The Truth About Cars » Automotive Art The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Automotive Art Brenda Priddy Steps Out From the Shadows of Shooting Spy Pics With Exhibit of Fine Automotive Art Thu, 09 Jan 2014 12:30:12 +0000 chandler showsample priddy DSC09540 2

You’ve probably enjoyed Brenda Priddy’s photography before. Brenda specializes in getting spy shots of prototypes and development “mules” out testing, usually in the Arizona desert, her base of operations, though she has associates around the country. Spy shots aren’t the most artistic of photographs, though. You’re trying to get shots of the car, often a moving target, so you may not have the luxury of getting the composition, framing and every camera setting on every photo just right, but make no doubt about it, Brenda’s got some serious chops as a lenswoman. She’ll be stepping out from the shadows of shooting spy pics and making a public appearance in Chandler, Az at the January 31 opening of her exhibition of fine art photographs entitled “Automotive Artifacts: The Fine Art Photography of Brenda Priddy” at the Chandler Center for the Arts.

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When she’s not out in the desert tracking down some camo’d car, Brenda photographs the spectrum of the world of cars, from concours classics to junkyard patina. Hood ornaments, nameplates, badging and the architectural lines of automotive design are what often catch her eye. “These images recall a day long past when the automobile stood as an iconic figurehead in the American life,” Priddy explains. Brenda has also photographically documented Cuba’s fleet of old American cars and will be leading a people-to-people tour there in the fall of this year, focusing on art and automobiles.

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The exhibit will run from January 31st through March 8th, 2014. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday; 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday. Admission is free and open to the public.

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Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Artists Come to Detroit to Paint Mural Inspired By Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry” Murals But Don’t Bother Actually Seeing Rivera’s Original Work Sun, 01 Dec 2013 14:00:24 +0000

When I write about cars, my words are inspired by the works of Leonard Setright. While I haven’t actually read a word of what he’s written I know his writing and have educated myself about it and its significance.

Just how silly did that sound? About as silly as an artist saying that he’s inspired by a work that he hasn’t actually seen. What’s this doing on a car site? The work of art is arguably the greatest piece of automotive fine art in the world.

A mixed use building is in the final stages of construction in downtown Detroit near Broadway, Gratiot and Library Street (where the National Automotive History Collection resides nearby at the Skillman branch of the Detroit Public Library). The 10 story building is named “The Z”, from the fact that it zig zags across the property and, I’m guessing, from the fact that a branch of “The Y”, the YMCA, is nearby. It’s mostly going to be a parking structure but there will be retail stores on the ground floor.  Bedrock Real Estate Services, which is developing the project, worked with the Library Street Collective art gallery to make it more than just a sterile concrete place to put your car when doing business in downtown Detroit. Matt Eaton, curator of the Library Street Collective, commissioned 27 artists from around the world to visit Detroit and paint murals of what they experienced here on the walls of the parking structure. The building isn’t open to the public yet but they let the Detroit News in for a sneak peek.

Detroit Industry (north wall), Diego Rivera

Detroit Industry (north wall), Diego Rivera

One reason why they decided to have 27 fine art murals painted in a Detroit parking structure is that Detroit is home to one of the most notable murals in the world, a collection of 27 panels collectively known as Detroit Industry. The murals, depicting Ford’s massive Rouge Complex and the assembly of the Ford V8, were painted on the walls of the Detroit Institute of Arts by Mexican artist Diego Rivera, commissioned by Edsel Ford, the only son of Henry Ford and a great patron of the arts. Most people don’t know the works’ title, around Detroit they’re simply called the Diego Rivera murals at the DIA, part of the region’s cultural heritage.

Detroit Industry (south wall), Diego Rivera

Detroit Industry (south wall), Diego Rivera

This is the 80th anniversary of the Rivera murals at the DIA. The DIA has been in the news lately. You might have heard that the art institute’s collection might be sold to pay off creditors because of the city of Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy. It might be hard to sell the murals since they’re actually part of the building, located on Woodward Avenue, across the street from the main library and in the heart of Detroit’s cultural center. I’ve been seeing the murals since I was a child, they’re genuinely part of the region’s cultural heritage, the stuff of school field trips as well as serious scholarly study. My mother says that she remembers visiting the museum as a child and watching Rivera paint them. My mom’s 89 now and since she also ‘remembers’ that Tom Harmon played for *Michigan State when my father was going to veterinary school there, I double checked and it is possible. Rivera worked on the 27 panels, from small to immense, from 1932 to 1933, when Mom was 8 years old.

One of the new murals in The Z is called Unexpected Punchline,a massive work painted by identical twins Raoul and Davide Perre in just four and a half days. The Perres are, according to the Detroit News, international graffiti artists and muralists well known in art circles under the nom d’art of How&Nosm. According to the brothers, they have painted more than 500 murals in 60 countries over the last 25 years. Some were commissioned, others were “unauthorized”. I wonder how Bedrock will feel when some “unauthorized” Detroit “artists” decide to tag add their own works of art to the parking structure.

When asked about their mural’s significance, Davide Perre said, “We felt that it was important to point out that Detroit, now Americas’ first bankrupt major city, and its people seem to be left on their own. And we are talking about the largest racial demographic, the African-American group, making up 83 percent that is mainly affected by our country’s bad economy.”

Unexpected Punchline unabashedly borrows from Rivera’s DIA murals. College of Creative Studies dean of undergraduate studies, Vince Carducci, describes the painting: “The title riffs off the famous Joe Louis fist, which is visible at the right edge of the mural. But the actual hand itself looks like it could have been taken from the upper reaches of Diego Rivera’s famous “Detroit Industry” murals at the DIA. In fact, the entire piece comes off as a cyberpunk remix of Rivera’s masterpiece.”

Regarding Rivera’s DIA murals, Davide Perre said, “We feel somewhat a connection to it. Diego’s themes are very similar to ours, and like him we like to provoke the viewer but not straight in your face, but with some tact… It is the issues of everyday life, our surroundings, politics and other more serious problems that influence our creative decisions.”

“Like Diego, we usually tell a story of struggle for survival in an ethnically and financially divided society in connection with the injustices of the government. We are sure Diego had some restriction when he painted “Detroit’s Industry” or else it would have had a more obvious political approach. But our main goal, and we believe Diego’s too, was to express the extraordinary spirit of Detroit and strength of its people.”

Perre must be very familiar with Rivera’s work, after all, he kept called him “Diego”.

“We have not seen it in person, though we know it and educated ourselves about it,” Davide Perre said. “Unfortunately, we had a very tight schedule, and finishing our mural had priority. We literally walked from the hotel to our mural, back and forth, and that was it. But we have been in Detroit before and have gotten to know most parts of Detroit very well.”

Wait, what? They know it and have educated themselves about Detroit Industry, they feel inspired by it, have a connection to it but their schedule was just so tight when painting their own mural they just didn’t have the time to get over to the DIA and actually, you know, see their supposed inspiration with their own two eyes. It wasn’t their first visit here. They want us to know that they’ve visited our fair region before and that they’ve gotten to know not just some of the city but rather “most parts of Detroit”, and not just in a cursory manner, but “very well”. The Perres are visual artists who have been here more than once but haven’t bothered to see the region’s most famous artwork, one they say inspires them, now that they have a commission to be inspired thereby.

When the Perres were painting the work they were in town for four and a half days. I’m sure that it was hectic but the DIA is just two miles up Woodward from the location of the Perres’ Unexpected Punchline. You can walk the distance, take some time enjoying and studying Rivera’s murals and then walk back downtown in far less than half a day. They could even have stopped in to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit since it would have been right on the way there or back. MOCAD is currently having a show, The Past Is Present, with works commissioned, coincidentally “to begin where Rivera left off”. I suppose, though, that if you are internationally famous vandals graffiti artists and muralists, your time is in great demand. I’m sure they had someplace very important to be for that additional half day.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Z facility opens up early next year. I was thinking of going down there and checking out the murals, particularly the Perres’ Unexpected Punchline, but now that I’ve seen photos and learned about it, I suppose there’s no need for me to see the real thing.

*Tom Harmon won the 1940 Heisman Trophy playing for the University of Michigan, which my father did actually also attend, earning an associates degree in civil engineering while in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during WWII, but he was in Ann Arbor years after Harmon had graduated.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Detroit Knows Art Sun, 21 Jul 2013 14:30:17 +0000 IMG_0024

Charles Maher, Bloomfield Hills, MI

We seem to be in a bit of a museum mood, what with Thomas Kreutzer’s report on the expanded Pierce Arrow Museum in Buffalo, NY., the continuing story about the Petersen Museum selling off part of their collection, and speculation on what will happen to the valuable art, cars and other items that belong to city-owned museums in the wake of Detroit’s filing for municipal bankruptcy. In the comment thread to our second post about the Petersen, the relationship between the world of cars and the world of fine art was raised by narcoossee, and 3Deuce27.

I suppose Detroiters are a bit touchy when it comes to things like fine art. After all, Detroit is, at heart, a factory town and proud of that fact. Our dreams are made of iron and steel, not pastel chalk and pretty paintings.

IMG_0053David Chapple, Detroit, MI

Folks from outside the region think of Detroit that way as well. Someone once asked me, in the wake of Chrysler’s Imported From Detroit ad campaign, “Just what would Detroiters know about style?”. I simply pointed out that Minoru Yamasaki, who designed the original World Trade Center towers, and two other of the 20th century’s greatest architects, Albert Kahn and Eero Saarinen, didn’t just design buildings for Detroit, they designed buildings in Detroit. All three of their firms were based in the Detroit area. Saarinen’s onetime business partner, the great designer Charles Eames and Eames’ wife Ray, also spent formative years in the Motor City.

IMG_0167Gerald Freeman, South Lyon, MI

Today, car enthusiasts and collectors are pushing the art world to embrace the art that goes into making and selling cars along with some cars themselves as examples of fine art. Frederic Sharf’s book on styling studio art, Future Retro, and the related show at Boston’s Museum of Fine Art, are examples of that effort. Getting that recognition for the artistic talent involved in making cars is one of the rationales for the Petersen’s sell off, the museum’s management says that they want it to be one of the best art and design museums in the world.

Steve Purdy, Williamston, MI

It may have taken some time and effort to get the general art world to take notice but the local creative community in Detroit has appreciated the contributions to the art world by the automotive industry for over a century, and not just because captains of Detroit industry donated a lot of art to the Detroit Institute of Arts. The institution that is now Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, which continues to train a good fraction of the people who design cars around the world, started out in 1906 as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, with Kahn, whose factory designs changed the auto industry, as one of the founding members. In the more than a century since then, many of the Society’s and CCS’s instructors and faculty have been working designers in the auto industry. Perhaps even more than the DSAC/CCS, Detroit’s Scarab Club, a hangout for artists and art lovers, has been the nexus of Detroit’s fine art and automotive worlds.

IMG_0107Michael Goettner, Sylvania, OH

From the Scarab Club’s website:

The Scarab Club was founded in 1907 by a group of artists and art lovers who enjoyed meeting regularly to discuss art and socialize.  The desire to form an arts organization in Detroit during the first third of the 20th century was partially intertwined with the birth of automotive design and the evolution of advertising art inspired by the burgeoning automobile industry.  Although generally viewed as a heavily industrial city, Detroit’s artistic community thrived from the success of the automobile.

Many of the original founding members of the Scarab Club consisted of automotive designers, advertising illustrators, graphic artists, photographers, architects, and automobile company owners.  Scarab Club members inspired each others’ artistic spirit by entering their artwork in the Annual Exhibition of Michigan Artists held at the Detroit Institute of Arts under the auspices of the Scarab Club from 1911 to 1928 and the DIA from 1929 to 1974.

IMG_0011Clark Gordon, Detroit, MI

Anyhow, with all this talk of art, cars and car art, I remembered that for the past couple of years, a group of artists, painters, photographers and sculptors, has put together exhibitions called Detroit Knows Art in downtown Detroit office building lobbies. This is as good an excuse as any to post the photos that I took of the 2012 Detroit Knows Cars exhibit at the Chase Tower. Keeping with this post’s theme of the nexus between art and automobiles, among the artists whose work was on display were retired Ford designer, Howard “Buck” Mook, who is absolutely proud of the 1974 Mustang II because it was one of the best selling Mustangs ever, and Camilo Pardo, who is so proud of the Ford GT that he designed he’s done a series of fine art paintings of the car. Other participating artists were Alex BuchanDavid Chapple, Gerald FreemanMichael GoettnerClark GordonJim HaefnerTom HaleJay KokaCharles Maher, and Steve Purdy.

IMG_0105Jim Haefner, Troy, MI

IMG_0017Tom Hale, Northville, MI

IMG_0068bJay Koka, Toronto, ON

Alex Buchan, Warren, MI.

IMG_0097Buck Mook, West Bloomfield, MI

IMG_0128aCamilo Pardo, Detroit, MI


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Hammer Time: Futuramic Oldsmobile! Sat, 15 Dec 2012 19:56:48 +0000

I have very little love for nostalgia because, to be frank, the auto auctions I visit every week are overflowing with it.

As the Rivethead, Ben Hamper, was fond of saying, “The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence until you start cutting that shit down.”

For me that fecal threshing consists of repairs, recon work, and getting a car from yesteryear in the hands of someone who loves it far more than yours truly.

But I do have one tender spot in my heart when it comes to true automotive works of art.  Especially when they’re loaded with old school kitsch and delusional fantasies.

I recently found three original Oldsmobile dealer promos from the glory days of the late 60′s.

Now keep in mind we’re not talking about the type of retro art that makes most folks “oooohh” and “aaahhh” with wondrous amazement at one’s buying prowess. No, this was just typical kinda cool kitsch that I found at the nearby Blue Chicken Auction in Dallas, GA on a Friday night.

For some reason these classic Oldsmobile posters and hang-ups appealed to me in a way no Roger Smith era wall art ever could.


Elementary school arts and craft designs intermingled with the promise and potential of space age technology and powerful thrusts of American made glory. All for your joy Mr. Customer!

An outer circle, an inner circle, and a golden rocket taking us ever upwards to the glories of future Oldsmobiles.

There was one other thing I bought in that grouping which may have indeed given ol’ Roger a little inspiration for his demonic Saturn spawn.

That other, other, other import fighting division in GM’s seven headed monster that ended up cannibalizing itself.


There is just something “awe shucks!” inspiring in that classical space age, paperboard, mega sized poster that spoke to me at the Blue Chicken Auction that evening. For once, I had to give in to my frugal nature. If for nothing else, than the sheer joy of owning what once was an American icon.

The bidding started at 5 dollars from yours truly.

About five seconds grinded by, the auctioneer was within a hair whisk of the hammer going down..  when all of a sudden…

6! Damn!

I popped back in at 7. A brief bidding war with the shadows came and went, and I soon became the new owner of all three Oldsmobile Futuramics for 11 dollars, times the money.

11 times three came to 33. Add the 7% buyers premium and 7% tax, and the final real total came to 37.55.

Did I get a good deal? Well, who knows. For now it is occupying my man cave next to the last known skinny picture of John Travolta and an old play called “Hair: the American Tribal Love Rock Musical.” The only two things I still have in my life which date all the way back to the Reagan era and my 16th birthday.

I can’t recall a time when I ever bought a piece of automotive art that didn’t have an engine attached to it. But the Futuramic Oldsmobile artwork just seemed so simple, so hokey, and so well aligned with the neighboring art at my office, that I just couldn’t resist the seduction of that moment.

Besides if I get the urge to drive my only Oldsmobile on the lot. The Cadillac of minivans no less. What better way to memorialize that experience than by leaving behind three more pieces of Oldsmobile history to keep the skinny Travolta and super-afro hallucinogenic man company.

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