In 1993, a groundbreaking art show was organized and given the name "Kustom Kulture" to celebrate and legitimize the artwork of Von Dutch, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, and Robert Williams. This show pushed hot rod- and custom-influenced artwork into the public eye and proved that it was here for the long haul. Like it or not, this also led to "kustom kulture" becoming the permanent term to categorize all hot rod- and custom-inspired art and gave historical classification to what was started by the originators of the movement.
An artist named Alan Forbes was one of the many artists featured in that show, which was held at the Laguna Art Museum. Forbes was already established and known for his work customizing and wildly painting statues like his 1992 piece entitled "Western Exterminator." This piece had significant impact due to it being featured in the Kustom Kulture show catalog in vivid color.
Forbes took the well-known Southern California "Western Exterminator's Kernel Kleenup" statue and turned the iconic statue into a piece of art. One legend says Von Dutch's dad, Walker Howard, created the character/logo Kernel Kleenup back in the '30s for "Western Exterminator." There is now uncertainty whether Dutch's dad actually created that Southern California icon, but there's no doubt that Rat Fink, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's rebellious counterculture rodent, is the unofficial mascot of kustom kulture.
Some 12 years after the successful Kustom Kulture exhibits, many of the artists in that exhibit are thriving and Rat Fink is as alive as ever. Last year, David Chodosh had Oluf Hartvigson create a brand new RF sculpture using the computer program Freeform. The result is a beautifully detailed 12-inch-tall Polystone statue that is much bigger and way more detailed than the original Revell kit from the '60s.
A first batch of these critters was produced and sent off to about 100 of today's top kustom kulture artists. The vast majority of them came back either painted or completely revamped into a new custom creation. The first group of finished Finks appeared at Steve Wertheimer's Continental Club Gallery during the 2006 Lonestar Roundup in Austin, Texas. It was well received, and, as a result, this enabled Chodosh to get the complete set of (close to 90) statues into the current and long-awaited "Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth-The Original Rat Fink" show at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California, that will run through June 3, 2007.
Chodosh, Ken Morgan, and Michael Polis teamed up with Tornado Design to produce the new book, "Rat Fink's Revenge-The Custom Monster Collection," documenting all the Finks (a small sample shown here) before they are parted out and auctioned off separately. The book, designed and published by Tornado Design, is more than well worth the price of $24.95, with more than 125 pages including photography of all the Finks, cover overleaf art by Dave Burke, and a killer forward by none other than the amazing Ed "Newt" Newton, who is responsible for a vast majority of Roth's most famous art created back in the '60s.
If you want to paint your own RF statue, then the collector's edition of this book is a must for you. Limited to a numbered edition of 500, you'll get a 12-inch statue just like your favorite artists painted, a commemorative poster, the soft-cover book, certificate of authenticity, and a custom slipcase that serves as a display base.
There's no doubt that this book is a must for anyone who has the slightest interest in Big Daddy Roth's Rat Fink. Tornado Design's involvement brought this project to a level beyond excellent. Just try to remember to clean the paint off your grimy fingers before flipping through the pages of this monsterific manuscript.