“In 1911, the Dadaist painter Duchamp and the sculptor Brancusi toured the Paris Aeronautical Exhibition. Duchamp was highly excited by all the new forms on display, the engines, wings and other paraphernalia of flight. The two artists stopped to consider a propeller, with its subtly backswept airfoil blades carved in blonde laminated wood, varnished to a high gloss. ‘Painting is finished,’ Duchamp at length announced to Brancusi. ‘I can do nothing as good as this propeller, can you?'”
(quote from Kevin Cameron in “Cycle World”)
Duchamp delightfully expressed an artist’s candid recognition of the yardstick that ultimately gauges our attempts to achieve truth and beauty.
Kevin’s article in “Cycle World” noted that a motorcycle’s naked display of its functional parts makes it a more engaging art object than an automobile that hides most of its working bits under often-frivolous sheet metal. A motorcycle viewer gets to appreciate components sculpted by invisible, timeless, universal truths: frames that reveal load paths; cooling fins that indicate thermal escape routes; suspensions, controls and tire treads that disclose purpose.
We generally agree on the forms these parts should take. A strict universe will quickly unmask a designer’s whimsical departures from proper form. To achieve overall aesthetic integrity, a motorcycle’s fuel tank, exhaust pipes, bodywork and paint, less slaves to function, will nevertheless support the main functional themes.
Nature’s beautiful designs (and they’re all beautiful), infinitely more complex, are shaped in exactly the same way.
There is much function on display, and an artistry I appreciate, in this Triumph-powered custom by Frank Charriaut and Vincent Prat.
They describe their CP Project One build here.
See also Falcon Motorcycles
A good artist and good engineer/designer are both truth seekers; truth measured with different yardsticks. Public taste and art critics (!) cast fickle judgements on an artist’s efforts. An engineer/designer is graded immediately by the laws of physics. I appreciate those art forms–motorcycles one, architecture another–that must excel in both realms in order to succeed.