“I’ve always been drawn to old things—the worn, the distressed, the forgotten. Many of the signs are virtually invisible to most people. They pass them every day, but they don’t really see them. Their colors have faded, their paint is peeling and they can’t compete with all the new, shiny things around them.”
They were once works of art themselves done by creatives like me. They were landmarks and guideposts, promising a cold beer, a good meal or even a good time. They helped define a street, a neighborhood and an era. They had power. As an artist, I want to give them a second life, pull them out of the past and elevate them once again to a place of distinction and even grandeur.
A pylon sign’s defining characteristic is its high elevation sight line which allows property and store identification at a great distance. For multi-tenant landlord and property owners or managers the pylon sign serves the critical function of communicating a shopping center’s tenants to potential consumers.
A life-long fascination with American culture has resulted in the creation of this new and exciting collection of works by artist Robin Utracik.
The American Dream could be seen as a wistful reminder of freedom, a mid-20th century moment when America was considered the land of the free, perhaps reflected in the songs of Tom Waits, on the road with Jack Kerouac or in the nighthawks observed by Edward Hopper.
Here, Utracik fixes his gaze on the signs of a lost America. He plays with them as signifiers of a past era but also as totems and monuments to an optimistic country, full of confidence for a bright future: a straight talking and honest nation, with the drive-ins and burger joints, stopping points on the great adventure.
These works of art could be seen as photo-realist sculptures of Pylon signs defined by their high elevation sight lines which allows property and store identification at a great distance.
Utracik describes them as “works of art themselves done by designers like me. They were landmarks and guideposts, promising a cold beer, a good meal or even a good time. They helped define a street, a neighbourhood and an era. They had power. As an artist, I want to give them a second life, pull them out of the past and elevate them once again to a place of distinction and even grandeur, but one where their colours have faded, their paint is peeling. A metaphor for the ‘American Dream’ that, in reality, never really existed.”
The private collectors who commission Utracik will be attracted to these new works not just for their intricacy and attention to detail that is evident in all of his work, but because these unique objects, isolated from the landscape they once inhabited, invite us to look in a different way at a specific sort of consumerism and marketing, and reflect on the reality and fantasy of the American Dream.
A fine art education let loose within an era of punk rock saw Robin Utracik draw inspiration from the traditional art school, popular culture and the burgeoning mass marketing and consumerism culture that grew from the USA.
His early influences were the signs and symbols found in the works of American painters like James Rosenquist and Robert Rauschenberg, and the content and photorealism of the English artist John Salt.
His energy extended to playing guitar for The Worst, arguably the worst band in the UK in an era when there was a plague of truly bad bands, out of a world then sprawling with graffiti and the art of the spray can. He produced work that moved from the traditional oil-on-canvas to car bonnets, motorcycle petrol tanks, drag racers and embracing graphics, air brush and illustration: perhaps most notably including the album artwork portraits for the Buzzcocks seminal second album, Love Bites.
With a mix of fine art and commercial know-how, and a set of finely honed skills combining observation, scrutiny, a model-makers attention to detail and skills drawn from a career that has encompassed traditional paint on canvas, airbrush, illustration and digital photography, Robin Utracik has developed his own unique vision.
From these early influences, coupled with an eclectic approach working without the constraint of boundaries, Robin Utracik has had a long, varied and successful career in the creative industries. Many of the myriad of skills and techniques he has mastered are demonstrated here, in this new series of works, The American Dream.
‘59 Cadillac Eldorado - oil on canvas, 6’ x 3’ 1977
‘60 Ford Galaxie - oil on canvas, 6’ x 4’ 1977
Yellowcab - mixed media on metal, 4’ x 4’ approx. 1978
Gina - mixed media on metal, 4’ x 3’ approx. 1978