While there are certainly well-known “brand names” in automotive design—Italy’s Pininfarina, Bertone, and Giugiaro, and America’s Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell, Raymond Loewy, and Virgil Exner—there were many more car designers who labored in obscurity at drafting tables in Detroit design studios. These heretofore unsung stylists are the subject of the exhibition, “Looking Into the Future: American Automotive Designs and Concepts, 1959-1973,” running now through May 20 at the Christopher W. Mount Gallery in West Hollywood, California.
Art collector and dealer Leo Brereton spent hours in the homes of designers and their survivors, rummaging through boxes and unearthing brilliant automotive design pieces that offer a glimpse into the future as envisioned from the past. He collected 39 pieces for the exhibition, and designers in the show include Wayne Kady, whose work for Cadillac and Buick included the 1967 Eldorado and the bulbous final-generation Roadmaster; former Chrysler designer Bob Ackerman, who helped realize the early 1970s Challenger; John Samsen, who worked on the original Thunderbird then went to Chrysler where he designed (and named) the Barracuda; and Pete Wozena, who designed mid-’50s GM Motorama cars.
Brereton says “the greatest concentration of these images are in landfills,” but his efforts have yielded a breathtaking look at the imaginations that made American car design a beacon of innovation. Gallery owner Christopher Mount calls the featured designers “fine artists who just happened to have commercial careers.” The exhibition is even more impressive when one considers that the pieces are products of the predigital age, when vehicle design was strictly a human endeavor and a sketch was the product of minds and pencils, both impressively sharp.
Christopher W. Mount Gallery
Pacific Design Center
8687 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Pictured above: Coupe design from Art Center by Ken Vendley, c.1959
Roofline study for GM by Pete Wozena, 1956
Design for Cadillac by John Perkins, 1966
Design for Chevrolet by Robert Ackerman, c.1965
Design for Dodge by Carl Cameron, c.1966
Concept for GM by Allen Young, c.1970