EXHIBITIONS - Michael first exhibited his black and white photographic prints of bikers and rodeo cowboys in the late 1970’s, but then after an exhibition of Michael’s photography in Dublin, Ireland was boycotted by the league of decency in 1981, he took a 30-year break in publicly displaying his work. Then in 2001, he started to show his work again as well as organizing, curating and producing an annual exhibitions combining custom motorcycles and motorcycle related art at the Journey Museum in Rapid City. These themed exhibitions moved to the 6,000’ purpose-built gallery at the Buffalo Chip in 2009 where they continue to this day under the name "Motorcycles as Art.” The shows are typically very focused as the bikes were in "The Naked Truth” in 2015 when none of the bikes could have any paint or finish (so you walked in the gallery and saw a sea of raw metal), the all Cafe Racer show "Ton Up” in 2013, the race Inspired "Built for Speed” in 2014 or 2016’s tattoo inspired exhibition "Skin and Bones.” These themes often exclude Michael’s own participation as with "One World Choppers” in 2007 when all participants were born outside the USA or the 2008 "Stay Gold” when you couldn’t earn a living from your craft and more recently, the 2017 "Old Iron / Young Blood” when participants couldn’t be older than 35 years old. He does, however, do a major display of his photography every five years coinciding with the big Sturgis anniversaries (70th, 75th, 80th…) While Michael’s focus remains on shooting the most relevant photography he can, he usually exhibits his work several times a year in galleries and occasionally, at events.
5 galleriesWhat does it take for a custom motorcycle builder to withstand economic downturns, epidemics and the fickle twists and turns of the motorcycle industry? That is exactly the concept being examined in the Sturgis Buffalo Chip’s 2020 Motorcycles as Art exhibition titled “Heavy Mettle: Motorcycles and Art with Moxie.” 35 builders with metal-lined backbone and character strong enough to buck trends had a range of motorcycles on display, from new work to legendary machines. Reputations have been built on these bikes, some dating back to the 1980’s. In contrast to past MAA exhibitions, “Heavy Mettle” will be presented over two-years, with this first show labeled the “Unlocked Edition.” 2021 will follow with another edition titled “More Mettle” in which all brand-new bikes will be debuted. Taken together, these two shows will help put these builders and their bikes into historical context. This one-time collection of motorcycles was complemented with more than 80 works from three moto-artists whose careers have similarly withstood these same trials and challenges. David Uhl and Scott Jacobs displayed paintings, almost all originals, while Michael Lichter will be showing photographs made during the Sturgis rally going back to the 1970’s. “This was to be a big year for me,” said Michael Lichter, curator and producer of the Buffalo Chip’s Motorcycles as Art exhibit. “It was the 80th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, was my 40th year to come to Sturgis and the 20th year of producing motorcycle themed exhibitions during the rally. The builders and fellow artists chosen to display bikes in this momentous show not only have the spirit of creativity and entrepreneurship, but the moxie it takes to become noted figures in an industry rife with heavy mettle characters.” Faced with the knowledge that half of all businesses fail in the first five years, it is evident these motorcycle aficionados have fought hard to become successful and legendary well beyond the confines of the industry. “The builders in this year’s exhibit are the guys with enough persistence to have stuck with it through thick and thin,” said Rod Woodruff, Sturgis Buffalo Chip President. “They’ve produced some of the most amazing machines the world has ever seen. No one should miss the opportunity to see this exceptional display of collective moto-genius. The opportunity is offered for just seven days, and then it’s gone forever.” Thankfully, it was also preserved dugutally and is so presented to your through the web. Special thanks to this years sponsors including our title sponsor Russ Brown Motorcycles Attorneys, and Black Out Design, BMW Motorrad, Daily Direct Haul Bikes, Hot Leathers, Klock Werks, Legend Suspension, Motorbike Expo, S&S Cycles.
3 galleriesThe 2019 "MAA” exhibition at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip This year’s annual "Motorcycles as Art” exhibition at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip explores the "Skinny” motorcycle style. "What’s the Skinny?” features bikes that are light, lean, look fast standing still and are the stylistic opposite of the very popular 26” wheeled, thousand pound custom baggers that have their own (and very different) place in the motorcycle world. With the resurgence of skinny-style customs about a dozen years ago, I became fascinated with bikes that seem to do more with less. Smaller engines, less bulk and less weight means faster and more nimble rides that are refreshing, fun, and a completely different aesthetic. Skinny bikes aren’t new, as the earliest motorcycles (often based on bicycles) at the dawn of the 20th century certainly fit the bill. No sooner had motorcycles appeared than riders were racing them and for board track racers "Skinny” meant fast. Bikes started putting on weight in the 1930s (a 1928 Harley-Davidson JD is 90 pounds lighter than a ’36 Knucklehead) and then after WW2 and into the 1950’s, as motorcycle touring grew more popular, we saw the advent of "Full Dressers”. Adding creature comforts like full suspension, plush saddles, big fenders, windshields, and saddlebags meant increasingly heavy bikes, which we now refer to as Baggers. The 1980s saw custom bike wheels, engines and bodywork get bigger and bigger so that building to the millennium, we saw fat tire choppers and baggers dominate the scene. Manufacturers raced to bring out bigger wheels and tires each year, but something was brewing underground. Skinny garage-built bikes, harkening back to those earlier styles, started to emerge again in the mid-2000s. Perhaps it was the economic crash that had everyone tightening their belts and rethinking what is important. A new energy went into this counter-culture skinny style, but no matter how crazy they seemed, these creations, at least at first, were built more for "Go” than "Show.” One thing I love about the re-emergence of skinny bikes is looking at them from the back; straight-on with their thin tires, clean lines, narrow primaries with exposed chains and handlebars barely wider than their slim tanks. These days, the style is being pushed to the limits with jewelry-like details that add personality and style, linkages you desperately want to play with, and curvaceous hand shifters, controls and motor mounts you want to touch. These characterful elements all add up to reveal the builder’s nature and really, the nature of an emerging generation. - Michael Lichter (exhibition curator) March, 2019
3 galleriesPASSION BUILT - As we do every year with these annual themed exhibitions (our 10th at the Buffalo Chip and 18th year since inception), we focus on an idea and hope that in addition to presenting incredible new custom motorcycles and artwork to the viewers that pass through this gallery, that this exhibition series gets people thinking and if we’re lucky, challenges the status quo. With this years "Passion Built - Garage to Gallery” exhibition and its 53 participants that make a living from something other than the craft they are presenting here, don’t you wonder "What drives these artists to make these creations?,” "How do they have the energy to put into their craft after a long day at work?, or perhaps "What exactly is Passion?” Many would say the word "Passion” is overused, but this could be that an increasing number of people pursue and experience it each year, as we become a more affluent society. With most people’s basic needs met, are we at that point where the unalienable right of "the pursuit of Happiness” so clearly stated in our Declaration of Independence almost 250 years ago has become real? Isn’t there a correlation between Happiness and Passion? As I see it, the happiest people I know are also the most passionate. They seem to live life with enthusiasm and excitement, without care for the amount of time and money that goes into their craft, because it is just something they HAVE TO DO. It charges them with energy and the self confidence to not only keep going, but to push themselves and take risks trying new and creative ways to express themselves. The builders and artists represented here have been brought together for their shared passion for motorcycles and the art behind them. Some are at the beginning of their professional lives and others are close to, or already in retirement, but each supports themselves by other means and each creates work at a professional level. They have chosen to keep their passion separate from their day-to-day job for reasons that range from their career being too lucrative to give up to wanting to keep their passion pure and without commercial influence. The funny part is even if they were to go "Professional”, when your passion is your work, it is hard to justify calling it work anymore!