Porter’s latest major set of works was completed today. Known as the History of Transportation, it’s seven separate works of art representative of the major innovations in transportation. The first piece in the show is the traffic signal, a device whose absence would cause confusion and delay. Indeed, a world without the order that signals bring would be a world of chaos and lawlessness. One could view the humble traffic light as symbolic of the order which represents civilization itself.
Next, we move on to the historical pieces. The train represented the first major change to the way goods and people moved and its advent changed the course of history in every place its influence was felt, especially in the American west where it precipitated the rise of vast cities where none would have been possible without the iron horse. Historically, next is the hot air balloon, pioneered by the Montgolfier brothers of France in 1783. Like theirs, Porter’s balloon is brightly colored with blue hues reminiscent of the conquered sky itself.
As for modern vehicles, there is the automobile and, of course, the school bus. And although a self-powered machine was built as early as 1769, the internal combustion engine built by Gottlieb Daimler in 1889 (and others around the same time) was the innovation that led to the practical personal vehicle that has become so ubiquitous today. Who can truly imagine a modern world without the car? The bright yellow school bus, of course, represents the shift from innocence to maturity as it carries our hopes and dreams from home out into the wider world where they can mingle freely with others. This is the essence of civilization itself; a free exchange of ideas to create a whole that is better than the sum of its parts.
The modern aircraft include the airplane and the helicopter. Their influence is incalcuable to modern society as so many of our perceptions of ourselves and of the world dramatically shifted once viewed at a distance from above. How different the world seems when seen from thousands of feet in the air. Porter’s recent air travel have obviously imbued him with that wisdom which are evident in these works.
It’s also worth noting that half of the works contain earthbound wheels while the other are all machines of the air. Head in the clouds but feet firmly on the ground. Another complex work of genius from our little red Haring. Ah, there’s the phone. It must be the Whitney calling back with their offer of a fall show.
The History of Transportation. Clockwise from the bottom: a train, airplane, helicopter, balloon and car; with a school bus in the center.