Located at a junction of one of Philadelphia’s post-industrial corridors, the Crane Arts Building looms over Olde Kensington. The disused trolley tracks crisscrossing the area are a reminder of how this area once ran on heavy industry, and Crane’s recent show, The 2012 Pickup Truck Expo, that was on display in its Icebox performance space this past Saturday, June 2, is a reminder of another mode of transportation and supply that local artists are reliant upon.
The exhibit came to fruition after Timothy Belknap and Ryan McCartney decided that putting together a show spotlighting the role of serious utility vehicles in the lives of artists would be a great way to engage their community – and subvert the stereotypical images conjured up by “truck culture.” McCartney says, “You think of pickup trucks as a macho culture, but it’s irrelevant to us.” Easy enough to understand when your livelihood includes transporting a full-size loom wherever you go, as Philly-based weaver Erin Riley does. McCartney’s truck features racks holding paintings by an array of different artists – all for sale. “They’ve been all over the building working on them,” he says. “It’s been fun.”
We had big organizations and artists coming in, but also teams who are their own community.
Over a dozen pickup trucks were parked in the Icebox, each containing site-specific art in its flatbed. All manner of artists, galleries and arts organizations were invited to source trucks and collaborate on their projects. The vehicles were driven into the space the night before the show, giving the artists roughly twenty-four hours to set everything up. “These are all someone’s daily driver,” says McCartney, “so the show could really only be one night.”
The works were diverse and often humorous. Space 1026 used their truck to showcase work by all their artists. Matt Giel set up a camera obscura to project images against the cab. Second State Press put presses under the tires and set the truck in neutral, activating them and creating prints for the onlookers. Chris Vecchio and his wife Kacie yarnbombed their truck, and created false electrical shorts under the hood. Belknap’s display had a store-bought miniature truck show, complete with a racetrack, radio-controlled trucks, and – most authentically – an official heckler.
The Expo was bookended by two attention-grabbing setups at either end. Shaun Baer of Philly woodworking outfit CRAFTED made his truck a homage to metal, decorated with an upside-down neon cross, pentagram banners, fog machine, and black metal growls emanating from the cab. At the other end, outside the Icebox’s doors, South Philly collective Kali Yuga Zoo Brigade erected a life-size replica of a Tomahawk missile mounted on three trucks, and pointed directly at City Hall – in a work of anarchic humor.
Creating a show at Crane that’s not overwhelmed by its physical grandeur has proven to be a challenge before, but this was an exception. In addition to the trucks, the crowd’s arrival fully utilized the space. “We’re amazed by how much this changes the scale of the building,” says McCartney. “This is one of the only times we’ve been able to make use of the space this way.” With the bonding that’s been generated by this funny and collaborative event, McCartney and Belknap hope to see the Expo become a repeat experience.
The Expo began on May 31 with a screening of two truck-centric films – Big Trouble in Little China and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior – and concluded on Sunday, with a series of monoprint images created on cardboard by the transmission fluid left by the departing trucks.
The 2012 Pickup Truck Expo
May 31 – June 3, 2012
The Icebox at Crane Arts Building
1400 North American Street
Philadelphia – Olde Kensington