Cycle World - - News - By Michael Lichter

The next gen­er­a­tion of cus­tom builders and artists is shap­ing the fu­ture of mo­tor­cy­cling. Hint: The fu­ture looks very, very good.

“YOU’RE CRAZY!” That’s what I was told in Au­gust of 2016 when I first pre­sented the idea of devot­ing the Mo­tor­cy­cles as Art ex­hi­bi­tion of 2017 to to­day’s up-and-com­ing gen­er­a­tion. “It can’t hap­pen,” “They’ll never show up,” and a bar­rage of ep­i­thets were quickly hurled in my di­rec­tion. At the same time, younger builders and artists I’d dis­cussed it with were ex­cited at the prospect. I learned a lot over the year it took to put this ex­hi­bi­tion to­gether. The most im­por­tant be­ing that mil­len­ni­als hate be­ing called mil­len­ni­als.

The fact that 37 builders, 10 hel­met painters, six graphic artists, and four pho­tog­ra­phers cre­ated their re­spec­tive works and got them to the gallery on time in it­self tes­ti­fies that the stereo­types about mil­len­ni­als don’t fit—at least not for this group of artists. Most of the builders built their bikes just for the ex­hi­bi­tion, and none of the bikes were more than a few months old, other than Ross To­mas’ bike, which was built not long be­fore he died in 2014 at the age of 20. In fact, al­most all of the bikes were un­veiled to the pub­lic for the very first time at the Stur­gis Buf­falo Chip this past Au­gust.

Tech­ni­cally, “mil­len­nial” as a term just de­fines the gen­er­a­tion that came of age in the 2000s. For the purpose of this ex­hi­bi­tion, I in­cluded 35-year-old artists and builders born in 1982 right down to 17-year-old Du­ran Mor­ley of RSD who was born in 2000. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the term has evolved into one loaded with neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions, but by choos­ing to stick with the theme, I hoped to re­ject stereo­types and pre­con­cep­tions to cre­ate a survey of work from which we can all dis­cover what this rising gen­er­a­tion is all about.

Cre­at­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion themed around the next gen­er­a­tion of builders, bikes, and mo­tor­cy­cle artists en­sured a di­verse dis­play. From café rac­ers and street track­ers to old-school chop­pers and mod­ern cus­toms, all styles were rep­re­sented.

Eight of the builders, Jody Pere­witz, Kar­lee Cobb, Len Kodlin, Matt Olsen, Matt Walk­sler, Nikki Martin, Ross To­mas, and Zach Ness, grew up in fam­ily-owned mo­tor­cy­cle busi­nesses, while some like Brad Gre­gory, J. Shia, Jesse Sr­pan, Matt Mcmanus, and Sa­van­nah Rose pointed to the im­pact of par­ents who rode and their time wrench­ing with them as they were grow­ing up.


Whether it was fam­ily that brought the “Old Iron/young Blood” builders to the cus­tom bike world or if they came to it on their own, all the builders were in­flu­enced by the power of television when the “mo­tor­cy­cle years” of the early to mid-2000s cat­a­pulted a small group of cus­tom builders to rock­star fame. The na­tion was riv­eted to TV screens as fab­ri­ca­tors were pit­ted against each other in biker build-offs, and then there was the Teu­tul fam­ily on Amer­i­can Chop­per where cus­tom bikes were built de­spite whirl­wind drama and fa­mil­ial dys­func­tion. Not that any­one re­ally wanted to build the of­ten over­weight and over­size theme bikes they saw on these shows, but the idea of build­ing some­thing with one’s own hands def­i­nitely came across. That’s what these builders all have in com­mon, re­gard­less of whether they make a liv­ing with their craft or work day jobs to help pay for their ad­dic­tion—a com­mon pas­sion for mo­tor­cy­cling con­sumes their wak­ing hours.

There are a num­ber of things we know are dif­fer­ent with this gen­er­a­tion com­pared to all prior gen­er­a­tions: They have a dif­fer­ent way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing; they have been ex­posed to more in­for­ma­tion than any­one could have dreamed of 20 years ear­lier; the rate of change, in all its man­i­fes­ta­tions, has ac­cel­er­ated to the fren­zied pace we see now; and the world ap­pears less safe than once be­lieved.

Each of these fac­tors have in­flu­enced the way young peo­ple have cho­sen to live their lives as well as their out­look on life. Per­haps as a re­ac­tion to mod­ern life, many in this gen­er­a­tion look back to sim­pler times for in­spi­ra­tion as of­ten as they may look for­ward, and this is what many did with their bikes. That may have been a pre­dictable route for sec­ond- and third-gen­er­a­tion builders, but it re­ally rang true with most of them.

As we all know, it’s hard to be dif­fer­ent and come up with your own look, but most of us have been there and un­der­stand the struggle. I saw this with many of to­day’s master builders like Billy Lane, Brian Klock, Dave Pere­witz, Jesse James, and Paul Yaffe when I pho­tographed them be­fore they had turned 36 and were still de­vel­op­ing their styles just like the “Old Iron/ Young Blood” builders in this ex­hi­bi­tion.

I also saw this with my own per­sonal pho­tog­ra­phy of the biker life­style that goes back to my early 20s. We had our as­pi­ra­tions and stum­bled along the way to­ward achiev­ing them. I, for one, wish I could go back—not back in time but back in age to be part of this ex­cit­ing next gen­er­a­tion to­day. How lucky they are with their en­tire ca­reers be­fore them in one of the most ex­cit­ing times mo­tor­cy­cling has ever seen.

This ex­hi­bi­tion re­minds me of an in­ter­ac­tion dur­ing the 2004 film­ing of the Dave Pere­witz-ver­sus-billy Lane Biker Buildoff. Early be­fore sun­rise on the first morn­ing, as I was stand­ing by my­self next to Lane’s or­ange “Down N’ Dirty” drop-sad­dle chop­per in Jack­sonville, Florida, some­one not much older than I was came over and sim­ply said, “I don’t get it.” In an ef­fort to help, I asked if he had any kids and he said, “Yes.” I then asked if he liked their mu­sic, to which he quickly said, “No!” and that he wasn’t in­ter­ested in it ei­ther. It didn’t mat­ter whether we were talk­ing mu­sic or bikes be­cause it was re­ally the ex­act same thing.

We all have choices to make, and while I don’t think we have to like ev­ery new fla­vor that comes along, it seems im­por­tant to be open-minded. So this is what I ask of you to­day as you take in the “Old Iron/young Blood” ex­hi­bi­tion on these pages: Take your time look­ing over the bikes and the art and try to fathom the cre­ative en­ergy and tal­ent it all rep­re­sents. If you can, try to put your­self in their shoes. Hope­fully, if the ex­hibit was a suc­cess, we will all better un­der­stand what this very ca­pa­ble group of ar­ti­sans is about and what will be com­ing around the bend.

Lastly, watch this group closely over the next few years be­cause I guar­an­tee some of these ar­ti­sans will emerge as the su­per­stars of to­mor­row.

Tattoo and graphic artist Christina Platis (above).

Cus­tom builder Jay Dono­van of Bri­tish Columbia finds out his Yamaha XS-650 on dis­play at the Old Iron/young Blood just won a trip to be dis­played in Verona, Italy, for the Mo­tor Bike Expo, a ma­jor Euro­pean show.

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