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Steven Leyden Cochrane
Brandon Vickerd at aceartinc.
November 11, 2014

I should be clear from the outset that sculptor Brandon Vickerd’s 2012 Chopper series (now on view at aceartinc.) and I were never going to be a love match. Biggish body-shop sculptures based on custom motorcycles that gently rib (but mostly revel in) stereotypically “masculine” aesthetics are simply going to be non-starters for me. These just aren’t things that I (a generally prissy pedestrian) like or care about. Your mileage, of course, will vary.

Brandon Vickerd

To produce the work, Vickerd embedded himself within a posse of motorcycle customizers, gaining familiarity with both traditional and computer-aided fabrication techniques while absorbing something of the culture and its distinctive visual language. The sculptures are formally inventive and finely crafted, with a satisfying interplay of materials and textures – rusted steel, polished chrome and copper, powder-coated pipes, unfinished Styrofoam, and sanded resin.

They retain enough familiar automotive forms (trailing exhaust pipes, blower wheels, etc.) to look motorcyclical while taking on other, contradictory resonances. Strongly biomorphic, one asymmetrical construction slumps to one side like a tiny beached mechanical whale, while another rusted form sprouts wiggly exhaust-pipe tentacles. I feel that one looks remarkably like a giant vacuum cleaner (others saw exercise equipment); one rests on a pair of deflated-looking and distinctly nutlike tanks, and two vinyl wall pieces comprising overlapping layers of pinstripe filigree are giant variations of the world’s ugliest back tattoo. All of those things are funny and gently subversive, but the work’s primary appeal (or not) remains formal.

Vickerd remarks that many of the actual chopped, screwed, and baroquely augmented bikes his sculptures reference are, in fact, so hobbled as to be essentially nonfunctional as means of transportation. Instead, the modifications are about ownership, identity, and appearances: in these respects they’re well down the road toward becoming a sculptural form unto themselves. This consideration adds a measure of depth to the work, connecting it to established but still interesting conversations about the conferral of “art” status, its relationship to use value, and so on, but I sheepishly found myself more curious about these useless, art-like motorcycles (not pictured) than I was interested in the decorative, bike-like sculptures in the gallery. But like I said, your mileage may vary.

Brandon Vickerd: Chopper continues until November 21.

Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.



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