Guy Overfelt takes on car culture in ‘Free Bird’ 

click to enlarge Pontiac Trans AM
  • Courtesy photo
  • A 1977 Pontiac Trans AM is at the center of conceptual artist Guy Overfelt’s exhibit at Ever Gold Gallery.
Metal, motors, machismo, and rubber soul figure into the work of Guy Overfelt, the locally based conceptual artist known for his interest in car culture. In his new gallery installation, Overfelt again embraces the automobile, using his familiar muscle car as both art instrument and star attraction.

“Free Bird: The Never Ending Joy Ride, 1998-2014,” on view at Ever Gold Gallery in San Francisco, is the latest installment in an ongoing project in which Overfelt uses sculpture, printmaking and performance to explore the role of the automobile — associated with speed, economic status, personal freedom, pop-culture cool, and male power — in modern life.

A 1977 Pontiac Trans AM, a model seen in the movie “Smokey and the Bandit” and described by Overfelt as the car that most embodies the American dream, serves as the exhibition’s centerpiece.

Overfelt has raised the Trans AM high above the gallery viewing space via a four-post hydraulic car lift. Spanning most of the gallery’s width, the elevated car conveys presence and formidability. Guests who walk under it can look upward and view its metal insides, its shiny black paint job, and its Goodyear Eagle tires (another brand favored by the artist).

When lowered for the crowd at last Friday’s reception, with its phoenix emblem descending toward viewer eye levels, the Trans AM suggested, on one level, a relic out of sync with environmentally conscious times and, on another, a poetic object of modern mythology.

On nearby walls are burnout drawings — imprints made with spinning tires, hot rubber, and linen or paper. An Overfelt specialty, these works might be described as the vehicular equivalent of fingerprints, with each tire producing a one-of-a-kind image.

The burnout process has created legal troubles for Overfelt, including traffic-related arrests and a criminal-court case. For the latter, Overfelt hired notable civil-rights attorney Tony Serra to defend him. (The case was dismissed.)

Overfelt turned some of the proceedings into performance art. In 1998, courtroom illustrators Walter Stewart and Vicky Behringer, whose collective credits include the O.J. Simpson, Unabomber and Enron cases, documented the court action for Overfelt. Some of these drawings are on view in the exhibition.

Overfelt, who has cited other California conceptual artists as well as modern-art giants Barnett Newman and Richard Serra as influences, has also exhibited his work at the Oakland Museum of California; the Guangzhou Triennial, in China; St. Mary’s University, in Halifax, Canada; and the Havana Biennial, in Cuba.


Free Bird: The Never Ending Joy Ride, 1998-2014

Where: Ever Gold Gallery, 441 O’Farrell St., S.F.

When: 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; closes Oct. 4

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 796-3676,

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Anita Katz

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