West Coast Report — Kustom Kulture II by John Gilbert

    Kustom Kulture II gurgles up at the Huntington Beach Art Center — Stick Your Face In It!

    Hey, I have to tell you all time is hauling ass. Please translate that into time really flies. It seems like only yesterday I was at my Westminster, California custom paint shop laying flames on a set of fat bobs when a guy named Greg Escalante walked up, and told me about an art show he was putting together for the Laguna Beach Art Museum. That was in early 1993, and the exhibit was to be called Kustom Kulture. It wasn’t like Greg was going door-to-door pitching the show, he spotted me while picking up his board from Surfix my buddy Steve’s surfboard repair shop across the alley. Looking through my So Cal raised eyes Kustom Kulture is all about the really neat icons and idols that came along with hot-rods, chopped Harley-Davidsons, surfing, rock ‘n roll music, girl’s bicycle seats, drag racing, mini-bikes, go-karts, steel-wheeled Roller Derby skateboards, customized cars, guitars, and everything else us little dorks couldn’t keep stock if it was to save our souls. In ’93 when I talked with Greg, I told him about the late 60s and early 70s while I was in art school and the professors telling me custom painting wasn’t art. I’ve hated the square art world ever since. I was excited to hear about Kustom Kulture being set to appear at the Laguna Beach Art Museum. As it turned out Kustom Kulture was the museums most successful exhibit ever. Time warp to now, I don’t care if the square art world calls what gearheads do pulled pork with roasted maggots, its clear to see this stuff has carved out a niche in art history. Who knows maybe Janson will add a chapter. If there’s any chance you can make it to the Huntington Beach Art Center before Kustom Kulture II closes on August 24, 2013 you gotta do it. The admission is free, there is a donation box. I rolled in early Tuesday afternoon, and there was plenty of free parking inside the HBAC lot adjacent the building. This art has to be viewed live, these photographs just don’t do it justice.

    —   John Gilbert

    I guess it’s the bike painter in me. This surfboard by Damian Fulton was hands down my absolute favorite at KKII. In custom painter terms its got bitchin’ graphics under a heavy coat of slicked clear.

    I’m as unhip as the squares I often refer to, if not more. I wasn’t familiar with Damian’s work until I went to Kustom Kulture II. Google his name and you’ll find a ton of mouth watering subject matter he’s portrayed.

    As with custom paint, or maybe its all art, you really gotta shove your face into it and then move your head around to catch the light hitting the paint right.

    My guess is the board was based in silver as a lot of candies are, and then shot with a candy gold. I was digging the texture of the fiberglass mat under a perfectly smooth surface. Right from shaping the foam this thing is a work of art. FU square art instructor PhD types.

    I don’t know if you’d call it Wild Orchid, Lavender, or what, but that purplely color looked really good against the Ipana toothpaste green. For some reason it kinda reminds me of Craig Fraser’s bubbletop ’61 Buick. Google, Kal Koncepts.

    Years after Kustom Kulture I, and much in advance of Kustom Kulture III to be held in 2033, Damian painted this board in 2005. It’s a good thing I don’t have to review art for a living, I’d be toast. “Uh, its really neat to look at, and uh, I like it, its real shiny.”

    Richard Chang of the Orange County Register said, “The group show glorifies cars, surfing, motorcycles and skateboarding. And it occasionally objectifies women.” Carlos Danger wonders what’s happening to the naked dude seen here?

    From the pages of Surfer Murphy by Rick Griffin was a god-like pagan deity to all us Roller Derby, riding junior high-school kids. Not that it means anything except to add a little obscure history. I remember thinking Rick Griffin used to date Bob Ramirez’ sister back in 1968. I can’t even come close to covering how amazing Rick Griffin’s body of work is. I promise in a future West Coast Report, I’ll dig a lot deeper. Meanwhile Google Rick Griffin, it will blow your mind!

    The neat part about creating art versus custom painting some big greasy biker’s motorcycle is you can get runs and not get killed. Here on a 48x48-inch canvas Coop used acrylic enamel in spray cans to create this thing. Stuff your face in it, and its just a bunch of random dots.

    Step back farther and there’s a creepy skull.

    Way back further, and you can’t tell it’s a bunch of dots.

    The first time I saw a photo of this painting by Anthony Ausgang, I hate to admit it, but I didn’t really care too much for it. Then seeing Salome  live at Kustom Kulture II completely changed my mind. Stuff your face in it and the effects Anthony uses to create asphalt are really neat. In fact judging by craftsmanship alone this guy is a pretty good painter. Go see it, I’m not kidding.

    The first time I saw a photo of this painting by Anthony Ausgang, I hate to admit it, but I didn’t really care too much for it. Then seeing Salome  live at Kustom Kulture II completely changed my mind. Stuff your face in it and the effects Anthony uses to create asphalt are really neat. In fact judging by craftsmanship alone this guy is a pretty good painter. Go see it, I’m not kidding.

    In particular I liked how Todd outlined the guys (if indeed they’re men) with red to look just like fire light hitting from in front. How’s that for a lame description… Eh, I’ve read worse.

    In particular I liked how Todd outlined the guys (if indeed they’re men) with red to look just like fire light hitting from in front. How’s that for a lame description… Eh, I’ve read worse.

    Rick Rietveld, Road Queen done in mixed media 2005. I’m burning out on writing captions. Please do a search on Rick’s work and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Better yet, buy something Rick’s work is for sale.

    I guess this is as good a point as any to mention the influence of Robert Williams work on (insert scholarly observations here).

    Stan Betz used to have an automotive paint supply store on Katella, in Anaheim. I’ve still got paint Stan mixed for me. Anyways, Stan had Von Dutch paint the signage and graphics on his delivery trucks. We used to see them all the time in town. Way smarter than the average bear, as the trucks sustained damage Stan would mount the hoods, fenders, or tailgates Von Dutch had painted up on the walls.

    Stunning detail from the pinstripping scene in Japan. Magic of Pinstripping & Kustom Kulture, 2013. This thing had so much intricate work it hurt my eyes trying to take it all in. The artist is Makoto Kobayashi.

    Pipa Garner, should have been in charge at GM when the company was trying downsize stuff. Here a Nissan truck could have been used to economize leftover inventory of mid-50s Cadillac Fleetwood sedans with a nose clip.

    Extreme Retro Steam powered 1769 French Cugnot: Here’s proof Pipa Garner was way ahead of the curve with the Resto-Mod movement, not to mention alternative propulsion.

    A diptych, two panels: Stick your face as tight as you can into Mr G’s (Minoru Goto) work. Incredible mind blowing precision like some kind of out of control robot commissioned by wealthy patrons to...

    Sorry, I’m really trying to write like the other reviews I read about Kustom Kulture II. Have you ever written captions, it’s a time consuming deal that will make your eyes bleed.

    Look at this thing, its hard to believe a human could paint something so perfect. Now go pay two mil for painting of a dot by a square artist with a famous brand name. Have I ever mentioned the square art world sucks?

    There’s a glass case full of knives Von Dutch made, plus these keen-o decals a kid could have stuck on his bike back in the day of Driftwood cow decals. Doll-up Stripes were for decals older guys with cars.

    I forgot to shoot the descriptive tag, so I’ll have to wing it. Dodo bird, a compilation of Robert Williams art transformed into the 3rd dimension by bronze sculptor Jeff Decker.

    One look at this pre-WWII illustration by Basil Wolverton, and I’d have to say Basil was responsible for inspiring all the creepy monster shirts that “Big” Daddy Roth used to crank out at the car shows… its just a guess.

    Walt Disney’s Donald Duck in Der Fuehrer’s Face from Jeff Decker’s collection.

    Humor in a Jugular Vein: Beautiful Girl of the Month Reads Mad. From the 11th cover of Mad magazine.

    I’ve still got the Kustom Kulture poster (flyer) Greg gave me in ’93. Alright at this point I guess I better give credit to the folks that did a really great of job of mounting Kustom Kulture II ( I don’t mean they screwed it, that’s art show jargon).

    Curated by C.R. Stecyk, Greg Escalante and Paul Frank. For more information www.huntingtonbeachartcenter.org

    El Forastero New Years Party in the Kansas City caves by David Mann for Roth Studios courtesy of Jeff Decker: I remember talking with David Mann about this painting while I was in KCMO writing the Juxtapoz cover story on David’s surreal art. In fact we drove Dave’s El Camino over to caves while we talking about the early days at Roth. David was an El Forastero  and it was fellow member Tiny that set it up with Roth to buy Hollywood Run for $85.00, and consequently Roth hired David to crank out ten more paintings as I remember it. Notice the names scribed on the wall, all these were Dave’s friends names. David had a habit of incorporating his friends names written on the wall in several of his paintings.

    3 thoughts on “West Coast Report — Kustom Kulture II by John Gilbert”

    • John Gilbert

      Sorry, some of the captions got messed up. We'll get 'em sorted out here pretty quick. In the meantime please enjoy the sounds of my neighbor's lawnmower.

      Thank you,

      John

      Reply
    • Kit Maira

      Thanks for showing us this. I wish I had seen it sooner, I'd like to haul down there to check it out in person. Still have two more days I guess.

      Reply
    • John Gilbert

      Kit,

      Kustom Kulture II just got extended until Sept 1, 2013.

      I'm going Aug 24 for the panel discussion.

      John

      Reply

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