The Compound Gallery will be kicking off a seven week retrospective of the work of Tyler Hoare AKA “The Red Baron” this Saturday March 18th. Hoare’s famous WWI biplane installations have anonymously adorned the Emeryville & Berkeley Marinas for decades. At the conclusion of the show, Tyler will install his latest creation to replace the existing, vandalized piece that is mounted to a pier post at Shorebird park. East Bay historian Joey Enos sat down with Tyler at his Albany studio to hear stories of Hoare’s life adventures, early career, and drive that has him still creating into his late 70’s.
Tyler James Hoare: Inside / Outside Artist
By Joey Enos
For the past 40 years, Tyler James Hoare has been able to transform the graveyard of pier posts along the shallow waters of the I-80 Freeway into his personal gallery of iconic works. Images of the Bay Area waterfront would not be complete without the Red Baron and the Golden Gate behind it. Even though he has had a long career of showing his work in galleries and museums from Japan to New York, he has made showing artwork along the non-pretentious highway a critical part of his art practice.
SF Artists’ Soap Box Derby
Many Bay Area artists in the 1960’s and 1970’s worked outside the larger system of the art world that was focused in New York. They fought harder to have their work seen. California art was not a destination for large sales and museum retrospectives at this time. This led many museums and curators to think outside the box to engage collectors and the public. This created a trend of artists that truly made work for themselves and not dependent on income. A pivotal moment in Tyler Hoare’s career and an example of the unique aspects of the Bay Area art scene at that time was the Soap Box Derby events hosted by SFMOMA.
In 1975 and 1978, the SFMOMA decided to raise money by putting on an artist created Soap Box Derby downhill race at McLaren Park in San Francisco. In the two races the SFMOMA invited almost every artist in the Bay Area to create a soapbox racer. Henry Hopkins, the director of the museum, had close relationships with many of the local artists in the Bay Area and it reflected in the raucous nature of these events. Some of the artist raced giant man driven pencils and some brought a literal matchbook with wheels. When the art world is not knocking on your door, the bay area community had a good ol’ crowd-pleasing fun time.
When Hoare was invited to create a soapbox racer for the derby, he brought his red baron biplane in full WWI regalia to race down the hill at McLaren Park in San Francisco. Hundreds of people cheered him on in his plane. After the race, children and grown ups alike lined up to take pictures with him, he had a profound revelation about his work. The amount of eyeballs outside in the open air to look at an artwork could not compare to the amount of people would see your work in a traditional gallery.
“Drive Thru” Gallery
While participating in the Derby, Hoare had to find a home for another plane he made for a group art show at the Richmond Art Center in 1975. Hoare decided to install the airplane sculpture along the Berkeley waterfront instead of squirreling it away in his studio or scrapping for future sculptures. While driving on the frontage road to his small office, he saw a pier post that made the most logical home for his biplane near University Avenue. With a rented boat and a few friends, he installed the first biplane on top of that pier. ” Having the public see my work is great, I don’t know if (my work) will ever be in a museum, but being along the freeway, everyone will see it.”
With the profound experience of the soapbox derby crowd engaging his art, and the newly discovered space along the freeway to execute his installations, Tyler Hoare made the bayshore along the freeway his “drive thru” gallery.
Over the years Hoare installed many compelling works, in traditional galleries and many unconventional spaces. He has put a parachute man on top the Emeryville Public Market, a UFO in the Berkeley Marina, Submarines in Emeryville, and a floating shark in the fountain of San Francisco’s City Hall. In the 1970s, He also was invited by the Xerox Company to explore and experiment with the new technology of colored copies. He used the xerographic process as a way to “build” his works in much the same way he approaches his sculpture, scavenging and assembling.
With his wide body of work, the red baron along the Bay can be argued as the most iconic of his artworks. Generations of children stuck in the back of the car during traffic were rescued by the whimsical sculptures out in the water. They became fantastical jumping off points of imagination and possibilities for bored children. Now these iconic images live in those grown children’s nostalgia of the ever-changing landscape of the Bay Area.
Emeryville Mudflat Sculptures
By the 1980s, being north of the Mudflat Sculpture garden served Hoare well. As debate, vandals, and eventual clean up hindered the Emeryville Mudflat Sculptures to a holt, Hoare never stopped installing his sculptures in the bay. “I was down the way, and I was able to keep on doing it. It’s just that they got run off and I didn’t.” He goes on to reflect about the Emeryville Mudflat Sculptures, ”They [Emeryville] had ‘it’, a world-renowned art garden, and they spent millions to get rid of it. ”
He did eventually run into a problem that he never expected. When Hoare started installing artwork along the Emeryville-Berkeley waterfront, there was hundreds of pier post breaching the water. There was a plethora of plinths to install his artwork, now they are slowly falling back into the sea. Tyler said, ”When I started out in Emeryville there were 18 posts, … now I’m down to two. I didn’t know I was going to outlive those posts!”
The Red Baron: Still going strong
The beauty of an active estuary is the continual ebb and flow of life and death. Life cycles of plants and animals feed into the robustness of the environment. This sense of place has always fed into the lifespans of Tyler’s artworks, ”It is not the nature of the work. You have to be able to let [the artwork] go, the minute it leaves the house.”
One foot in the art world, and one foot out: the artists of the bay area, like Tyler James Hoare, from the 1960s and 1970’s had a unique perspective. They had deficits of opportunities being on the West Coast and had to fight to engage viewers. They had to do what they had to do to be seen as an artist, by any means necessary. With the limited collector community and lack of financial opportunities, they were given the gift to make art for themselves. The continual building and the continual destruction of Tyler work, like the red baron, reinforced that artistic practice so unique to the Bay Area.
Red Baron: A Tyler James Hoare Retrospective 1960’s-Present
The Compound Gallery is pleased to announce a 50 year retrospective of the esteemed Emeryville mudflat artist Tyler James Hoare. Last year, we exhibited a small grouping of Hoare’s works in our smaller Fabrication Gallery. This year, we are delighted to present an extensive solo exhibition of Hoare’s work in our main gallery.
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 18th 6-9pm
Dates: March 18th-May 7th, 2017
Artist Talk: Saturday, April 1st at 4pm
Airplane Installation: Saturday, May 6th at 1pm at the Emeryville Mud Flats.
Address: 1167 65th st. Oakland, CA 94608
Hours: Wed-Sun 12-7pm
Read more about the exhibit on TheCompoundGallery.com