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Photo by Bernard Klevickas
Bike PlanterThe Bike Planter as a guerrilla art installation outside the New Museum in New York, NY, March 2011.
By Bryna Hallam
Sculptor Bernard Klevickas's bike planter installation has been popping up all over New York. We asked him about the piece, how it was made and its underlying message.
Tell me a little bit about how the bicycle planter came to be.
I am an urban gardener, I ride bikes and I am a sculptor, they all coalesced into the Twisted Bicycle Planter.
Was it difficult to do the actual bending and shaping?
It was tricky. I had a basic plan to start from. I did a computer 3D model of it first. The original design was slightly different but close enough to know I could do it. It is actually composed from three different frame sections cut and bent in different places and welded together then painted to look unified.
How did you do it?
My sculpture background is in metal fabrication. I can take metal and cut, bend and form it into whatever shape is needed. To bend the cranks I heated them with a torch until glowing red hot and bent them with a wrench. The pipes of the frame and handlebars were in some areas bent using a conduit bender and in other areas cut into sections, welded and then the weld bead ground down to blend in. the rims were bent around a concrete pillar in my studio and then cut and pinched in spots and welded back together to look more natural. after all the metalwork was done the frame and fork were powder coated to look like a single though tweaked frame. The rims, fork bottoms, seat post tube and other parts were hand-polished. to get the wheels to look just right some spokes were welded together to double the length so that the hub could be offset from the center.
Where did you get the bike parts from?
Abandoned bicycles from around New York City. Bikes which had a wheel or more stolen are then sometimes given up by the owner and left locked to a meter or post. Over time more parts are taken and what remains is a rusted heap. Sometimes it takes the city years to cut these off and dispose of them. After passing by these same frames and leftover parts for months at a time I eventually come by with a portable saw with a metal-cutting blade and cut the locks and take them to my studio.
You've done some other bike projects, including bike racks built from bike frames - do you have plans for others?
I have a stock of frames and parts and have plans for both more bike racks and more bike/planter/sculptures.
I love that it's a guerrilla installation. Have you done others?
This was the first. I have made three bike racks but those locations were approved. The Twisted Bicycle Planter can be removed rather easily after unlocking the two locks. I have installed it in two different locations and will soon decide on a third. I will also start work on a new design soon. I like that it is a temporary pop-up installation.
What about them appeals to you?
Well, they are a challenge for me to make, in terms of where to bend the pipes and how to make them fit around a pole and where to put the planter. I like that it takes a common object and alters it. Many of the abandoned bikes I have were damaged beyond usefulness because they fell away from the locking post into the street and cars had run over them while parallel parking or areas had rusted through or they were just bad quality frames and parts to begin with. I feel that I am taking excess material and making something interesting to look at and it can bring an awareness to bicycling, even if with a touch of dark humor, and it is a way to place more flowers in the city.
Do you ride a bike yourself? What kind?
Yes. I built a bike from the best of the leftover parts: A Fuji Monterrey frame and fork, Nitto stem, Sugino cranks, Wellgo pedals, and bearings cobbled together from abandoned bikes. The wheels and seat are new as these are the parts most often badly warped or stolen early-on causing the bike to be abandoned in the first place: I have a Selle Italia saddle and Velocity deep V wheels with a flip fixie hub and Michelin City tires and an unrustable chain.
Did you have an underlying message or vision or aim with the piece?
More indirect than a direct message. To bring awareness to bicycling and to plant life. Also to create an unusual experience; to make something that is different from the same stuff we pass by and see everyday; to elicit consternation; to feel I am expressing my technical skill artistically.
Anything else you'd like to add?
The bicycles and bike racks are different from my other art, they are a new series I am developing. I usually work in a more abstract way. My art can be seen on my website (bernardklevickas.com) and I will include a link to the bicycle series as it develops. I am also on Facebook.