More than the sum of its parts

Higgins Avenue in Winnipeg is well known . . . for all the wrong reasons. The Graffiti Gallery, nestled between Waterfront Drive and Gomez Street, is working to change that perception by adding “cool art” to you list of reasons to venture to this part of town.

I had the pleasure of visiting this unique gallery, which lives up to its name, as the outside of its brick walls are covered in colourful graffiti — is it still “graffiti” if it’s commissioned? —, to attend the opening of the Push Pedal Stride art show last Thursday.

The show — which is in partnership with Bike to the Future, an organization that promotes the benefits of commuting by bicycle — features submissions depicting bicycles, unicycles and other pedal-powered paraphernalia.

There were as many different mediums as there are different kinds of bikes, from photographs to oil paintings, acrylic on canvas and even what I can only assume was a sculpture, consisting of a child’s bike adorned with a helmet and goggles. Although that last one could easily have been just a child’s bike.

One piece that stood out in my mind was Takashi Iwasaki’s two piece “abbie” — a nickname for Iwasaki’s abstract drawings — and not just because at $2,400 this two painting set was one of, if not the, most expensively priced pieces in the gallery.

The only way I can think to describe it is as one part Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of straight lines
and defined colour boundaries mixed with an equal amount of Frank Gehry’s complete disregard for such things.

It was mesmerizing.

Another piece that caught my eye was Robert Burton’s “Three Bicycles.” A colourful acrylic on canvas depicting three bikes in a mess of foliage, it reminded me of my youth, most of which was spent riding through heavily wooded trails near the river.

Since this show was a call for submissions, you could say that it lacks a cohesiveness that a show with a stronger mandate might have had, but this isn’t to say that it doesn’t work, although it took me a while to figure out why it did.

After leaving the show my first impression was that it was a rag-tag collection of art, each piece distinct, with no real relation to the others. Then I started thinking of my own trusty steed.

The frame: an old and unloved red Raleigh, rescued from the garbage heap. Wheels: new, shiny, true and sweet. The rest: a collection of parts I begged, borrowed or stole from sympathetic friends and shop owners with too much inventory and not enough space.

I realized that the Push Pedal Stride show was kind of a metaphor for my own bike and that, while I didn’t see it right away, all the parts do fit, even if the end result is more functional than pretty.

Pretty is over-rated anyway.

Push Pedal Stride is located at the Graffiti Gallery, 109 Higgins Ave., and runs until Nov. 4