ART ATTACK: Ian Barry’s Cataclysmic Café Racers
Perhaps some would call it a “crime of passion” to “recycle” classic British bikes into “works of art,” but perhaps there’s significant leeway when the custom creations are for the most salvaged bits and pieces reconfigured into scratch built and streetable “one-offs.” Then again, do bikes—nut and bolt mechanical gizmos filled with goopy oil—deserve to be placed on pedestals and acclaimied as works of art? The answer is self-evident when you first lay eyes on the three motorcycles seen here. The trio of glistening, gleaming, yet fully funcitonal motorcycles come with relatively simple names for all that went into their making—The White, The Black, The Kestrel. More on the names later.
Every part, excluding engine, carburetors and tires, is literally cut from blocks of metal. Even the leftover metal shavings are “recycled” into framed artworks hung alongside them when they appeared at the upscale Michael Kohn Gallery on the hip side of Los Angeles. The first three of the ten proposed custom bike builds by Los Angeles-based industrial designer, artist, and motorcycle engineer Ian Barry made their art gallery debut appearance in late July 2013. The rolling masterpieces each have 1,000-3,000 hours poured into their hand-crafted aluminum, stainless steel and titanium creation—one bike built per year. The gallery describes Ian’s work as “continuing Ian’s exploration of symbolism, power and speed, using motorcycles as the translating mechanism.”
Ian, who traces his bike riding lineage to his great-grandparents in Holland, works out of a Hollywood stuido called Falcon Motorcycles founded in 2008 by Ian and with his partner Amaryllis Knight. The shop appears part sculptor’s lair, part gearhead sanctuary, part inventor’s science lab. It’s filled with vintage tools as well as those Ian designed and built himself including a massive English wheel for creating beautiful bends in metal, a device he recycled from a 1950s dough making machine. Speaking to the motivation behind his bike building, he says, “I’ve always been completely obsessed with English bikes. The first motorcycle I bought was a 1967 Bonneville all in pieces when I was 18. After getting plenty of advice and help from the Old Timers, I eventually got it back together. Then it was on to BSAs and Nortons, and the obsession hasn’t stopped.”
As for the choice of shop names, one day he caught a glimpse of a falconer, a trainer of the birds, the image on his computer screen. Seems his fiancee, Amaryllis, shares an interest in the feathered speed demons. It started when Amaryllis had competed in the London To Mongolia car rally, at one point spending time with a falconer when she was making her way through Kazakhstan during the race. Says Ian, “It was this that made us think of the name Falcon—the fastest animal on earth. We couldn’t believe that nobody had taken the name yet, so we claimed it.”
While his Falcon Motorcycles are built for customers, including his special “art” series, they are all fully functional, road worthy macines. But Ian obviously also views motorcycles from an artistic plane. Speaking about each engine he builds, he says, “I make the engines the focus, because in and of themselves, they are symbolic and they have a rhetorical quality. The engine isn’t a static material. It’s about propulsion and potential.”
In addition to a very select client list, his “motorcycle aesthetic” has earned Ian numerous awards includes honors at the U.S. 2008 Legend of the Motorcycle International Concours and at the prestigous Quail Motorcycle Concours for both 2010 and 2011.
Ian named one bike “The White,” perhaps because of its 100 percent polished surfaces that create its monochromatic visual impact. It’s based around a 1967 500cc single cylinder Velocette “Squish Head” high performance Venom Thruxton engine. Only about 1,000 Thruxtons were produced between 1967 and the end of production in early 1971. The “Squish Heads” were far rarer as they were very special and very limited (perhaps only six) factory built race motors, the same design that brought Velocette a major victory at the famous 1967 Isle of Mann TT race.
Another motorcycle, “The Kestrel Falcon,” is made of parts that were modified from original pieces or custom made including the hand bent exhaust pipes, handlebars, levers, forward controls, fender, license plate holder and seat, even many of the fasteners. It was inspired by one the fastest animals in nature, the Kestrel, a bird of prey and member of the falcon family.
The art gallery’s brochure description of “The Black” includes a list of its “ingredients” that reads: “Acrylic, 7075 +6061 T6 aluminum, brass, 954 bronze alloy, copper, cloth, enamel, epoxy, glass, leather, light-emitting diodes, nickel, Pyrex, stainless steel, steel, titanium, white gold leaf, 1952 Vincent Black Shadow engine, Avon tires, Borrani 21-inch WM1 wheel, Borrani 20” WM2 wheel.” Plus the bike’s dimensions: 33x30x80 inches—in case you planned to have it framed.
Are the bikes for sale? Yes, and Ian can build you rumbling, rolling artwork that you can both hang in your dining room and then blast down the Autobahn or any road for that matter. All it takes is a healthy respect for the investment of time and talent that goes into his true “one-offs.”
For more information, visit Falconmotorcycles.com.