Channeling a faultless blend of art-deco geometrics and the bright splashiness of pop art, Guy Allen’s portfolio of automotive artwork is the kind that can impress your friends who don’t know a carburetor from a carbohydrate. Armed with good taste and more than just a knack for a compelling scene, Allen has crafted a series of prints that can speak to ivory tower critics and car enthusiasts with the same persuasive force. And while all of our featured artists in the Shop are worthy of our walls, it’s not so common that their entire oeuvre makes my wallet unfold. That’s not a poorly-veiled solicitation to purchase, it’s just the truth.
Whether he turns his eye to Italian polygons like the Countach LP400 (of course he’s chosen the earlier, purer narrow-body), creates a meta piece of art with the wild paintwork of Alexander Calder’s CSL, or captures the essence of a procession of Group C cars charging down a rain-slicked Mulsanne, everything is seemingly his forte. Let’s run through the selection of his work.
The works resist any sort of ranking order, but we’ll start with the Lamborghini. Perceptive eyes will immediately pick up on the interplay between the car’s form and the way Allen’s evoked 3D speed on a piece of paper; the shapes surrounding the Countach are jagged and lack any semblance of curve, which works to enhance the presence of Gandini’s beautiful wedge. To further highlight this thoughtful interplay between background and subject, notice the color choice: the green car blends its hue with the abstracted tree line it’s hurtling along underneath.
Next we have the Ferrari 512 S. Though victory at Le Mans eluded the real car with the help of Porsche’s various 917s, there is no denying this car its due praise as one of the most shapely racing machines of its era—any era in fact. In rendering the 512, Allen’s chosen the more rounded “S” variant rather than the slightly more brutish “M” update that followed. Maintaining the knack for appropriate setting without any clunky overtness, we can easily tell this is a scene snatched out from the dead of night on the Circuit de la Sarthe; with a smattering of bokeh’d lights behind, and the good-old milky yellow halogens blazing through the blackness ahead, this is a perfect minimalist depiction of early late-’60s-early-’70s endurance racing. And as much as we love the 917, it’s refreshing to see its Ferrari competitor getting the attention this time.
Jumping ahead just a few years, we come to the pair of Coupé Sport Leichtbaus. Few race cars wore as many iconic liveries as the BMW E9 CSL, and Allen’s chosen two of the best. First, the bold coloring and interplay of simplistic but intriguing shapes of BMW’s first Art Car; Calder’s CSL. The full story of Hervé Poulain and Alexander Calder and insured artwork gone racing is one that deserves more space, so instead let’s look at Allen’s use of space in his interpretation of the car. He keeps the actual object in a state of motion near the top of the frame and uses a stationary groovy swirl of the livery’s colorway to, in my opinion at least, confer the fleeting racing history of the car while also commenting on the enduring quality of the car as a piece of art. The black lines cutting through the color also signify the grittiness of motorsport marking up the paintwork.
To complement the Art Car, Allen has taken a very similar approach in his version of the E9 in its official works regalia. The trio of blue, indigo (violet if you know what’s up), and red is synonymous with formidable speed thanks to this car. The Motorsport livery on an E9 is one of those rare pairings where the design of the graphics both feeds off of and enhances the design of the car. I like how he’s chosen a darker overall tone than in the Calder version, as it creates an extra pop of contrast for the white form of the BMW.
If you know 400-euro-job at all, you know we maintain a certain affinity for Alfa Romeo, and so Guy Allen’s dynamic portrait of the iconic Giulia Sprint GT was a ringer for our selection. Donned in radiant Rosso Corsa, the hard-cornering Alfa has the perfect amount of lean to confer the car’s nimble handling capabilities. Proving his mastery of color once again, Allen’s opted not for contrast like in the CSLs, but instead allows the racetrack backdrop its own set of vibrant colors, which works well in harnessing the sprightly aura of the Alfa. Another aspect of note is the inclusion of the bridge. Nothing in any of these frames is redundant or unnecessary, and this is not about to break that. Here, the bridge serves to heighten the bubbly and effervescent little GT; it’s also no mistake that “Alfa Romeo” is scrawled across the circular structure; note the many curves in the marque’s lettering and you’ll see what I mean.
Last but far from least, we are also proud to offer Guy Allen’s depiction of the street-sticking machines of Group C. This was an era of prototype endurance racing that saw perhaps the deepest field of talent on track at the same time. Think about it: the Sauber Mercedes C9, the Mazda 7×7 variants, the Porsche 956/962, the Lancia LC2, the Jaguar XJRs, and the Peugeot 905 are just some of the cars from the ultra-competitive generation of motorsport that was taking place in the mid-to-late-1980s. The all-star team is all here in this depiction, and the famous liveries are present as well. The scene reminds me of the first at-speed lap of Le Mans, when everything is bunched and the glorious sounds mingle in complex ways as the horde makes its way down a track shined by rain. I particularly like the move toward impressionism that he’s taken with the track surface—the distinct line work takes a turn into a less defined interplay between the sharp cars and the wet course, which if you think about, is very much the way it feels to drive in the rain: things blur, bleed, and get a little harder to separate from one another.
We are happy to offer these thoughtful works from Guy Allen, and we should note that the prints are limited-run, so visit the Shop and before they’re gone!