When the Future Had Fins: American Automotive Designs and Concepts, 1959 -1973 Automotive Exhibition

In the last two decades, the art of drawing by hand has all but disappeared in many of the design professions. Computers and software have created a useful bridge between inspiration and production. Unfortunately, in fields such as architecture, automotive design, industrial design and even typography fewer and fewer practitioners take hand to paper to sketch and resolve ideas. The advantages of a digital dependence can be vigorously argued both pro and con, however, what is disappearing is the wonderful expressive form of the design sketch or study—often a work of art that not only contains the height of skill and formal craftsmanship but also combines this with a cultural and historical significance.

The exhibition, “When the Future had Fins: Automotive Design and Concepts, 1959-1973” opening at the Christopher W. Mount Gallery on November, 17, 2014, includes thirty-nine drawings for America’s “Big Three”, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Used in the design process as studies and styling experiments as well as presentation drawings, the subjects range from a new version of a Cadillac to far-flung futurist concepts.

The work represents a halcyon period for the American auto industry, with little foreign competition, regulation or worries about oil shortages, the designs are filled with an almost naïve optimism. Primarily concerned with styling and appearance the designers took advantage of the medium. Drawings by prominent designers include: Wayne Kady, Robert S. Ackerman, J. R. “Dick” Samsen, Dave Cummins, John Perkins, David Rieden and Carl Renner. Thorny issues of practicality often take a back seat as the exhibition is divided between the between those by “advanced stylists,” who created the futuristic concepts in the hopes that this experimentation would keep the companies product fresh and cutting edge, and the more traditional stylists creating new version of existing or new models.

Since the early seventies our society’s unquestioned faith in technology’s ability to fix problems has waned. However these drawings importantly signify a time when artistic skill and expression met beautifully and significantly with Americas most important and defining industry, the automotive industry.

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Exhibition will be taking place at Christopher Mount Gallery in LA from Jan 23rd – May 20th 2015.