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Folks Of Interest Robert Williams ~ artist/hot rodder

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by HOTRODPRIMER, Feb 19, 2017.

  1. A friend sent me this article via e-mail,I am unsure who wrote it and I don't buy into the writers opinion but I'm just passing the information along.

    I have seen the car in the past and really like the me the car looks as traditional as many post here on the hamb.HRP

    The First True Rat

    In the early 1990s an artist by the name of Robert Williams was known for his major contributions to Pop art and Low Brow art which included paintings such as the famous Hot Rod Race and Appetite for Destruction, the cover art for the Guns ‘N Roses album. Robert Williams had already made a name for himself on Juxtapoz magazine and also worked for many years as the art director for Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and has continued to do pieces of famous art featuring hot rods and the kustom culture.


    Williams’ who owned several hot rods in the past, decided that he wanted to build a Ford hot rod similar to the hot rods that he remembered seeing around his neighborhood when he was young. He remembered that most of the cars had a simple color primer, proper stance (not lowered or channeled too much), clean body lines, and a motor that had minor modifications that was loud and would make enough noise to terrorize all of the houses on the block. Usually the hot rods were never finished but that was alright with their owners since they were built by teens on a budget.
  2. clunker
    Joined: Feb 23, 2011
    Posts: 1,613

    from Boston MA

    If you watch this great documentary "Mr Bitchin' ", about Williams, he takes us in it for a ride and talks about it.

    Here he is with the director (?)


    One of the most inspiring films I've ever seen


    Kind of a stretch to call it the first rat rod tho. I think a lot of hot rods have been fitting that bill since it all started, no?
  3. bowie
    Joined: Jul 27, 2011
    Posts: 2,450


    Ol' bondo Bob has always been one of my hot rod heros. I get it but, can't say his current paint job on that car does it justice. His wife Susanne's Tudor '34 is one nice ride as well.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
    HOTRODPRIMER, mad mikey and Murphy32 like this.
  4. Binger
    Joined: Apr 28, 2008
    Posts: 1,685

    from wyoming

    I have always been a fan of his art and car builds! I always was aware of his art back in the 80's and found out lots more about him from Juxtapose magazine. I will have to check out that film mentioned above.
    HOTRODPRIMER and Murphy32 like this.

  5. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 4,894


    Kustom Kulture: Von Dutch, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, Robert Williams and Others
    C.R. Stecyk, curator
    Published by Laguna Art Museum, 1993

    Hey HRP,
    Nice find about Robert Williams. We went to this show in Laguna Beach, CA at the Laguna Art Museum overlooking the ocean. (great restaurant and superb view just next door, a must do when visiting) This show was also a great display of his work as well as other famous artists involved in hot rods. Some of his art can take some time getting used to it, but it is pretty fabulous.
    The Laguna Art Museum is right on PCH Highway 1 and is on a busy corner. Weekends and summers are out of the question for traffic and people. Check out their website before going...that is for sure. Laguna Beach in the summer...that is a no-no...
    HOTRODPRIMER and Murphy32 like this.
  6. jazz1
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 1,482


    I have seen the film,,its available on youtube 1:30 minutes
    HOTRODPRIMER and Binger like this.
  7. That car ain't no rodent rod in my book. HRP
    mad mikey likes this.
  8. 'Always been a big Robt. Williams fan. His latest iteration of the Deuce Roadster is, ahem, "interesting" to say the least.
    Robert Williams.jpg
    Robert Williams.jpg
    verde742, LOU WELLS and mad mikey like this.
  9. Murphy32
    Joined: Oct 17, 2007
    Posts: 726

    from Minnesota

  10. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 4,894


    Here is the complete article on that great Kustom Kulture show:
    Something to save for your files...

    HOT, HOT HOT-RODS : Laguna Art Museum Scores a Coupe, You Might Say, With Kustom Kulture

    July 15, 1993|ZAN DUBIN | Zan Dubin covers the arts for The Times Orange County Edition.

    Artist Robert Williams is in heaven, a heaven where blinker lights serve as twinkling stars and oil filters come with afterlife-time guarantees.

    Traipsing through a musty warehouse, he gazes excitedly at the rusted remains of old cars, expertly pinpointing the make, model and date of the automobiles that once bore the mangled parts.

    "That's a 1930 Model A Ford," he says, "that's a '28, that's a '29, that's a 1935 Ford, that's a Cadillac, that's a Chevy.

    "I'm pretty good, huh?" he asks a reporter, grinning like a kid who's aced his first driving test.

    Williams was reared around motorcycles and cars--his dad owned stock cars--and he can tell you the year (1939) the term hot-rod entered the lexicon and describe the evolution of hot-rodding as deftly as he identifies just about anything with a gas tank.

    At age 11 he was driving a 1934 Ford coupe on back roads in Alabama, and he now owns a 1932 Ford roadster and a '34 Ford two-door sedan with a chop top. His wife, artist Suzanne Williams, drives a '57 T-bird.

    What's all that got to do with the price of picture frames? Williams, after all, is known from coast to coast for his paintings, not his car knowledge.

    "Kustom Kulture: Von Dutch, Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth, Robert Williams and Others," opening Saturday at the Laguna Art Museum, attempts to show the influence of the Southern California custom car culture of the 1940s, '50s and '60s on the art scene of the area and beyond.

    "A lot of people tend to view (custom car culture) as being extraneous to what was going on in the fine art world," guest co-curator and artist Craig Stecyk said recently. Critics see it as "a bunch of greaseballs doing this horrid, tacky stuff in the '50s. But I think it has had an incredible influence on contemporary art" in terms of materials, techniques and attitudes.

    Co-curator Bolton Colburn, the museum's curator of collections, asserts in the exhibit's catalogue that "the main influence on the art of Los Angeles in the past four decades has come from car culture."

    What is custom car culture, known as kustom kulture in the lingo of the day, and how will its influence be illustrated through roughly 200 artworks and objects by 43 artists and car fanatics?

    If you're at least thirtysomething, you may not need much explanation. You probably know that kustom kulture represents a nationwide renegade phenomenon with roots in 1920s Southern California, and that it's synonymous with super-speedy or pin-striped driving machines agleam with multiple coats of bright paint and high-gloss wax .

    You may even have customized--chopped, channeled, frenched, decked--your own car to make it flashier, or souped up its engine to make it faster. The goal was to make it look and drive like yours and yours alone, not some clone from an assembly line.

    You probably also remember that weird, anthropomorphic cartoon monsters enter into this mix, with Rat Fink--that pot-bellied, fly-infested rodent--serving as the ultimate nonconformist. And T-shirt graphics and bad-taste underground comics such as Zap and Mad also play a role.

    Now, if you know your contemporary art, you may know that all of this influenced "finish fetish" artists as well as later "low art" practitioners such as Williams, whose work was recently seen in the major "Helter Skelter" show at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art.

    In "Kustom Kulture," you'll see classic customized cars; sensuous lacquered sculptures by "finish fetish" artists fascinated with a work's flashy shell, or finish; Williams' nightmarish paintings rife with roadsters and slobbering shark-toothed monsters; plus various Rat Fink incarnations, other cartoon and comic images, and, curators hope, the way it all links together.

    You'll also learn the story behind kustom kulture, which begins with an eccentric recluse named Von Dutch, whom Williams and others refer to as "god."

    Von Dutch, who died of liver disease last September at age 63, was born Kenneth Robert Howard in Los Angeles.

    The son of a sign painter, he had a knack for painting too, and is credited with introducing pin-striping--which had been used for centuries on everything from Roman chariots to sewing machines--to the world of hot-rods. He turned a rather ordinary technique into a free-form aesthetic that boasted of his Baroque designs, his signature flying eyeball (winged and bloodshot), fiery flames and grotesque, Dali-esque monsters.

    "Today, we have 40 or 50 years of this stuff, and people just accept it as 'oh it's just your basic hot-rod flame job' or 'this is the way custom cars look,' " said Stecyk, who knew Von Dutch and was also reared around fast and fancy cars. "But cars didn't always look like that. Von Dutch came along and did something that's never been done before.' "

    Von Dutch also produced surrealistic oil paintings and was a virtuosic craftsman and machinist who restored motorcycles and built from scratch idiosyncratic vehicles and ornate guns and knives, some of which, along with a pin-striped dashboard from one of his creations, are in the "Kustom Kulture" exhibit.

    Von Dutch, a vagabond who lived in a trailer equipped with a machine shop, one day pulled the trailer into the parking lot of Movie World, Cars of the Stars and Planes of Fame, a Buena Park museum that operated from 1970 to '79.

    The museum specialized in customized cars and hot-rods, many of them used in movies or TV, embellished by such leading car customizers as George Barris, with whom Stecyk's father worked. All this evidently attracted Von Dutch, and museum owner James F. Brucker, who idolized him, allowed Von Dutch to park his bus behind the museum and live there, according to Stecyk.

    (Later, Von Dutch moved the bus to Brucker's Santa Paula warehouse, where he stayed until his death. The vast former citrus packing plant housed myriad items amassed by Brucker--who recently sold its contents--and his family, much of the defunct museum's holdings and the old car parts that Williams recently surveyed.)

    At the museum, Von Dutch became reacquainted with Ed (Big Daddy) Roth, who revolutionized the hot-rod world in the '60s by building wild cars from scratch, rather than by altering existing vehicles. His most infamous, the Beatnik Bandit, a futuristic bubble-topped Fiberglas vision, will be included in the Laguna exhibit and is likely to lure car fanatics from near and far.

    Roth, who was designing displays and signage at Movie World, had met Von Dutch years before, just after Von Dutch began pin-striping, something that Roth subsequently took up professionally. Roth is also known for creating Rat Fink and other raunchy creatures that he airbrushed onto T-shirts and sold at car shows around the country where his cars were on display.

    Roth, who became a counterculture idol, would "dash off exaggerated cartoon-style monsters with giant heads popping out of zany coupes or roadsters with big supercharged engines and smoking rear tires," writes Pat Ganahl, senior editor of Rod & Custom magazine, in the "Kustom Kulture" catalogue. " . . . The young roadsters (who bought the shirts) would wear them as further proof of their rebellious yet fun attitude."

    Roth, whose cars and Rat Finks were marketed nationwide and beyond as toys and trinkets, went on to work as a sign painter at Knott's Berry Farm from 1974 to '84. During that time he became a Mormon, and in 1989 he moved to Manti, Utah, where he continues to design unusual vehicles and sell Rat Fink comic books, T-shirts and other paraphernalia.

    He says Von Dutch's influence on him and on others was profound, and he, like others, credits Von Dutch with innovating the monster imagery as well as with broadening his creative vision.

    "Possibility thinking is what he taught me," Roth said during a recent Orange County visit, "so that everything that I do, I say, 'Well, why can't it be this way?' Well, it can, if you want it to."

    In addition, Von Dutch "never did the same thing twice, and every artist would like to change styles. They don't like to be (typecast for a single style). And that's what Dutch was successful at doing."

    The legacy of Von Dutch and of Roth filters into the fine art world through artist and hot-rod fiend Williams. He worked for Roth and was awed by Von Dutch's talent from the moment he first saw a Von Dutch customized car on the cover of an early 1950s Hot Rod magazine. Williams was about 10 at the time.

    "There was this race car," he said in a recent interview, "looking right at you, dead center, and right on the front of the race car was painted a flying eyeball and it was flamed and there was pin-striping on top of that. For 1953 it was so unbelievably wild. So I was immediately infatuated with Von Dutch. Not only did I like hot-rods, but here was somebody that had this real abstract form of self-expression, and I immediately had a role model."

    Between '65 and '70, Williams worked as art director for Roth, who had set up a studio in Southeast L.A., out of which he marketed his T-shirts, largely through magazine ads, and created his remarkable cars.

    There, Williams did everything from designing T-shirts to working on the cars to illustrating the ads for Roth. He calls Roth "one of the very first underground artists," one with a graphic repertory of "lowbrow stuff that makes mom go 'eeeuuuuu,' " such as hairy moles and cavities and "bugged-out eyes."

    This influence, as well as that of Von Dutch, would show up in Williams' scabrous underground comic work (he later co-founded Zap Comix) and his paintings, odes to gratuitous sex and bloody violence.

    If nowhere else, the shared sensibility of all three men is easily seen in the bloodshot eyeballs common to their work: There's Von Dutch's flying eyeball; the bloated, distended eyeballs of Roth's Rat Fink, and Williams' multi-eyed monsters.

    Conceptually, their work shares the counterculture stance--personified by the monster image--that undergirded the outlaw hot-rod mystique. Those who "didn't like what they were given," that is, assembly-line cars, "made something else out of them," cars that went faster and looked unique, co-curator Stecyk said.

    "It's a kind of delight in taking a contrary position; a certain non-mainstream orientation," he said.

    Williams describes the uniting force in his "Rubberneck Manifesto," included in the exhibit catalogue.

    The only worthy art, he writes, is that which "you find yourself driven to see. Higher notions of art tend to confine art with lofty moral restrictions. . . . Something dead in the street commands more measured units of visual investigation than 100 Mona Lisas. . . . Hail the voyeur, the only honest connoisseur!!!"

    Other "Kustom Kulture" fine artists didn't have the same exposure to Von Dutch and Roth that Williams enjoyed, nor are kustom kulture influences as obvious in their paintings or sculpture.

    But, assert Stecyk and Colburn, works in the show by roughly 40 others (most of them Southern Californians) nonetheless clearly reflect the impact, and some of these artists in fact had their cars pin-striped by Von Dutch.

    "One of the best illustrations of the influence is in work done in 1960s by finish fetish artists" such as Billy Al Bengston, Kenneth Price or DeWain Valentine, Colburn said.

    These artists emphasized surface and reflection and used high-gloss lacquers, pearlescent paints and other materials and techniques borrowed from the car customizing arena, which borrowed them from the burgeoning aerospace industry, he said.

    Bengston, a nationally known leading contemporary artist, repaired, raced and painted motorcycles, and he influenced his colleagues by transferring his metal lacquering and painting skills "right over into his artwork," Colburn said.

    One work from his well-known "Dentos" series--dented squares of metal spray painted with rich colors--is included in the exhibit. "Lady of the Night" (1970) was actually given a clear overcoat by a professional car customizer Bengston had hired for the job, Colburn said.

    Robert Irwin, another renowned contemporary artist, modified cars as a youth and readily credits hot-rod influences. Irwin biographer Lawrence Weschler writes that Irwin's art is imbued with "a hot-rod aesthetic: precision, attention to minute detail and passionate concern for the consistency of the whole."

    Works by a group of younger artists in the exhibit--such as Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Georganne Dean and Anthony Ausgang--particularly express Roth and Williams' influence, according to Colburn.

    "These artists," he writes in the catalogue, "have not only adopted the punk cartoon styles of Roth and Williams, but claim as their subject matter our society's stew of materialism, sex and violence."

    Taken as a whole, the exhibit underscores the idea that the West Coast art scene, often viewed as a mere outpost of New York trends, was developing an aesthetic of its own, Colburn said.

    Local artists were "influenced by what was actually happening in Los Angeles, in the culture at large, rather than in the art culture specifically," then dominated by Abstract Expressionism, he said.

    While few may argue with that point, Colburn's claim that the "main influence" on L.A. art in the past 40 years came from car culture triggers debate.

    Walter Hopps, founding director of the Menil Collection in Houston and a key figure in the early development of the L.A. art scene, calls Von Dutch "a legendary figure" and an "absolute master of painting and metal work and engraving." He said recently that kustom kulture, as pioneered by Von Dutch, had "a powerful influence" on the local art scene.

    (Hopps tried to exhibit Von Dutch's work at his seminal Ferus Gallery in the late '50s. But, he said, he lacked the money to commission a car by Von Dutch, who didn't want to exhibit only parts of autos and who also resisted involvement with the fine art world.)

    Still, "I'm not about to say it's the biggest influence," said Hopps, former director of the Pasadena Art Museum, now called the Norton Simon Museum. "Bigger than Matisse? I hardly think so."

    In 1985, Zero One, an offbeat Los Angeles gallery, staged a show akin to the Laguna museum's. "Western Exterminators" took its title from the bug-obliterator company logo created by Von Dutch's father.

    But "Kustom Kulture" is the first of its kind in a museum, said curators, who are confident the show will appeal to car-lovers. They point out that the cover story of this month's Smithsonian magazine asserts that hot-rodding is undergoing an "international, All-American" revival. The story focuses on Boyd Coddington of Stanton--some of whose cars will be in the exhibit--who is arguably the country's top hot-rod builder.

    Although the exhibit includes leading mainstream artists, it may alienate those who don't believe that cars, car customizers or Rat Finks belong in a museum, Colburn said. "Shows like this run the risk of being criticized for not being art."

    But, he countered, "the important thing is to get people to think about what they think is art and what they don't think is art."

    Furthermore, said Stecyk, who has been trying to organize such an exhibit for the past 25 years, recognition of the impact Southern California's kustom kulture has had on the art world has increased over the past five years.

    "People are waiting to see this," he said, predicting "it's just the first of a number of (major) shows that will deal with this phenomenon."
    HOTRODPRIMER likes this.
  11. Now I'm not too crazy about thiss paint scheme. HRP


    But I love the previous look. HRP

  12. Murphy32
    Joined: Oct 17, 2007
    Posts: 726

    from Minnesota

    In one of his books, he explains what he was trying to accomplish with the paint was supposed to be inspired by the paint jobs on dirt track racers, garish colors, straight lines fighting the curved ones, etc. in order to "make the car stand out"...I think he accomplished what he was trying to do- o_O
    grumpy32, HOTRODPRIMER and bowie like this.
  13. stanlow69
    Joined: Feb 21, 2010
    Posts: 4,654

    from red oak

    jnaki and HOTRODPRIMER like this.
  14. Jon SSS
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 420

    Jon SSS

    I got to hang with him one day here in Seattle when he was promoting Mr. Bitchin'

    Attached Files:

  15. This was posted on the H.A.M.B. a few months ago. I can't remember who posted it.

  16. Great video,thanks for posting. HRP
    fauj likes this.
  17. Ken Carvalho
    Joined: Dec 22, 2004
    Posts: 1,561

    Ken Carvalho

    image.png image.png image.png Rob, as well as his wife Susan are GREAT people! They have stories to tell, I have spent literally hours with them on several occasions after GNRS in the hotel lobby (with others gathered around Robert as well) just listening to his stories like cub scouts gathered around a campfire. While his cars paint scheme may not be what most on here may appreciate, he likes it, and did it for a specific reason, so I guess that's all that really matters, but I have been on a couple of runs when I lived in Irwindale, where Suzanne drove her sedan, with Robert as the passenger and it is every bit the HotRod that everyone here likes. Heavily chopped and lowered '34 sedan. He doesn't really do any "doodling" per se' because people would sell the doodles, and his drawings are what he does for a living, but a few years ago, when we first met him, the Hollenbeck's, who we are friends with introduced my little girl (who was fighting cancer at the time and she really loves to draw) to him, and Terri, asked if he would autograph Bella's autograph book, and that we understood that he didn't do "doodles", well after a 20 minute conversation between Robert and Bella by themselves, Robert drew her a picture. Suzanne, Terri, and my wife were in tears, and a new friendship was formed. Nothing but respect for them. The photos are between 2-3 years apart.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017
  18. Looks like I am not the only one that doesn't care for Gun's & Roses. HRP
    LOU WELLS and philly the greek like this.
  19. jvpolvere1
    Joined: Aug 19, 2016
    Posts: 176


    Great video, Robert. Thanks for posting.

    Sent from my SM-T377V using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    HOTRODPRIMER likes this.
  20. Artist Ger Peters, aka "Dutch Courage" posted it. Thank you Ger.
    HOTRODPRIMER likes this.
  21. I could kick myself.

    Probably 25 or 30 years ago I spent a day at the Antique Advertising Show in Indianapolis. Usually I just went as a spectator as most of the items, while beautiful, were priced out of my budget.

    In one stall I spotted what appeared to be a small original bit of artwork. It was a drawing of Coochie Cootie, maybe postcard size or so, done in black ink on a white background. It was inscribed to someone with a thank you or happy birthday message, or something similar, and signed by Mr. Williams.

    I recognized the name but only associated it at that time with the underground comics. And it wasn't terribly high priced but I'd already spent some money on a couple of smaller, lesser items, so I passed on it.

    I think I began regretting my decision that day on the drive home. And ever since then I've regularly asked myself, "What the hell was I thinking?"
    HOTRODPRIMER likes this.
  22. You are not the only one that questions your thinking,we are all guilty. HRP
  23. 302GMC
    Joined: Dec 15, 2005
    Posts: 6,267

    from Idaho

    '65-'67 in the USN ... 2 luxury cruises to the South China Sea, sometimes out on missions for over a month, but we got mail every couple days. Magazines with Roth ads arrived, crew digs the art. Nobody knew who did it or even what some of it meant, but you knew you were seeing something special.
    Stovebolt, LOU WELLS and HOTRODPRIMER like this.
  24. Thanks guys for all the additional information makes for a great read. HRP
  25. Thelost40
    Joined: Aug 27, 2010
    Posts: 94


    clunker and HOTRODPRIMER like this.
  26. Thelost40
    Joined: Aug 27, 2010
    Posts: 94


    One of my favorite pieces from Robert Williams!
    HOTRODPRIMER likes this.
  27. Rice n Beans Garage
    Joined: Dec 17, 2006
    Posts: 1,496

    Rice n Beans Garage

    Back in the late 80's there was a burger stand "Kevins" in Reseda, Friday night was the weekly cruise meet, Robert and Suzanne were regulars, great folks, his primered "California Suede" was way ahead of its time, the true Rodder got it !!

    Remember the Rat Rod craze was a decade down the road, Roberts was True Hot Rod..... not what is now known as a rat rod.
  28. verde742
    Joined: Aug 11, 2010
    Posts: 5,405



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