When the Car is the Artist's Muse

motor muse fine arts
When the Car Inspires Fine ArtJahlil Nzinga

From the September 2023 issue of Car and Driver.

So thoroughly has the car colonized our consciousness that even New York City's Museum of Modern Art mounted a 2021–22 show, Automania, devoted to cars in art. Here we curate our own show with a handful of our favorite contemporary car creatives to discover what drives their artistic output.

motor muse fine arts
One Yellow Rose Clint Neufeld

CLINT NEUFELD: Neufeld reproduces functional objects—framing hammers, backhoe buckets—in delicate ceramic. "I wanted to make things that I saw as beautiful represented in a way in which their utility was stripped away," he says. He’s found his métier in richly glazed porcelain versions of engines like the Ford flathead V-8, Detroit Diesels, and the Ford 391.

motor muse fine arts
Something Special.Jahlil Nzinga

JAHLIL NZINGA: Los Angeles painter Nzinga's joyous recent solo show, Fast Freedom, is filled with the vehicles that have inspired him. An '80s Mercedes coupe with a wide-body kit is "art, on top of art, on top of opulence, on top of some more art." A lone racer on a dirt bike demonstrates that "if you want to get somewhere fast, you go alone." And a Peugeot 205 rally car going as fast as it can is the ultimate mark of his ethos:

"You've been given a shitty road. You still got to hit the gas."

motor muse fine arts
Tokyo.Chris Labrooy

CHRIS LABROOY: Labrooy’s work revels in mind- and metal-bending. The Scottish artist’s computer- rendered automotive subjects twist, turn, and morph, wrapping around each other and cascading into different dimensions. This confoundment reflects his experience as an industrial designer who is familiar with vehicular complexity. "Cars are completely insane as a category of objects," Labrooy says.

"You've got all the materials science and all the engineer-ing and coding—a confluence of so many different skill sets and craft." His work exposes this entanglement in a humorous way, removing the collectible car from its pedestal and creating new pedestals made of, well, collectible cars.

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