For today’s lesson in art history, let us consider the “de Stijl” movement.
The de Stijl movement’s most famous practitioner, of course, was the painter known as Piet Mondrian, who distilled his subjects to their most fundamental elements: lines, rectangles and primary colors.
For example, here is his portrait of Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon battling it out on the Alpe d’Huez during the 1989 Tour de France. (LeMond is the one in yellow, of course, sitting on Fignon’s wheel.)
Another member of the de Stijl was the Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld, who took these same fundamentals and rearranged them into this classic piece of furniture, which I believe is a chair.
The de Stijl-ists, by the way, had the modest goal of creating a utopia on Earth. Certainly, one could be forgiven for thinking that comfortable seating would be readily available in utopia. But one would be wrong.
Rietveld’s Red Blue Chair, in fact, was so uncomfortable, and intentionally so, that it was deemed an instant classic in the realm of modern design, and remains so to this day.
So, what does all this have to do with bicycles, you ask? Good question. You see, masterpieces don’t happen overnight. Before Rietveld hit on the idea of a chair, he experimented with other objects.
The Red Blue Bike never really caught on, the seat being far, far too comfortable. But I did spot this early prototype on the UO campus late last fall.
De Stijl practitioners’ amazing attention to detail is evident here in the red, blue and yellow links on the chain.
Finally, please remember that the de Stijl should not be confused with “de ’luminum” or “de carbon fijber” schools, both of which would come much later.
Hey, as long as we on a tour of Eugene bicycle art, remember this masterpiece by Marcel Duchamp?
This piece was called, simply, “Bicycle Wheel.” Duchamp was a leading figure in the Dada movement and, though it is not widely know, he also was a longtime employee at BRING Recycling.
He did occasional pieces in Eugene, as well — such as this outdoor version of “Bicycle Wheel,” spotted over by the community garden at Skinner Butte Park not long ago:
Now we head over to Alder Street, south of campus, where there was a triumphal arch erected:
We don’t know if this piece was officially titled, but we liked to call it “Fixie Conversion Arch” — or more properly, in French, “Arc de Conversion Fixie” — since the French like to arrange their words from back to front.
I noticed with much dismay a week or so ago that the Arc had collapsed or perhaps been taken down for fear it was a safety hazard, the materials rudely cast about the yard:
A few of the wheels, though, have been repurposed into garden bed borders, a less triumphal fate, true, than a grand entryway — but no less important really: