Thursday, April 6

Popeye Laverda Mirage

Popeye and a Laverda Mirage. If paintings are to be representational, then there are all kinds of structural motifs that have to be there. One being the figure ground relationship. It becomes a formal problem -- these two paintings in a very simple way illustrate two versions of the landscape issue: one has trees and a stream, recognizable motifs and immediately understood. The other a drop shadow on a white ground. The white ground functions as the landscape. 
The Laverda Mirage was a 1200cc, 3 cylinder DOHC  Italian super bike from the late 70s. When I came to Barcelona, I'd sometimes see them on the street. But I didn't see a lot of them. Mostly people drove scooters: Vespa Primavera 125cc, or small bikes like the Montesa 125cc, Bultaco 125cc, and the unusual Catalan Sanglas 350.  All small cylinder bikes, relatively affordable, practical and two-stroke. Smokey blue exhaust and the grindy two-stroke sound. Bikes that were initially designed in the 50s and were even back then retro when retro wasn't cool. It was unusual to see super bikes. They were impractical for getting around the city, and probably the main reason was to drive a 125cc bike you didn't need a motorcycle license. Unlike the effete BMW Boxer which was the common big bike back then, yuck!, the Laverda was an unusual 3 cylinder four stroke overhead cam design and had the tough Italian design look. They sounded amazing and I thought they were beautiful and exotic. Another looker was the Italian Moto Guzzi 500. They were used by the Spanish National Police, which I frequently saw, and they were an even tougher looking biker type bike. And back then, the cops smoked on duty, usually Ducados. It was a whole look. But being 500s, they looked a bit poky, compared to the Moto Guzzi 1000 Le Mans. That was something. Same design but bigger. It was also quite uncommon to see and it was equally beautiful like the Laverda Mirage, but sounded harder because of the V twin boom bloom design. Motto Guzzi was a bikers' bike. Seeing cops driving them—what could be more Spanish, incongruent and macho than that? Both were cooler than the Ducati's from the 80s which were flat out race bikes, screaming red, raked forward and looked really uncomfortable to ride. The Moto Guzzi 1000 Le Mans was definitely the most exotic of them all. The Laverda was a bit more elegant. Popeye is driving a Laverda in these paintings. 

Motto Guzzi 1000 Le Mans, 1980s
This is the Laverda model that Popeye is riding. What a beauty. Orange was Laverda's distinctive color. Not the obvious Ducati or Ferrari red. 
Laverda Mirage 1000 without the faring. It looked a bit like the Honda 750 Super Sport, but way tougher. 

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