Thursday, July 9, 2009

Custom Garage #6 - Ink n Iron 2009 & Coop's at Corey Helford Gallery

Here are my latest articles for Custom Garage magazine. It features a 2 page spread on Coop's first solo show in 3 years! There's also a 6 page spread on the year's Ink n Iron Festival. Enjoy, feel free to comment or critique. Thank you

Ink n Iron 2009

So, what makes Ink n Iron so damn special? I mean, doesn’t every car show have bands, tattooed hooligans and pin-ups? Well, let me explain something for those of you who’ve never been. Ink n Iron is no ordinary show; you don’t just get a few bands, you get an entire music festival. And there aren’t just a few tattooed tough guys; there’s a ship full of guys and girls rockin some of the finest tattoos around. As for the car show, forget about it. This year’s car show featured the “Showcase of Kustoms”, which was a car show within a car show. Inside the dome that once housed the famous Spruce Goose one could find top of the line customs. Under the dim lights they sparkled like rare gems in a dark cave. One fine example was Brian Everett’s gold 1940 Merc. Brian’s lowdown Merc was built by Oz Kustoms and truthfully words can’t describe how beautiful this sled is. I’d have to do an entire feature on it to do it justice. Richie Valles from Unique Twist Auto Body had several cars showing. One look at his tangerine ’50 Chevy Fleetline and it’s no surprise he landed 14 pages in Rodders Journal. Outside the dome the quality of customs and hot rods was just as impressive. As a matter of fact, there were two wicked rides right outside. One of them was Voodoo Larry’s ‘31 Model A. This hot rod may have single handedly stolen the show. Spectators couldn’t get enough of the suede 40’s Mopar paint job laid down by Hired Guns Paintworks. Not to mention an array of custom fabrication done by Larry, himself. Right across, was a slammed ‘54 Kustom Chevy truck. This killer custom had all the right touches; a low stance, custom molded headlights, custom grille and a slick 2-tone suede paint job. It looked like something right off the cover of a 1950’s Rods & Customs magazine.

The car show was definitely a crowd pleaser but it’s only one element of Ink n Iron show. For three days, a variety of bands lit up the stages with 100%, unfiltered rock n roll. Bands like Eagles of Death Metal, The Fuzztones, Frenzy, Aggrolites and Batmobile gave the crowd their moneys worth. However, for me, there was one band that rose above the rest. I’m talking about the forefathers of punk, The Sonics! When they took the stage on Saturday night, the crowd went wild. I had a front row, worm’s eye view of fans shaking their goods to the frantic beats. They may be a little older now but they can still make the girls scream. After watching The Sonics perform live, it’s easy to see how they had such an impact on music, then and now.

After a long night of rockin out to The Sonics, waking up Sunday morning was no easy task. But it was time to get to “work”, so I peeled myself off my friend’s floor and got to it. Sunday was my day to take my time and really soak in the tattoo convention. The crowd was definitely a lot calmer but tattoo guns were still blazing. Booth by booth I could see ink and blood mixing, and with every stroke of the needle you could see the art emerge. As I made my way through the ships 3 main floors I stopped to admire the extensive portfolios of tattoo artists from around the world. Each one offering it’s own unique styling. After looking through several portfolios, I quickly understood why good tattoos cost so much and why bad ones don’t. If you’re looking for the best, Ink n Iron is the place to find it.

It was time to wrap the weekend up, so I decided to go to my favorite spot, the ships Observatory Bar. I was enjoying a few Bloody Marys and sharing photos with newly acquainted friends when “Chelsea” and her friends decided to put on their own show. I won’t go into details but lets just say these girls were having lots of fun drinking and showing off their “tattoos”. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is what makes the Ink n Iron show so damn special. Come for one day or come for three, either way you’re guaranteed to walk away with new friends and some wild ass adventures. Only time will tell what’s in store for next year but I can tell you this much, I’m already counting the days.

Coop's New Works at Corey Helford Gallery

It seems an artist like Coop aka “Chris Cooper” needs no introduction. His deviant art can be found everywhere, from the walls of tattoo parlors to windows of hot rods. Born in Bixby, Oklahoma, Coop started paving the way to his visual debauchery at the young age of 2. As soon as he served his time in High School, Coop headed straight Los Angeles. It was here in 1993 that he would land his first solo show at La Luz de Jesus gallery. Sharing the gallery walls with artists such as Robert Williams and The Pizz, it’s no surprise Coop would move on to build an empire.

It’s now March 2009 and Coop has emerged with new works and what better place to exhibit them than at the Corey Helford Gallery. With hundreds of galleries in the greater Los Angeles area, there’s no doubt this was the right choice. The Corey Helford Gallery is a chic little gallery in the art district of Culver City. Openings here typically mean a night of great art, great people and a great selection of drinks. What can I say; admiring fine art can make a guy thirsty.

For most of us kustom kulture aficionados Coop’s voluptuous she-devils and smoking devil heads are deeply engraved in our heads. If you’re a music buff, then you’re for sure familiar with his rock & roll posters. Coop has created hundreds of poster for bands ranging from The Dave & Deke Combo all the way up to punk legends The Sex Pistols. Even graphic designers may recall his collaboration with House Industries. He created a custom set of Coop fonts, which where packaged in an ultra cool limited edition box. Whatever your recollection is of his art, it still wouldn’t compare to the impact of seeing his paintings in person. From close range one could study the intricate layering of his art, from a far one is hypnotized by his oversized half tone treatment. Each half tone was meticulously hand painted dot by dot. I’m talking hundreds if not thousands of them. As a huge fan of graffiti art, Coop’s choice to incorporate stencils and spray paint to his art was like fueling a ‘55 Olds motor with a tri-stack of 97 Stromberg’s. It gave his smoking devil heads just the right amount of fuel to propel them to a whole new level. Coop’s new works are a true testament of how a talented artist can recreate himself, his art and those who follow it.

Judging by the red dots on the wall and the fire marshals regulating the crowd, I’d say the show was a success. There were tons of Coop enthusiast, including artists Keith Weesner and Gary Baseman. It was yet another great collaboration between artist and gallery. When Coop’s collection comes to your town, don’t miss it! In the meantime check out his flickr page. It is a huge collection of “risqué” photographs taken by Coop, plus plenty of behind the scene photos to some of his latest masterpieces.

Coop Interview

AM - Coming from the hot rod industry myself I’ve seen the influence your art has had in the world of kustom kulture. How much did kustom kulture influence you in your earlier years?
COOP - Honestly, the whole concept of Kustom Kulture is a pretty recent invention, but I was always involved with cars and car culture, since I was a kid. "Kustom Kulture" is a better description of the folks who started creating art related to hot rod culture, starting with Robert Williams, of course.

AM - Lets just say in some cruel dimension there is no kustom kulture; do you think the world of Coop would be the same?
COOP - Probably not, but I would still be making art. I have plenty of other interests outside of that.

AM - Triumph or Harley??
COOP - I had a '64 Triumph bobber, but I sold it shortly after realizing that Los Angeles is not friendly to motorcycles.

AM - The first thing I noticed about your new works was the use of stencils and spray paint as part of your medium. Is there any specific reason that influenced this choice of medium?
COOP - It was something I'd never really done before. It started with one stencil done for a specific purpose, but I immediately realized that this would be a cool technique to incorporate into my fine art stuff. It adds a different texture and a bit of ragged edge to the canvas.

AM - Have you ever used or experimented with these mediums before?
COOP - No, I never really did the graffiti thing when I was growing up in the early eighties.

AM - Even though I don’t have you as a contact, I often follow your flickr page. I see you’re “almost” a photographer. How long has photography been part of your creative artillery?
COOP - I started shooting photos when I was a kid, thanks to my photographer dad, but I stopped shooting for about the next twenty years. I got back into it a few years ago thanks to the advent of digital photography, and now I'm back to shooting film again.

AM - Has photography had any impact on your paintings?
COOP - Definitely. It has completely changed how I work on my paintings, and the paintings have been a big influence on the color and composition of my photos.

AM - Are you ever torn between doing one or the other?
COOP - Not really. I like doing both, and each provides an escape from the other. When I get burned out on one, I can mess with the other, and not lose any of my creative momentum.

AM - Will you forever bless us with your free photos?
COOP - I guess so. I plan to do a book eventually, but I like the feed back on flickr.

If you haven’t been to Coop’s flickr page, do it! There’s a huge collection of photos. Thanks again Coop for taking the time to do this interview. It’s a tiny glimpse into the mind of an artist I consider as iconic as green rats and flying eyeballs (that’s a good thing). I’d also like to thank Angelique Groh from Charm School Marketing + PR for making this interview possible.


Christian Mejia said...

Excellent! It seems that Coop is pretty damn cool! The interview was great!

Alex T77 said...

Thanks Chris!