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Behind The Scenes

'Kustom Kulture' Puts Retro Rags in the Driver's Seat

July 23, 1993

About 1,200 Laguna Art Museum supporters--dressed in "Grease" '50s, flower-child '60s or disco '70s attire--attended the opening night reception of "Kustom Kulture: Von Dutch, Ed (Big Daddy) Roth, Robert Williams and Others" at the museum in Laguna Beach on Saturday.

The exhibit--which continues through Nov. 7--shows how the car culture drove the Southern California art scene before the end of the Vietnam War. Riding along as a passenger was counterculture fashion--the genesis of grunge.

Hot-rodding throughout the museum's three levels were men and women in "Easy Rider" leather, tattoos (real and faux) and other renegade motifs.

In keeping with the customized theme, clothes were whacked and chopped and ripped and modified to mirror their makers. Pin-striping was on display on bubble-topped cars, scooters and a toilet seat, but not, thankfully, on suits.

The coolest look for the evening was the silk-screened T-shirt, because after all, Roth (car chopper and creator of the bloodshot, bugged-eyed Rat Fink) pioneered the custom-painted T-shirt, according to Bolton Colburn, the museum's curator of collections.

After eyeing the 200 pieces of art, a cocktail crowd gathered in the lower galley, creating a club atmosphere. Were they wearing costumery just for the evening or closet staples? Hard to tell with this group. They were all so convincing.

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