“We at BMW do not build cars as consumer objects, just to drive from A to B. We build – mobile works of art.” Chris Bangle, Chief of Design for BMW Group
“In fact, I’d just like to own something. Everyone thinks I’m glamorous, rich and famous but all I’ve got is some recording equipment and a battered old BMW.” Dido Armstrong, singer and songwriter
Mike Whiting’s vocation as an artist achieved peak status in Colorado last year with Pixelated at the Denver Botanic Gardens, an unprecedented solo exhibition widely praised as one of 2018’s best in the region. A mighty feather in the cap of Whiting’s nearly two-decade long career, the exhibition was also another landmark in Plus Gallery’s efforts to support artist’s careers through long-term vision and directives. Whiting’s eventual foray with Denver’s prestigious outdoor gardens was originally seeded around 2010, just prior to Whiting’s last Plus Gallery solo show Primitive Man, an exhibition bolstered by his public commission for “Rhino” and acquisition of “Pinkie and Mr. Green” for the location straddling three distinct districts near downtown Denver. Pixelated’s impressive display of large-format outdoor sculpture occurred following a period in which Whiting focused almost exclusively on monumental outdoor works, resulting in an impressive array of forms that reflect the ambitious, cohesive intent behind the artist’s practice. The only Plus Gallery artist to successfully establish deep interest in his public works across the country, Whiting’s showing of smaller-scale forms and wall-based works in the gallery context remain some of the most successful and celebrated over the years.
Whiting shifts gears in 2019 for Daily Driver, his first proper exhibition with Plus Gallery since 2010, a multi-faceted undertaking presented in collaboration with 808 Projects beginning April 5th. Situated in the heart of Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District, 808’s intimacy and classic gallery structure are ideally suited for solo endeavors that focus on the refined and experimental in the arts. Whiting approaches this exhibition with ideas brewing over time in the studio the last decade, guided by sentimental notions as well and distinct cultural reference points that have guided much of the his oeuvre, finding form in deliberate and exciting fashion. In his advance exhibition notes, Whiting reflects that “In college I bought a 64 Volkswagen bus. My roommate found the ad in the local classifieds. It was advertised as a ‘daily driver’, no rust. It had the original, slightly faded, turquoise and white paint. It was beautiful, extremely slow, yet one of the most fun cars I’ve ever driven.” The term ‘daily driver’ served back then as a quick way to let the prospective buyer know that most everything works on an older car but that it’s not too ‘nice’. “You can drive the car around town without having to worry (too much) about whether or not you’ll make it home. You also don’t have to worry about it getting scratched in the parking lot.”
Whiting brings his fascination with car culture to life with a variety of new creations, both adhering to his general practice while pushing into distinct new conceptual territory. The show is anchored by a miniature city, flanked by vehicles common to the streets. Surrounding this minimalist representation of commuting life are an assortment of wall-mounted forms that include new fabricated steel canvases, flowing with stripes, as well as car-hoods the artist has renovated to enhance their individual character. Whiting’s ambitions to extrapolate on his theme extend outside the gallery as well, where his full-scale, unauthorized version of a “BMW art car” will greet visitors, cunningly following in the footsteps of Calder in an altogether different manner than with his recent display at Denver Botanic Gardens. Within this conglomeration of artifacts, both new and old, one will find the influence of racing stripes, highway lines, the wiring harness inside a car or even stripes on a sock. Whiting views his latest constructs as an abstract extension of natural traditions, one that auto enthusiasts and art collectors can equally relate to. “I’ve been using the materials of the automobile, steel and automotive paint, in my work for a long time. Now, I’ve thrown the whole car in there… and a few extra hoods.”
During a walking-tour discussion last summer for Pixelated, Whiting expounded on his fondness for distressed, or “vintage,” finishes that feel comfortable, holding up over time, the ongoing deterioration enhancing the soothing association an object is capable of eliciting within an individual. Works at the Gardens such as “Buck” exhibited this idea in full effect, the heavy rust-tones amplifying from within the automotive paint finish in a remarkable fashion that only reveals the intended character over time. In this way Mike’s work, in part, is about this idea of worn-in paint that has done its job as a protective layer for the steel underneath. Only when nature, the elements, man, machines and chance have left their mark can the once perfectly slick finish become softer, the color fading, with marks such as those in a pencil drawing beginning to appear. Across his career, Whiting has often delivered surface finishes that promote an even deeper, exquisite balance heavily influenced by modernist painting through purposeful, contrasting voids of color merging edge-to-edge, usually within a surface plane. Whiting continues that exploration in his return to Denver, the fascinating works comprising Daily Driver promising to deliver a sincere, singular vision rooted in memory, motion, minimalism and abstraction.
Complementing the exhibition will be a pair of videos by Dirk Koy, a Swiss artist specializing in time-based media and moving image. Koy’s dual representations of ”The Time Tunnel” will be shown for the first time as a hypnotic diptych, exemplifying a propulsive theme that further interweaves car culture with sublime sensibilities inherent to abstraction. Koy has exhibited widely in Switzerland, and his short films have screened at festivals around the world since 2010.
Daily Driver will open with a reception on Thursday, April 4th from 6:30-8:30pm. The exhibition continues through to May 12th, with additional evening hours during First Friday Gallery Stroll in April and May. Contact Ivar Zeile at [email protected] or 720-394-8484 for images or additional media requests.