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Art Review: “BigBike Show,” BigTown Gallery

Lithograph by Ed Koren
  • Lithograph by Ed Koren

The “BigBike Show” at BigTown Gallery lives up to its name, with 21 artists exhibiting bike-related works, bike-themed events filling the calendar, an impressive collection of bicycles by a dozen makers on view and four bike-related films screening in the gallery. In its scope and organization, the exhibition aims to present artwork featuring the two-wheeled machines, to highlight the artistry in bicycles themselves and to honor the cycling culture that has played a formative role in Rochester’s development.

Before you enter BigTown Gallery, a hint of the artsy, bike-related works within greets you by the door. A bright-red sculptural bike rack designed by Studio Tractor Architecture for Connecticut’s Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is both a place to park one’s bike and a rhythmic progression of clean lines and smooth welds — a design piece that echoes the functional economy of the bikes it hosts.

Inside the gallery, a diverse mix of custom and vintage bikes, posters, paintings, prints, glasswork, and sculptures makes for a festive, lighthearted atmosphere. Gallery owner Anni Mackay is married to Doon Hinderyckx, longtime proprietor of Green Mountain Bikes. In the shop right next door, Hinderyckx has a 25-year reputation as a bicycle guru. Hence, “BigBike Show” is both a family affair and a public celebration.

The family includes Zak Hinderyckx, whose lithe, custom-built white road bike — called Weg Eekhorn, Dutch for “road squirrel” — hovers on a bike stand near the gallery door. The younger Hinderyckx grew up working in his father’s bike shop and now lives in Seattle, but he spends several months of the year in Rochester building custom bikes. He says the custom white bike is a hybrid of sorts, since it is welded with tungsten inert gas like new bikes but has the clean lines and lighter frame of older road models.

Zak Hinderyckx, now 32, has built more than 25 custom bikes, an achievement in a field where many give up after just a few. Trained to weld by a sculptor, Hinderyckx puts his emphasis on creating bikes that fit their intended riders physiologically, practically and visually — a delicate and creative process of matching each cyclist to the perfect machine.

A selection of other bicycles populates the BigTown Gallery, amid a vibrant display of works that include lithographs of cartoonist Ed Koren’s hairy creatures on two wheels, an intriguing wood assemblage by Varujan Boghosian and April Surgent’s elegant relief-engraved, wall-mounted glass pieces.

In front of the gallery’s entry wall, “Bike Tree,” by Daniel Ladd, is baffling at first. An apple tree trunk grows in a figure eight around two bike wheels arranged vertically. Ladd created this work over 12 years by grafting apple trees onto the then-suspended bike wheels. Over time, the trunk grew around the wheels, and the piece was eventually “harvested” for exhibition. The relationship of the natural growth and texture of the trees to the steel spokes and rims of the bike wheels aligns with an underlying theme of this show: the relation of bikes, as machines, to the organic bodies of those who ride them.

Taliah Lempert’s oeuvre centers on bikes and the diverse riders they suggest. Her painting “Mike’s Bike 12” is a head-on view of a bicycle, its tire turned coyly at an angle. The bike’s creamy mustard-yellow and dark-green body and brown-walled tires suggest an earlier era, while its narrow tubing and cleanly rendered machinery call attention to its elegant functionality. Lempert’s composition frames the bike’s form as a shape. It’s compelling whether seen as an abstraction or as a bike.

Nearby, a milk crate packed full of colorful plastic fragments of other milk crates perches on a low shelf, cleverly appearing to be held aloft by a kickstand. The work, titled “Peepers,” by Charles Spurrier, continues the artist’s use of recycled plastic. In this case he creates a sculptural work that recalls the motley milk crates strapped to the back racks of bike messengers as they deftly pedal through cities.

In the back room of the gallery, two vintage Peugeot bicycles loaned for the exhibition by Burlington’s Old Spokes Home hang on the wall as artworks. One, from 1936, has elegant wooden rims. An observer can’t help but wonder who steered this bike along the road, and where the rider was headed.

The exhibition highlights the particular intimacy of owning a bike. No matter where yours came from, who made it or where it takes you, there’s a thrilling immediacy to possessing it. “BigBike Show” is a tribute to bike art, bike culture and bikes themselves — as well as a subtle statement on sustainable transportation and fit lifestyles. But, most of all, it’s a tribute to the fondness we have for these deceptively simple machines and the memories they carry along with their riders.

“BigBike Show,” BigTown Gallery, Rochester. Through September. bigtowngallery.com

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