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Group Efforts: art cars on parade



It's a blustery day, and a group of people have taken shelter in Nancy Bromberg's Gallery a Go Go art bus. With its festive animal-print seat covers, fur pelts, stuffed rodents, and mounted animal heads, the interior brings to mind an over-the-top version of Elvis's Graceland Jungle Room. Outside, the vehicle is a glorious collage of plastic animals, buttons, pictures, mirrors, and other objects. A team of swans perch on the roof, just above the bus's destination sign, which reads: "Home."

The bus is being videotaped by a TV crew for a story about this Saturday's Art Car and Anything That Rolls Parade. A small but impressive group of brightly decorated vehicles have also shown up for the taping, including a sedan topped by a Velcro miniature golf course, a Nissan Sentra painted like a Rene Magritte sky with the words "Ceci n'est pas une voiture" on the door, and a van covered with images of Alfred E. Neuman, Beavis and Butt-head, and Daffy Duck. A trio of pedicabs pull a band of musicians playing a sad, slow dirge; one of the drivers wears a huge carrot-head mask. Local artist Ken Indermark pushes an orange shopping cart that he's turned into a shrine overflowing with flags, signs, and a mannequin torso.

"It's stunning how widespread this genre is and what it means to people," says Bromberg, who participated in this year's Roadside Attractions art-car parade in Houston. "It's saying that everybody can do it." After returning from Texas, Bromberg teamed with Indermark and gallery owner Aron Packer to organize a similar event in Chicago. The three first discussed holding a parade a few years back, when Indermark and Bromberg both had shows at Packer's Wicker Park gallery. Bromberg makes small, glittery objects, while Indermark specializes in large outdoor assemblages that he places along streets and highways.

"With the way art is today, it's no wonder the public is turned off," says Indermark, who sees the art-car phenomenon as a do-it-yourself reaction against art-world elitism, comparing the brightly decorated vehicles to the visual excitement found in 1960s pop and funk art. "The last time the average joe sees art is when their kid does a stick figure. Then there's this big gap and years pass until a Monet show comes along. But there's so much that goes on in between. There's so much art that's not serious, that doesn't necessarily contain the doom and gloom of conceptual art."

The trio, who call themselves the Coalition on Wheelz, spent most of the summer planning this weekend's event with the Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce. Highlights include an art-car contest judged by Miss Illinois Tracy Hayes, an appearance by the colorful Saint Louis Banana Bicycle Brigade, and a showing of Harrod Blank's film Wild Wheels.

"It's really fun," says Indermark, who pushed a version of his shopping cart shrine in the Saint Louis Mardi Gras art-car parade earlier this year. "Whether you're pushing a shopping cart or driving in a car or riding a bike, people will applaud you, and it's interaction. For a brief moment, they're like, "People can have fun.' Then they go back to the same old bullshit. But that's OK. That's the way parades go."

Art Car and Anything That Rolls Parade will be held this Saturday from noon to 1:30. The route begins at Division and Milwaukee and heads north to Damen, then north on Damen to Wabansia, west on Wabansia to Milwaukee, south on Milwaukee to Damen, and then south on Damen to Wicker Park. Judging will take place in the parking lot behind Burger King at Milwaukee and Honore. An awards ceremony will be held at 3 at the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, with music by My Scarlet Life. It's free. Call 862-5040 for more.

Harrod Blank's documentary Wild Wheels, which features more than 40 art cars and interviews with the artists who created them, will be shown at 8 that evening at the Ruiz Belvis Center, 1632 N. Milwaukee. Blank's own Camera Van (a '72 Dodge covered with 1,705 cameras) will be at the party following the screening. Music by Wesley Willis and Spies Who Surf will start at 10. Tickets for the film and party cost $8; call 759-1406.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Yael Routtenberg.

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