Kat Murrell
Visual Art

Easy Rider

Photographer and motorcyclist Josh Kurpius combines his two passions in images of cross-country cyclists.

By - May 9th, 2014 01:57 pm
Josh Kurpius, The Harvest Sun. Cherry Valley, Illinois. October 2010.

Josh Kurpius, The Harvest Sun. Cherry Valley, Illinois. October 2010.

“Dude, remember that time you…”

A lot of stories begin this way, and the 32 photographs on view in Living Lost at the Harley-Davidson Museum by biker Josh Kurpius are all about memory. Each is a image from trips with his friends, traveling the country on motorcycles and seeing what is often unseen along the way.

The Harvest Suntaken in October 2010, opens the show. Luminous autumn bathes two riders whose eyes are fixed on the road, trancelike and drawn toward an unseen sun. The background distance blurs out, but the rider in the foreground is in sharp focus. His waves of hair, combed by the wind, tell us all we need to know about speed.

Kurpius takes these road shots while on his bike, bringing the viewer along for a vicarious adventure. He started doing photography in his early 20s, about the same time as beginning to ride, and the two practices developed side-by-side. Shooting from the seat yields striking angles in a number of images. The gleaming fork of his Harley chopper stretches out as the pavement dissolves underneath its moving wheels, or he places us within a pack of riders tearing up country roads in afternoon and twilight.

Photographs by Josh Kurpius taken in ZZYZX, California, June 2012.

Photographs by Josh Kurpius taken in ZZYZX, California, June 2012.

Not all of the images come from the motion of the motorcycle. Traveling means there are a lot of physical details to contend with, between keeping the bikes running and saving one’s skin from the elements. Rain and heat are obstacles, as measured in the reaction of a rider in Nauseous Skies, with its gloomy feel of rainy dampness. No Charge Recharge and This Isnt ZZYZX reveal a clever refuge in the desert sun as Kurpius and friends take a momentary break in a huge drain pipe. There is a thrill of ingenuity in the middle of nowhere. The logistics of travel are underscored in120 Mile Stretch where expanses of Nevada  are crossed. Kurpius photographs two bikers riding parallel, heading off on an endless straight road with bright red gas cans strapped into the back of their rucksacks.

More than the physical demands of biking, the camaraderie of Kurpius and his fellow riders is the underlying theme of the exhibition. There is an easy fellowship that develops in being on the road. Hotels and campgrounds are not their home. Instead, abandoned farms make a place to stay for a night, or a picturesque lake becomes a point for momentary rest.

Kurpius’ photographs have been featured in Harley-Davidson’s HOG magazine, and his work is a momentary trip into the experience and mystique of the biking life. The exhibition closes its run soon but is something of a precursor to the upcoming show at the museum, The American Road. The images that Kurpius brings together are more of a personal view. His stories of friends and places are of the moment, yet capture the alluring draw of open spaces and places seen from the saddle of a bike.

Living Lost: Photographs by Josh Kurpius continues through May 18 at the Harley-Davidson Museum

Josh Kurpius, Pause. Mackinaw City, Michigan, September 2009.

Josh Kurpius, Pause. Mackinaw City, Michigan, September 2009.

(400 W Canal Street).





Mama Said, Mama Said 

Cocoon Room

820 E. Locust Street


Cocoon Room opens a new exhibition featuring photography, art, and crafts in honor of mothers. In addition to the visuals, other activities including chair massages and tarot readings will be part of the opening reception, bringing together aesthetic, physical, and spiritual relaxation.




Riverwest Random Recyclable Art & Gift Show: Mother’s Day Edition 

Falcon Bowl

801 E. Clarke Street


$1 admission, includes raffle ticket

This show brings together displays of handmade art and functional items crafted locally by artists using recycled materials. It’s a great place to find something to honor your mother, and event proceeds will go to help support the Milwaukee Public Theater’s summer artist workshops.



0 thoughts on “Visual Art: Easy Rider”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a great exhibit! did Josh Kurpius have Harley-rider photos in the Milwaukee Art Museum exhibit a few years ago?

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