Like all good things wild and free, “Hell’s Union” was gone too soon. I got the tail end of the exhibition of vintage cuts – outlaw motorcycle club leather and denim vests from the 60s and 70s – at UC Riverside ARTSblock. The cuts are the collection of artist-rider Jeff Decker. As American folk art, a worthy comparison which is analyzed in this article, the cuts hold together with leather string, door locks and makeshift patches. They’re the identities of a gnarly type of character in American history when WWII was just over and individuality stank with freshness (I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard about it and watched the movies). Outlaw motorcycle clubs created their own visual language that was anti-religious, territorial and cryptic. I’ve never been so close to touching the real thing until now.
Cuts were originally not allowed to be washed and were required to be worn whenever riding, so the wear and tear became a respected symbol of experience.
One of the cuts came from police custody.
It was found on a body on the side of a desert road in the Coachella Valley… only remnants of the cow hide backing remain from the original design.
The patch on that one says Road Captain.
How many more cuts have been absorbed by gravel, dirt and desert sand? With art that’s meant to be lived in and died in, who the hell knows? It’s a good thing the world has these.
*Also check out the Keith Dugas interview with Greg Escalante who helped put this show together.
Hells Union: Motorcycle Club Cuts as American Folk Art
Ended Dec. 8
3800 block of Main Street