For Turning Wrenches, New York-based artist Daniel Arsham has produced intensely detailed 1:3 scale replicas of cars and other automotive artifacts as a nod to the Detroit automotive industry and global car culture. Arsham’s fascination with cars began as a youth and his admiration for Porsches from an early age ultimately led to him purchasing and restoring a 1986 Porsche 911 Turbo in adulthood. A replica of the restored Porsche, which was re-interpreted as a 930A, is featured in the exhibition connecting the work to Arsham’s personal story and engaging concepts of memory.
The significance of the other car sculptures built for the exhibition create a bridge to the film industry, where the choice of a character’s vehicle is often an extension of the driver’s personality. The miniature Mustang in the exhibition is a scale replica of the 1968 Ford Mustang GT that Steve McQueen drove in the famous car chase scene of the movie Bullitt, and the Ferrari references the 1986 comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Another notable car presented in bronze is famed for its iconic role in film: the DMC Delorean that was transformed into a time machine in the 1985 sci-fi film, Back to the Future.
The Delorean speaks to the significant role that time plays in Arsham’s work, referencing time travel and a simultaneous past and future. True to form, each car in the exhibition includes strategically placed erosions; cutaway areas with crystals blooming from inside. While industrial objects are understood to only degrade as time passes, falling victim to time and abandonment, Arsham’s works recall the natural transformation of geodes in parallel; once opened, they reveal the formation of a beautiful, organic mass of crystals. Within the exhibition as in Arsham’s wider practice, a conversation between decaying human-produced objects and tenacious geological materials exists.
In addition to his car sculptures, Arsham further depicts the thematic relevance of the exhibition through automobile and film posters. The posters are similarly eroded, revealing crystallized forms that carefully surround the essential text and imagery. Also included is a vintage gas pump and eroded Mobil Pegasus sign. Arsham makes reference to Greek mythology in recent works of Greco-Roman figurative sculpture, and the Pegasus is drawn from the same ancient tales as an icon for Mobil Oil. Legend has it that the creature struck the ground on Mount Helion with its hoof and a spring sprouted from the break, bringing inspiration to those who drank from it.
Turning Wrenches speaks to the mechanic’s complex and laborious trade and pays homage to a profession that Arsham deeply admires. This tribute exists within a presentation of the artist’s own craft and the legacies of the technician and the maker, always challenging viewers to consider the future beyond our own existence.
Daniel Arsham: Turning Wrenches, on display from June 25 through August 7, 2021.
Bronze Eroded DeLorean, 2021
64.75 x 27.5 x 35.5 inches
Grey Selenite Eroded Bullitt Poster, 2021
Quartz, Selenite, Hydrostone
48 x 33 x 4.25 inches