|"In the wind on Friday night", by David Mann|
“Mann’s paintings set ‘outlaw’ Harley chopper motorcycles against surreal backgrounds, and distorted skylines, colourful images that celebrated the chopper motorcycle and the freedom of the open road. Many of his images captured the ‘Easyrider’ ethos – speed, the open road, long flowing hair – freedom.”-David Stuart Haslett, in Riding at the Margins
Lowbrow chopper artist David Mann was born in 1940 in Kansas City, Missouri. Hot rod cars were his first love, and he got his initial artistic experience while still in high school, when he worked pinstriping cars for a Kansas City custom shop. After high school, Mann and his buddy Al Burnett drove a ’47 Chevy Coupe to Santa Monica, California. He saw his first choppers there, at Bay Area Muffler, a custom car shop, and was drawn to the freedom and individuality expressed by the radical bikes. Back in Kansas City a few years later, Mann began painting choppers, and built his own bike based on a 1948 Harley-Davidson panhead.
|Mann with his panhead chopper, c.1965|
He won an award for his bike at the 1963 Kansas City Custom Car Show, and in 1965 joined the El Forasteros (The Outsiders) motorcycle club in Kansas City. Through a friend from the club, his paintings came to the attention of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, a California car builder and hot rod artist, and a central figure of the “Kustom Kulture” movement, which included hot rods, lowriders, drag racers, and chopped motorcycles. In 1971, David Mann began illustrating for Roth's then-new motorcycle lifestyle and culture magazine “Easy Riders”, where his work continued to appear until shortly before his death in 2004.
|"Beach Bums", by David Mann|
His art is firmly rooted in the “Lowbrow” style, and is focused on the southern California culture surrounding the chopper motorcycles he loved. He captured the freedom and camaraderie of the biker culture, and the “Kustom Kulture” world of chopped Harley-Davidsons, motorcycle clubs, hot rods, long hair, sunglasses, leather, denim, cowboy boots, pretty girls, sun, sand, highways, rock-n-roll, and city lights.
|"Saturday Night and Sunday Morning", by David Mann|
David Mann portrayed the clash between the motorcycle counterculture and the straight-laced, upper class “squares”, and saw the biker as a worthy successor to the cowboy of the Old West: a half-wild breed living on the edge of respectable society, but free, and somehow fascinating.
|"Ghostrider", by David Mann|
The worldview of the people he depicts is summed up in the graffiti scrawled on the wall of a motorcycle clubhouse in one of his paintings: “Know ye that this is the kingdom of kicks-beer and bikes and drugs and chicks”. Mann’s paintings are classic motorcycle art, and played an important role in shaping our idea of motorcycle culture, especially the distinctively American “outlaw biker” and custom chopper worlds.