Billy Apple’s passions are motor racing and art and in The Bruce and Denny Show, he mixes art with life. In a tribute to racing greats Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme, he draws on real events from one of the most glamorous eras in our motor sports history.
In the late 1960s, the Can-Am (Canadian American Challenge Cup) series became known as ‘The Bruce and Denny Show’ because it was dominated by McLaren cars - the phrase was a favourite for newspaper reporters of the day. Between them, Bruce and Denny won every race in the 1969 season in their huge orange Group 7 sports-racing cars. In The Bruce and Denny Show, Billy Apple presents footage from the races (Players 200, Mosport Park, Canada, September 1967) and, in a double branding manoeuvre typical of his practice, showcases text based portraits of the Can-Am cars and their champion drivers.
Our most well-known self-branded artist, Billy Apple™ is a trademarked art brand. As one of the original pop generation, he established his brand in London, circa 1962, changed his name and claimed everyday objects (like apples) and life activities (like cleaning and vacuuming) as art. This self-branding exercise sought to resolve for him the question of where art stops and life starts.
Billy Apple’s fascination with branding forms part of his attraction to the glamour of Formula One. When Bruce McLaren launched his ‘McLaren orange’ on the M5 at Formula One’s 1967 South African Grand Prix, Italian cars were predominantly shades of red and British, BRG (British Racing Green) with no advertising. Then came the Canadian American Challenge Cup series with cars described by Billy as,
“Moving billboards with sponsorship from companies like Reynolds Aluminum and Gulf Oil.”
In The Bruce and Denny Show, he has personalised his works with McLaren’s racing colours, while conforming to the Billy Apple brand of graphics and composition using the golden ratio format and Futura font.
“Just as Apple is to be identified through the symbolic currency of his art, so McLaren and Hulme are represented by him through the symbolic currency of their profession. Talking to Billy about the work, he described the car and driver paintings and prints as ‘portraits’ of each. McLaren is identified by the number (4) and colour of the car he drove, by his achievement: 1967 Can-Am Champion and ‘the speedy kiwi’ symbol, Hulme similarly by his number (5) and colour of his car, by his achievement: 1968 Can-Am Champion.” Wystan Curnow, ‘Billy Apple Pays Tribute’.
The Bruce and Denny Show is courtesy of Two Rooms Gallery, Auckland and the Bruce McLaren Trust.
20 November 2010 - 27 February, 2011