Chain Reaction & Clunker to MTBs

Two new shows at Santa Clara University's de Saisset Museum
highlight the artistry and history of cycling
Chain Reaction/Clunker to MTBs SELLING POINT: Terry Thompson's 2007 Chromogenic print 'Bicycle Sign' (detail) is part of a new show about cycling culture.

Ask someone about their earliest memories, and chances are they will include the first time they rode a bike. Learning to ride is a part of growing up, a way for parents and children to bond and the delicious first taste of freedom a kid experiences.

Even if you haven't ridden a bike in years, it is more than likely that if you hopped back on, it would all come back to you in an instant. After all, as the saying goes, "It's just like riding a bike, you never forget.' Two new exhibits currently on display at the de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University pay homage to this humble yet amazing contraption.

Gallery One of the de Saisset is now showing "Chain Reaction: Artists Consider the Bicycle,' dedicated to exploring the beauty, utility and creativity of this unique mode of transportation.

The exhibit features 25 works by nine artists, who explore the various parts and uses of the bike through photographs, paintings, drawings and assemblages.

Vanessa Marsh's C-print Bikers conveys the sense of solidarity felt when riding alongside dear companions; Inez Storer's collage-like piece Bicycle Race tells a familiar story in a unique way; Katina Huston's Mondrian Says 3 takes a classic work and gives it a bicycle-themed spin; and Carolina Fontoura Alzaga's Connect 14 transforms parts of bikes into something else entirely. Throughout all of the pieces cruises the idea that bicycles are versatile objects worthy of celebration.

Gallery Two displays "Clunkers to MTBs: The Evolution of the Mountain Bike.' In the 1970s, biking enthusiasts began testing the limitations of their fixed bikes by "clunking' down the hills in the North Bay and parts of the valley, including Cupertino. Since then, the mountain bike has been transformed into a sleek but powerful piece of equipment capable of threading its way through the finest veinlike trails and gripping the slickest of rocks.

This transformation first took place at the hands of Joe Breezer, the man who brought the mountain bike—and mountain-bike culture—to life. "Clunkers to MTBs' highlights the ideas that piggybacked off Breezer's original prototype.

On the wall by the entrance hang three different Fox shock absorbers framed by viewing boxes that give the sense that they are more art than tool.

The exhibit comprises many different mountain bikes and two videos that impart impressive movement to the currently immobile objects. The bikes themselves have lived many lives, as evidenced by the dirt etched into the grooves of their wheels. The show features mountain bikes created by Santa Cruz Bicycles, Marin Bikes and Ibis Bikes, among others.

Both exhibits adeptly reflect the many ways bicycles can be used and what they mean to us. On the Santa Clara University campus, for instance, bikes are not simply a mode of transportation, though they certainly are useful in getting to class on time.

For many years, the university has been home to the Cycling Club, which includes both a competitive racing team and a more recreational mountain biking group that explores the many trails near the campus.

Bikes are also part of the sustainability effort at SCU. The campus Office of Sustainability supports the Bicycle Commuter Program, bike-to-work day and offers refurbished bikes as the prize for the Energy Challenge that takes place at the university each year.

Of course, bikes also allow students to visit friends off-campus, tote groceries back to their dorm rooms or houses and get from place to place in a more eco-friendly way. There are few things that are more enjoyable than taking a ride with friends on a breezy, sunny day and with summer just around the corner, there is no better time to dust off your bike and take it for a spin.

(Contributor Eliza Lamson is a student and cyclist at Santa Clara University.)

Chain Reaction/Clunker to MTBs

Both run through July 1

De Saisset Museum

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