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Recent DTLA Garden.1: MOCA Bike Farm

August 7, 2011


A surprising addition to MOCA’s soon-to-close Street Art show is the Levi’s sponsored Mobile Bike Farm in its entry courtyard. Featuring bikes tricked-out with wooden planter boxes, it’s a vegetable and fruit farm that hits on several current cultural threads: the grow-your-own organic food movement, urban cycling and chunky DIY building construction … it’s also a nice bit of garden rusticity in downtown’s urban setting.


At first I had a hard time getting a ‘read’ on how the bikes fit into the farm structure, but  looking closely I could see that the bike’s wooden planter boxes were ingeniously designed to slide into custom bays along the stationary planter’s edge … a built-in bench and sunshade adds a comfort factor for visitors and plants respectively.


The bike farm is dedicated to the memory of Margaret Kilgallen, one of the few women included in the Street Art show. Kilgallen died in 2001, but her work has lived on,  memorable for its intriguing incorporation of folk art imagery, Mexican symbols and typographic elements; all in deadpan flat hues (click here). More than painter and muralist, she was also a graffiti artist, surfer and accomplished banjo player. The mobile bike farm’s little hand-painted plaque is a fitting reflection of Kilgallen’s own work.

Beets, too

There’s quite an array of produce planted in the stationary planters, each identified by wooden nametags printed in red-orange Helvetica. Baby’s tears seemed to fill the bike’s planter boxes, but maybe they actually held some young herb, or other crop … During my visit I was unsuccessful in finding out who would be enjoying all this artfully grown produce, where the mobile bike plots roll off to at the end of the day, or if the farm will be dismantled on Monday, August 8th, when Art in the Streets closes. Unanswered questions aside, I’m happy I got to see the mobile bike farm. I enjoyed its leafy-green natural calmness contrasted against the aggressive, mostly-male produced, artwork it shared space with. (UPDATE: On Thursday, August 11, I passed MOCA in time to see the bike farm being unceremoniously loaded up into the back of a large truck and moved. It is no more, at least in this location.)

The film below is by Levis/Bike Farm collaborator, Aaron Rose. Its first 2 minutes show how the mobile bike gardens were assembled … but stick around beyond that and you’ll be treated to oddly solemn chicken screen tests, and spoken/visual musings on urban gardening.

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