Monday, July 19, 2004

Dennis Mathewson, owner of Cosmic Airbrush, took about a month to add a tiki to his gas tank.

Art of the Bike

THERE'S SOMETHING about a motorcycle that captures your attention, whether it's rolling past Diamond Head on a sunny weekend afternoon or parked outside the supermarket where you've stopped for groceries while on the way home.

Hawaii Custom Motorcycles: An Art Form

On view: 1132 Bishop Street (lobby level exhibit space)

Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 3.

Cost: Free

Parking: 30 minutes validated in the building's lot)

Call: 599-5009

Maybe it's the rumble of the exhaust, the gleaming chrome pipes or the cherry paint job that catches your eye -- it's not a stretch to say that a motorcycle can be recognized as a work of art.

"Motorcycles are a very basic form of transportation ... but they're also one of the most exotic forms of transportation," says John Waring, general manager of Pacific Rim Cycle. "People can put an extension of themselves, of the image they want to portray, into each bike."

From now until the beginning of September, Oahu residents have the opportunity to see a variety of custom motorcycles in an artistic setting, thanks to the efforts of Waring, photographer Kimo Hugho and 1132 Bishop Street art curator David Behlke. "Hawaii Custom Motorcycles: An Art Form" aims to show that the machines are much more than two wheels, an engine and lots of chrome.

"In the summer, we always try to do something that has a relationship to pop culture and local interest," said Behlke of the decision to feature motorcycles in the downtown exhibit space.

Hugho credits the rising popularity of motorcycle culture and the 1998 display of custom choppers at New York City's Guggenheim Museum as the driving force behind his efforts to help organize the exhibit.

"I wanted them to stand out as functional art pieces," he said. "This is a perfect setting to show the beauty of these unique creations."

A chrome emblem on Robert Hitchcock's 1933 Indian motorcyle.

About 15 custom bikes will be on display at any given time, with some being replaced every week to keep things fresh.

"We're going to stagger the rotation, so we'll have different ones coming at different times," said Waring.

His own custom-built Titan will be part of the exhibit in upcoming weeks, as will a replica of the motorcycle seen in "Easy Rider," along with a helmet and riding jacket like the ones Peter Fonda wore in the movie.

Other motorcycles on display during last Friday's opening reception included a 2003 Indian "Chief," 2004 Vengeance "Vendetta," 2004 Big Dog "Ridgeback" and a 2000 Ultra "Ground Pounder."

Three bikes restored by Robert Hitchcock, a 1929 Indian "101 Scout Racer," a 1933 Indian "4" and a 1940 Indian "Sport Scout," occupy space along one of the walls in the office building lobby next to the newer creations. A custom-built 2003 Ridley "Autoglide," the only motorcycle of the bunch that comes with an automatic transmission, is also part of the exhibit.

The engine of a 2004 "Ridgeback," from Big Dog Motorcycles.

WITH THE average custom motorcycle ranging in price from $15,000 to $30,000, owning one of these machines can result in a pretty big dent to your bank account. But Waring compares it to deciding what kind of clothes to buy when you're looking for something new to wear.

"You can walk into a store and buy a suit off the rack, or you can have one custom-made or custom-altered to suit your tastes and your style," he said. "It's the same thing with these bikes."

For those of us who can't afford to spend that kind of money, Behlke encourages both the downtown office crowd and residents from the rest of the island to check out the free exhibit and live vicariously through the motorcycles on display.

"Each bike has a story, and when you find out that story, there's a real human element," he said. "And after all, that's what art is all about -- it's a human talking to another human.

"It's people talking to people."

A 2003 Ridley "Autoglide," owned by Richard Schuman, is the only bike with an automatic transmission on display in the downtown show, "Hawaii Custom Motorcycles: An Art Form."

Robert Hitchcock stands with his 1933 Indian "4." Hitchcock purchased it in 2002.

John Waring, left, David Behlke and Kimo Hugho gather around a 2003 Ridley "Autoglide."

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