A few weeks ago I wrote about a piece of bike art that I saw on my commute to work. Here is one of the pictures I took and posted.
In the post I noted that the name of the artist appeared to be on one of the locks securing the bike to the pole. I Googled the name and found the web site of Bernard Klevickas. I emailed him to let him know about my post and also asked him if he was interested in doing an interview. He kindly agreed and here is the interview. Thanks Bernard. If readers have ideas for interesting people to interview always feel free to shoot us an email.
Bike Hacks: So tell us a bit about yourself. You know, the standard intro stuff. What's your background, where do you live, etc.?
Bernard: Hello. My background: I am originally from Northwest Indiana near Gary. I grew up riding bikes, bmx racing when I was a kid, then street and ramp freestyle when a teenager, then onto mountain bikes and road bikes. Concurrent with this I was also an artist, drawing and painting at first then sculpting.
Bike Hacks: Do you make your living as an artist or is this a "side" passion?
Bernard: I have a day job. I consider art my life, making my sculpture when I can and always looking at the work of other artists with a natural curiosity. My day job pays my bills and it is torture being there when I know I could make better art if I had the freedom to do so.
Aside from art school and machinist trade school I worked as an art fabricator at a foundry for five years. This included fabricating work for the artists Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeois, Frank Stella and others.
Bike Hacks: Art can appear in many contexts, for example galleries or parks, and can either be approved or unauthorized. Is most of the work that you do for official purposes or unofficial purposes?
Bernard: Art to me, at least the best art, is not approved, sanctioned or allowed or promoted, but is an act of freedom. Many artists are given gallery representation to show off their talent in the pristine white boxes but many more artists of all ages and styles are ignored or do not fit in the gallery setting. I am without gallery representation.
With public or outdoor art the issue is somewhat similar in that the art has to be approved by the many hierarchies of government and art authorities and the art with a largely watered down social message or art by famous artists or from well known galleries are approved. When the standard paths for an artist to get their work seen are unavailable an artist needs to think creatively in terms of how to put the work out into the world.
Bike Hacks: In regard to the bike planter locked to the pole on 52nd street, was this installation approved by the city? And why did you pick this particular location and has the bike appeared in other locations?
Bernard: No, it was not approved by the city, but in a sense all I am doing is locking a bike to a lightpost. This was the first installation. And according to the ticket it was not taken down until a person complained. That particular location is in front of one of the entrances to the Armory Show, a prestigious contemporary art fair which happens every year in New York. My intention was to only display it there during the four days of the fair.
Recently I installed the Twisted Bicycle Planter in front of the New Museum (3/12-13). The Museum security took it down on the second day and when I went in to ask about it the front desk attendants all said they liked it and complemented me on it. I was able to retrieve it without any trouble and took it back to the studio in a cab.
Bike Hacks: What inspired the bike planter? Are you an active cyclist?
Bernard: I am a member of a community garden. My experience of growing flowers and produce has recently influenced and blended into my artmaking practice. To make a structure that can hold and sustain growing plants became an interest of mine. I chose tulips for two reasons- it is spring and the thought of the high-end artworld mirroring tulipmania also came to mind.
I think bicycles are a near-perfect form of urban transportation, it doesn't pollute or take up much space, and provides healthy exercise, my only qualm is that the seat is not ideal for longterm riding. As an avid cyclist I have seen locked bicycles with wheels warped by vandals and abandoned frames and remaining bicycle pieces locked to posts for years.
As a sculptor who works primarily in metal I am interested in forming material as an expressionistic act and because of that can cut, weld and form bike frames into any shape. When not working more abstractly with my art I like to make objects that can bring an awareness to our shared environment; the bicycle is a machine we can use and even if twisted around a post it can still bring awareness to it and we could always have more plants in the city. All these factors added to the concept of a bicycle twisted around a lightpost with flowers sprouting out of the top.
Bike Hacks: If you are an active cyclist, what's your ride?
Bernard: I have a bike reconstructed from the best of the leftover parts from collecting abandoned bicycles: The frame is a Fuji Monterrey with Valite tubing, which handles really nicely is lightweight and is made from good steel. The stem is an aluminum Nitto the pedals are Wellgo, the headset and bottom bracket bearings, brakes and cranks (which are the same length and brand but one is black the other silver and from two different bikes) along with all the other small parts are cobbled together.
The wheels, tires and seat are new (impossible to find those in good condition on abandoned bikes as those are the first to be stolen which often leads to the bike being abandoned in the first place.) seat- Selle Italia wheels- Velocity Deep V wheels (with flip- fixie hub) tires- Michelin City tires.
Bike Hacks: Have sold any works to anyone that might be considered "famous?"
Bernard: No. Should that make a difference? People are people famous or not, we all deserve respect.
Bike Hacks: What work of art are you the most proud of and why?
Bernard: All of them. It is my way to be free.
Bike Hacks: If people are interested in keeping up with what's going on with you, how can they do so?
Bernard: My website and on Facebook.