of the artworks selected for the show. I thought that the overall theme was solid and the calls for the variety of bicycle related sub themes (handlebars, helmets, paintings, photos, etc…) was pretty interesting. But, the space was totally wrong for the amount of work that they accepted and the way that they hung the show was crazy. The curator, while a very nice person as I got to talk to her and see a piece of her own art, might have thought this show through a little better. I think that the space dictated how they presented the work and it came off pretty confusing as a viewer and unfair to the artists who had their work packed together like sardines. Was she showing art or decorating the Dairy Center?

One Response

  1. Your paper made me feel as though I was experiencing the show with you. You were very descriptive of the gallery space and your interaction with the space. You painted a picture for the viewer, which I appreciated, because as someone who has never been to the Dairy Center, it helped me visualize the exhibition. Curation is a large part of the success of an exhibition and I’m glad you touched on that! Also, an entire exhibit on bicycles seems so fitting for a town like Boulder! Do you think it would have been successful elsewhere? I liked when you said you felt like the Dairy Center felt more like a community center than an art center I believe this is important because art should bring people together and if the space is inviting to the public then, the experience can be fully enjoyed by everyone!

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