DAVID MANN | MOTORCYCLE ARTIST
David "Dave" Mann (September 10, 1940 – September 11, 2004) was a California graphic artist whose paintings celebrated biker culture, and choppers. Called "the biker world's artist-in-residence," his images are ubiquitous in biker clubhouses and garages, on motorcycle gas tanks, tattoos, and on T-shirts and other memorabilia associated with biker culture. Choppers have been built based on the bikes first imagined in a David Mann painting and easy rider magazine.
In the words of an anthropologist studying biker culture in New Zealand, "Mann’s paintings set ‘outlaw’ Harley chopper motorcycles against surreal backgrounds, and distorted skylines, colourful images that celebrated the chopper motorcycle and the freedom of the open road ... Many of his images captured the ‘Easyrider’ ethos – speed, the open road, long flowing hair – freedom." Most of his works were for the motorcycle industry, especially for motorcycle magazines, some that included motorcycle audio reviews.
A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Mann began drawing and painting at an early age. His first passion was custom cars and his first job was as an automobile painter. After High School, he left Kansas City and settled in California where he became interested in motorcycles. He became immersed in biker culture and motorcycles supplanted cars and pin-up girls in his artwork.
In 1963, Mann brought some of his artwork to the Kansas City Custom Car Show. There biker/artist Tom Fugle took an interest in his artwork, and with Mann's permission, showed a photo of the painting "Hollywood Run" to Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, a pop artist who was then the publisher of one of the first custom motorcycle magazines, Choppers. Roth loved the painting and commissioned 10 (or as many as 14 or 20, according to different sources) original posters, which were made available in the back pages of Easyriders for many years. In 1965, Mann joined Fugle's El Forastero Motorcycle Club, becoming one of the founding members of the Kansas City Charter. In 1971 he answered an advertisement for a "motorcycle artist" in the back of a new motorcycle magazine called Easyriders.
After 1972 his artwork began appearing regularly in the magazine, and Mann's relationship with Easyriders would continue for the rest of his life. His art was reproduced as the magazine’s center spread beginning in 1973 and continued to be the publication's centerpiece until he was forced to retire in 2003 due to his failing health. A collection of Mann's work was published in 1993 and updated in 2004.
In 2004 Mann was inducted into the motorcycle Hall of Fame by artist Billy Lane.
Mann died a day after his 64th birthday. Just before his death a custom motorcycle was commissioned in his honor from Orange County Choppers, to be featured in an episode of the reality television series American Chopper. The "David Mann Bike" featured custom artwork in Mann's style, but Mann died before it was completed. The vehicle served as a posthumous tribute to the artist, and his work was featured on the show. The episode was dedicated to Mann as well as Indian Larry, who had died a month earlier.
His ashes were to be interred in the gas tank of a Harley Sportster XLCH painted in his trademark "David Mann Red." Mann is survived by his wife Jacquie and three children Jamie Mann, Tracy Scott & Tim Scott.
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