Tuesday, August 22, 2006


We just packed off a show to a museum in Tokyo - one hundred and fifty original illustrations from automobile styling studios in the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's. The collection has been amassed by a man who has already filled residences in Manhattan (Fifth Avenue), Boston (Chestnut Hill), East Hampton, London (Mayfair) and Majorca with what must be every extant Beaux Arts architectural rendering not in an institutional collection. His decorator (who has the most beautiful shoes I have ever seen; one piece vamp Balmorals of lustrous black cordovan, glistening French calf split toe bluchers, and on Fridays, Belgian slippers in snuff colored reverse suede or vegetable tanned peccary, and driving moccasins of shrunken elephant hide) has framed them all in carved and gilded accademic frames of the period, with wide mats having watercolor panels and ink lines picking out the shades and shadows of the illustrated edifices. I execute thses mats. The walls of the residences have been covered with these pictures, and besides, the autorama doesn't go with the furniture - so the cars have hit the exhibition highway. A majority of the works, done in house by employees of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, were the sorts of glamour images used in sales brochures and full color magazine ads; projections of the companies images of themselves and their products through the various decades. Fewer were the styling sketches - many of which got no further than the water color and gouache stages - the dream cars and the working-out-the-details styling exercises; drawings and paintings of hub caps, grille patterns, and interior schemes. These were my favorites.

Somewhere in Detroit in the 70's, a man (they were all men) sat down to render these two symphonies in tapestry, wood grain plastic, and Rich Corinthian Leather. Imagine having such a position, toiling at a drawing board in light streaming through ribbons of aluminum sashed glass overlooking test tracks and smoke stacks and vast fields of shiny laqcquered product awaiting shipment to evert corner of North America. Being paid to imagine two primary objects of manly affections; what you want to drive, and what you want to, um, drive; the cars themselves and the styling sirens perch in the images. These graphite spokes models, alert yet impassive, with backs arched and languid eyes engaging the viewer, convey deep, deep satisfaction with the designers efforts, and a delicious anticipation of his next creative emissions. The guys probably got to drink coffee all day long, too. *sigh*
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