Most custom-bike shows feature an array of perfect, completed motorcycle projects with polished chrome and flawless paint, accompanied by squads of Hot Chicks posing for photos with drooling middle-aged men. Good stuff, but isn’t the process just as interesting as the completed project? Where the bike came from, what the builder wanted to accomplish, where the parts got sourced, what it looked like before the building began?
That’s why Jason Friend and Jason Anderson came up with their “Unfinished Projects” show around Christmas time in 2010. It started with Anderson renting a former sewing-factory space over San Francisco motorcycle dealership SF Moto to use as workspace for his design company. SF Moto had been using the space to store sales inventory and customer’s bikes waiting for service (there’s a large freight elevator to the street), but Anderson realized it could be a great studio space for local artists to show their work: “there are tremendously talented people in San Francisco’s motorcycle community.”
Jason Friend participates heavily with Bay Area Vintage Riders, a discussion forum for owners of older motorcycles, owners who all had unfinished projects in their garages and basements. Rather than wait (forever) for these projects to be finished, why not show them in their unfinished state? Unfinished Projects 2011 was born. Organized by Anderson, Friend and their wives Lori (Friend) and Tara, the event was a success, with 15 bikes on display and work from seven artists on the walls.
But 2012 turned out even better. Twenty motorcycles in various states of completion lined the walls of the newly remodeled gallery and 10 artists showed their sculpture, paintings, photography and other work. I was on hand on the opening night at the end of February, and was stunned by the crowds swarming through the show and out on the street. Not only were there large numbers of people (Anderson guessed around 300, but he had no way of really knowing), but they were much younger (and more attractive) than the usual gang of surly, pot-bellied middle-aged men seen at most S.F. Bay Area moto-events (I love you guys, but can you at least trim your ear hair every so often?). I’m no art critic, but I’ve slept through enough college art-history lectures to know the artworks on display were cutting-edge, fresh and interesting.
But I was really there to check out the bikes, and this year held no disappointments. SF Vintage Cycle showed off a 1948 Triumph ST racebike, there was a very cool BSA Rocket III cafe racer, a 1936 Indian Four that “Red Fred” Johansen is converting to fuel-injection (“I should be the only one on the block with this kinda shit”), a ’65 Norton Atlas 750 getting the vintage racer treatment and an original Arlen Ness Panhead Digger from the ’70s being brought back to pristine condition by Darren Lee Rowe. Groovy.
But the star of the show, if you ask me, was master fabricator and Bonneville racer Bob Guynes’ incredible Benelli/Honda hybrid. It’s a 750cc 6-cylinder Benelli Sei grafted into an early Honda CB750 frame with a CB72 front end. The fabrication and engineering work that went into the finished (is that cheating?) project is incredible, made even more staggering when you consider the 70s-ish Guynes put the bike together in a month (not a big deal, according to Guynes, but a big deal to me when you realize it took me three years to build my CB350 cafe racer).
Clearly, the event needs more space for next year, and Anderson told me they’re working on it. In the meantime, the gallery will be used to showcase local moto-artists and will be open to the public. Even though he works in the space, he told me “I always love to have an excuse to put my pen down and have a chat about bikes or art.”
Gallery Moto SF is at 275 8th Street in San Francisco, and for more information about Bay Area Vintage Riders, you can visit the website.