I Want to Ride It Where I Like
Bicycle races are coming your way at the Go, Rilla! Gallery
At the risk of perpetuating insulting gender stereotypes, I’m just going to go ahead and call bikes a guy thing. Now, don’t get me wrong: Plenty of females ride bikes. But that whole deal of being way, way too into bikes, where you get all dizzy over gears and chains and covet your neighbor’s 1958 Sky Rider so much that when you see him tinkering with it in his driveway, you go out there and swoon like you’re Napoleon Dynamite . . . (“Dang, you got shocks, pegs . . . You ever taken off any sweet jumps?”) Well, that’s totally a guy thing. Think of it as a kind of hippie-ish, alterna version of automobile lust.
Santa Ana’s Go, Rilla! gallery has a new art show all about bikes—cheekily dubbed “Bike Curious”—and, fortunately, you don’t have to be a Bike Dude to enjoy it. Whatever you’re expecting to find at a show of bike art, you’re immediately thrown by Nathan Saway’s Endless Fun, a sculpture in the window that begins at the handlebars as a real bike, only to abruptly transform into Legos before you reach the seat. What’s it mean? We haven’t a clue, but this isn’t a show for deep thinking—just grab the handlebars and ride, baby.
Go, Rilla! is part gallery and part hipster gewgaw store (which they’ve dubbed Go, Zilla!), and this long, tall, narrow space makes for a fun, stylish home for the show. It’s surprising how diverse this art is, given the seeming limitations of the theme. Paul Nagel’s canvases are grim, yet also cartoony fantasies, almost like illustrations from a vintage issue of Heavy Metal magazine. Cruisin’ shows an Alfred E. Neuman-like figure pedalling along through a postapocalyptic landscape, a kind of resigned grin on his face as he passes burned-out cars and piles of skulls—it’s the end of the world as he knows it, and he feels fine. Night Rider depicts the grim reaper hurrying along a country lane on his bike, his scythe at the ready, the sky a toxic green. The effect is ridiculous but also surprisingly eerie, in the manner of some scene from a silent film you glimpsed on TV when you were 6 and have been trying to forget ever since.
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Chad Eaton’s eccentric paintings depicting Abe Lincoln-ish bicyclists have been baffling folks all over OC, but they find a welcome home here. With their autumnal colors and handmade frames that always make you think of stuff outside Disneyland rides, Eaton’s oils are haunting yet profoundly goofy. But there’s nothing goofy about Leslie Caldera’s assemblages, featuring bike parts sculpted into wall-hugging works that look like something Picasso would have banged together on his lunch break. (With the notable exception of Retired, which looks more like a collection of little, black alien hearts mounted to a red slab, perhaps as a trophy in the Predator’s rec room.)
The show does have a few pieces that are a little too on-the-nose. The photography generally looks like what you would see in the pages of an obnoxious “extreme cycling” magazine—although there are some welcome exceptions, such as Peter Sunderland’s Untitled, featuring a forlorn bike sinking fast in some kind of white sludge in the middle of a swamp. Bob Haro contributes several very competent cartoons that would make swell promotional art for the next X-Games, but Wendy Peng’s work can’t seem to make up its mind if it’s fine art or logos for surf wax and rolling-paper companies.
But then you see the ink drawing (courtesy of someone named “Mike”) of Godzilla and a gorilla looking sweet upon the seats of a bicycle built for two, and you can’t help but love this stupid show.
“Bike Curious” at Go, Rilla! Gallery, 3013 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 547-5451; www.gorillagozilla.com. Call for hours. Through Oct. 1.