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CHRIST IN THE CAR
by Charlie Finch
 
The always smooth Obama administration has done such a good job of finessing the General Motors bankruptcy that its esthetic implications may not be so readily apparent.

I recall my friend Jamie Warhola, creator of the lucrative "Cabbage Patch Kids" trading-card series in the 1980s, describing how he tried to teach his uncle, Andy Warhol, how to drive. "We were out at my uncle’s place in Montauk, Charlie, when I handed him the keys to my car. He proceeded to drill the car through a series of hedges. I put my foot on the brake, Andy got out of the car and announced, "That's it."

Other white male artists have indulged a whole range of autoemotions: it's not hard to see Chris Burden's self-crucifixion on a Volkswagen as a direct response to Jackson Pollock being hurled from a convertible into a tree. Ed Kienholz finds his rotting lover in the back seat of a Dodge, while Mel Ramos wraps a naked babe around a spark plug. Then, there's Richard Prince, prisoner of upstate New York, and despite his dreams of the Golden West, a lifelong esthetic slave to Detroit.

Prince began with photos from his rearview mirror dawdling near traffic, liberated himself with babes on motorcyles, real-painted endless highways and ended up decorating his own dead cars. It was as if he yanked all the rectilinear Chevies and Pontiacs out of Robert Bechtle's paintings and decided to fondle and fuck them.

But for true displacement of Detroit, the kind the auto industry would now appreciate, I give you the late visionary Peter Cain. Cain dissected his autos into parts, slicing off front from back in an intermezzo of confused precision. The effect was to rip out the engine, so no car could run. "Drive, he said," yet nothing happened: a perfect harbinger for the American auto industry, now dependent on the kindness of strangers.


CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).



 



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