Mexican bike sculptures in New York City promote urban art, cycling

Wed Jul 2, 2014 3:01pm EDT

1 of 2. Mexican artist Gilberto Aceves Navarro poses for a portrait with two of his bicycle sculptures in New York June 30, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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NEW YORK Reuters) - An 82-year-old Mexican artist is hoping that 122 bicycle sculptures he has erected around New York City will get people on their bikes, spur an interest in urban art and create greener, healthier cities.

Each steel sculpture by Gilberto Aceves Navarro weighs up to 1,200 pounds (550 kilos), is from six to eight feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters) high and features large bicycles with disproportionately smaller cyclists in different poses.

The works installed along a 10-mile (16-km) bike route linking lower Manhattan, downtown Brooklyn and riverside promenades are part of the urban exhibit called "Las Bicicletas" that begins on Tuesday and runs to Sept. 30.

"This is the biggest outdoor sculpture series by a single artist ever assembled in New York," Emily Colasacco, the art director of the city's department of transportation, said about the sculptures.

"It's a great opportunity to highlight urban art, our bike infrastructure and waterfront bike lanes," she told Reuters.

Aceves Navarro began drawing bicycles when he was just 6 years old. His work has been shown in more than 200 exhibits and his murals are featured in Mexico, Japan and the United States. He mounted the first "Las Bicicletas" in 2008 in Mexico City.

"I want people to have contact (with the bicycles) every day and take away a memory of something different, of what, they're not sure exactly," the artist said in an interview. "Seeing something distinct ... that will open the doors of perception and this is important."

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to view the sculptures in New York at sites including the Manhattan Bridge and near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with its view of the New York skyline that has been captured in Hollywood films.

"We have to create new conditions to use bicycles instead of cars," the artist said. "Cars are harmful and terrible ... with their great noise, fumes and congestion."

The biggest hit of the Mexico City exhibit was the 75-bicycle sculpture set end-to-end in the city's historic Alameda Park. Each day thousands of visitors tapped the sculptures, which gave off a gong sound.

"They loved seeing them, touching them and sounding them many times," he said.

Aceves Navarro said the exhibition encouraged more cycling in the city, along with a local expansion of bike routes and a government campaign to promote cycling in the Mexican capital.

Although the sculptures in the New York show will be different, he hopes they will have the same impact.

"The cyclist will be smaller in dimension and proportion in comparison with the bicycle," he explained. "I want to make the bicycle stand out more as formidable."

The sculpture will also be about four times heavier and 50 percent thicker to meet New York's hurricane-resistant regulations, according to Juan Aceves, the artist's son.

He said the New York exhibit will be followed by another urban art show of bicycles next year in Chicago and in Denmark in 2016.

(The story corrects spelling of art director's name to Colasacco in 4th paragraph)

(Editing by Patricia Reaney; editing by Andrew Hay)

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