Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What do Athens artist Chris Hubbard and Alexander Calder have in common?

The Heaven and Hell Car at AthFest in Athens, GA 2011

If you were at AthFest a few weeks ago, you might have seen this car, along with a display of some of its owner’s other works of art. Or you might have seen it parked, unassumingly, in a space downtown any day of the week. If you aren’t in the area, you may have seen it on art blogs or in newspapers because this car has definitely made its rounds around the United States. Chris Hubbard’s Heaven and Hell Car is an excellent example of this self-taught artist’s experimentation with found objects and material art. The Kentucky native, now an Athens, Ga., resident, has no formal training in art since grade school and left his 20-year career as a microbiologist and environmental consultant to be “born again” as an artist. Hubbard took on the Heaven and Hell car project to participate in the art-car scene. He describes this work (the car he still uses daily, with 318,000 miles on it) as “a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek expression of the good vs. bad dichotomy of self, other people, and life in general.” Many of the stylistic elements shown on the car are influenced by his deep appreciation of “outsider/visionary artists” from the south such as R.A. Miller (some of his pieces can be seen in the permanent collection at GMOA), Howard Finster, and Edgar Tolson.

Hubbard with his art-car in 2000

But what about Hubbard’s connection with Alexander Calder? In 1975, Hervé Poulain, an auctioneer and racing driver from France was searching for a link between art and cars. He asked his friend Alexander Calder to paint a BMW 3.0 CSL that Poulain would race in the 1976 Le Mans endurance race. Poulain’s car was meant to “create a symbiosis between the world of art and the world of motorsport.” When Calder’s work was met at the speedway and in the art world with enormous enthusiasm, BMW decided to create a whole line of works on wheels called theArt Car Collection. Other contributors include Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons (the latest artist to enter a work into the collection), and many more. Calder’s original car was recently shown at the Bechtler Museum of Modern art in Charlotte, N.C. in anticipation of the release of Koons’ car. To see all of the works on wheels, visit the collection’s website.

Alexander Calder's Art Car

Jeff Koons with his Art Car

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