The Greg Curnoe Bicycle Project: community art by Paul Butler

Mariposa bike by Mike Barry - replica of "Close the 49th Parallel ETC." by Greg Curnoe with photo of Greg and bike

The Greg Curnoe Bicycle Project

AGO’s inaugural artist-in-residence examined Curnoe’s legacy as a community builder

 Photos and story by Tammy Thorne

Paul Butler’s practice merges art making with community building. This led him to the work of Canadian artist Greg Curnoe (1936–1992).

Based in London, Ontario, Curnoe was deeply committed to advancing the rights of artists while fostering visual arts in his Canadian hometown from the 60s on, until his sudden death in a cycling accident in 1992.

Bicycles were an important subject in the work of Curnoe, who was an avid cyclist and member of the London Centennial Wheelers. (dandyhorse magazine featured the work “Mariposa low profile” courtesy of the artist’s widow, on the cover of our second issue.)

In an effort to pay homage to this legendary artist and to learn more about the influence of his artist-run initiatives, such as the first artist-run gallery in Canada, Butler organized a public bike tour called “Greg Curnoe’s London” in which he literally used a replica of Curnoe’s favourite bike as a research vehicle.

Bulter had Mariposa Cycle proprietor Mike Barry, rebuild the artist’s favourite, and perhaps most famous, bicycle: Close the 49th Parallel ETC. (According to Barry, only one other museum-housed replica of this cycle exists.)

Butler rode through London with Curnoe’s family, friends and members of the arts and cycling communities, who shared stories of Curnoe’s life and legacy as the tour stopped at significant sites. London’s FUSE magazine took this video of the ride.

Butler’s keen interest in community building made him a natural choice for first artist-in-residence at the AGO. Near the end of his residency last fall Butler displayed (and got decent media coverage of) the complete exhibit, The Greg Curnoe Bicycle Project as part of the AGO’s Toronto Now series. As you can see in these photos, the exhibit included some of the plentiful AGO archival materials of Curnoe’s work and bicycle items, such as a jersey he designed for his cycling club and a piece from “Close the 49th…”‘s the original top tube.

The Toronto Now series features a rotating series of contemporary art projects that puts the focus on Toronto artists and displays their work in the free, street-facing Young Gallery.

Read our dandy story about the bike-related art in the current Toronto NOW exhibit here.

Read bike building legend Mike Barry’s story about his relationship with Greg Curnoe in dandyhorse, here.

….

Artist Paul Butler with the bike he commissioned for the exhibit from Mike Barry, Mariposa

Artist Paul Butler with Mariposa bike by Mike Barry. This bicycle is a replica of Greg Curnoe’s famous “Close the 49th Parallel ETC.” art bike which he also made a painting of, on clear plexiglass.

The top tube from the original bike.

Eerie: damaged top tube from the original bike, on display above cycling journal from the AGO Curnoe archival collection.

 

Greg Curnoe designed jersey

Curnoe also designed jerseys for his cycling club.

Photos above are from the ride “Greg Curnoe’s London”. FUSE magazine made a video of the ride.

The wheel above was inspired by Curnoe’s art. Here, Butler has written the names of each person who helped him put this exhibit together in each colour slice.

Mariposa bike by Mike Barry.

The French language letra-set of “Close the 49th…” is on the other side of the top tube.

 

The Toronto Now series features a rotating series of contemporary art projects that puts the focus on Toronto artists and displays their work in the free, street-facing Young Gallery.

Read our dandy story about the bike-related art in the current Toronto NOW exhibit here.

Read bike building legend Mike Barry’s story about his relationship with Greg Curnoe in dandyhorse, here.


 

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