I WAS THERE . . . The Art of Rebellion @ LA Venue, 10/17/09

Frank Kozik and his Dead Che designed Harley

Harley Davidson motorcycles have always been iconically cool but the customized bikes featured in Harley’s The Art of Rebellion show bring cool up a notch. The exhibition, which raised money for the CUE art foundation, which supports art students, professionals, and scholars took place on October 16 and 17 at LA Venue in Chelsea and featured silkscreened posters and customized gas tanks of Harley’s Dark Custom Iron 883 bikes by 10 well-known artists: Art Chantry, Brian Ewing, Derek Hess, Dirty Donny, Frank Kozik, Harpoon, John Van Hamersveld, Lindsey Kuhn, Tara McPherson and The Pizz.

The art work was varied in approach and style ranging from Art Chantry’s more three-dimensional approach with holes bursting out of the white tank like gunshots with a red neon light inside to Dirty Donny’s painted skull and bones on a lacquered metallic tank. Many of the artists were on hand showing off their work and how customizable the Harley’s Iron 883 motorcycles can be.

I had a chance to speak with illustration legend John Van Hamersveld who’s work such as the “Endless Summer” film poster and album covers like the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour and the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street (along with Robert Frank) are designs that are well known in the lexicon of the 20th Century. Van Hamersveld’s tank featured a silkscreen of his well known Jimmy Hendrix design from his 1968 concert poster, so I asked him how he became involved with creating the concert and he explained that he “was an art student and got a community together and became a rock promoter to do happenings, this was a Pinnacle concert, it ran for about a year or so and we did about 16 or 17 happenings.”

I also caught up with artist Frank Kozik, who is known for helping to revive the silkscreen poster scene back in the 90’s creating gig posters for bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden and now he’s most known for his unique vinyl toy designs such as the Smorkin’ Labbits and Chumps. Kozik had a complete Harley in the show which featured his “Dead Che” design in black with his signature orange and green coloring that gave it a cool underground military look. I asked Frank where he came up with the concept of a skull Che Guevara and he said he “thought that it was funny that all these hipsters were really into Che but he was like a fucking killer motherfucker, there’s a whole ‘Che Vive’ thing so I was like oh- ‘No Che Vive’.” I also asked Frank how he felt about the success of modern poster artists like Shepard Fairey and he said that “I’ve known Shepard since he was in school. I was in love with his stuff [but] he went from doing this thing-‘okay, I’m anti-propaganda’- warning you about the evils of propaganda to doing real propaganda, he invalidated his whole life long work by doing real propaganda, I’m like okay, dude, I’m happy for you but you just fucked your message, you fucked yourself.”

The show also featured some great black and white photographs by Adam Wright and Steven Stone that are definitely worth a mention and to see more information on the Art of Rebellion series check out Dark Custom’s website HERE.

Tim Needles

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