.The Art of the Lowrider

Totally tricked-out custom car rolls into SJ Institute of Contemporary Art

Shawn HibmaCronan has completely transformed his 1963 Ford Falcon Deluxe Club Wagon.

I can create.” That’s my gift. I can make anything I can imagine. Out of metal. Glass. You name it.”

That’s not a statement made by the artist Shawn HibmaCronan. That’s Madison Jeffries speaking, a Marvel Comics mutant whose superpower is the ability to manipulate plastic, metal and glass with his mind. HibmaCronan has the assistance of a welder, lifts, a crane and a forklift, but the end results are the same. His Alameda studio is filled with the building materials and detritus of an artisan’s unfettered imagination.

Hovering on the remotest edge of the now defunct Alameda Naval Air Station, HibmaCronan’s shared warehouse space faces out to ships docked in the bay. This part of the island looks lifeless and abandoned until you park at the artist’s open front door. A digital playlist shuffles music along in the background while he offers a tour featuring current and past projects. Hundreds of random parts are stacked up, overlapping each other on workbenches and shelves. If Victor Frankenstein had worked with metal and wood instead of sinew and bone, this could have doubled as his laboratory.

HibmaCronan graduated from the California College of the Arts in 2009 with a double major in sculpture and furniture. Or, as he breaks it down: “metal and woodworking.” He’s seamlessly combined the two materials in many of his earlier pieces, such as Escape Vehicle, 2007. Simply put, it’s a school desk on four wheels. For him, it represented the “daydreaming I was doing while in art school.” For the audience, it inspires a tactile interaction. You want to sit down and go for a drive.

With his latest sculpture, that’s exactly what you can do. Love, Inertia, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Stance is HibmaCronan’s restored and completely customized 1963 Ford Falcon Deluxe Club Wagon. He bought the vehicle 10 years ago on Craigslist and has kept it in a state of perpetual evolution ever since. From the frame to the running gear to the floor, he’s dismantled a car that was designed to function one way and then reassembled it as a mobile, interactive sculpture.

Admittedly not a car aficionado, that didn’t stop him from investigating and learning how to install a new suspension system and an interior tubular frame (sealed in place for structural rigidity). Like Frankenstein’s monster, his singular vehicle is composed of disparate elements—a Toyota transmission, a VW engine and a Lexus rear end suspension and differential. He’s sculpted cowling shaped into multi-planed helmets that cover the wheel wells and engine. The overall aesthetic impression references the machine age. HibmaCronan has stripped the van down to basics in order to reveal the purity of the mechanism itself.

In the studio, he showed off a rear left fender polished to a high silver. By the time he mounts it on a trailer to drive it south for June’s SoFA’s First Friday ICA Live! performance, he says the entire outside shell will be that smooth and shiny. It’s not freeway ready yet but he has put the suspension air tanks and bags in place. At his command, they’re primed to lift and lower the body. He’s created a concept car, a prototype with its own set of rules. This Club Wagon turns locomotion into art, and it’s very much alive.

Love, Inertia & the Pursuit of the Perfect Stance
Jun 2, 7:30pm, Free
San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

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