When the Artist Is a Nazi

Christopher Knight calls out the Petersen Museum for whitewashing Von Dutch, featured in "Auto-Didactic: The Juxtapoz School". Von Dutch (born Kenneth Robert Howard) was an auto customizer, pinstriper, Neo-Nazi, and racist. In 2004 the OC Weekly and Los Angeles Magazine ran profiles addressing these contradictions. Some of the money quotes:

"Even those who admire Von Dutch don't call him a nice guy. No, they use words like bitter and racist and violent."
—Lead of the OC Weekly piece, by Theo Douglas

"He had all the trappings of being a neo-Nazi. He could not tolerate black people."
—Robert Williams, OC Weekly

[Howard/Von Dutch was] "an artistic Nazi, an aesthetic Nazi and a racist. But he was not a white-power guy. He hated everybody too much to be one of those."
—Ed Boswell, founder of Von Dutch's clothing line, in Los Angeles Magazine

"When we arrived, he said he wasn't finished with the car he was working on—could we come back in about half an hour? We could see that he'd already had more than a few beers while he was working. When we got back, he was sloshed. He looked at us and snarled, 'I don't work on Jew cars!' I'm Jewish; my husband isn't. We left, me feeling miserable… Everyone knew he was a Nazi except me."

Part of growing up is realizing that good artists can be bad people. Knight isn't saying that Von Dutch shouldn't be shown, just that some context would be in order. As shown in "Auto-Didactic", Von Dutch is (along with Ed "Big Daddy" Roth) co-founder of a scene as much as a creator of objects. That's all the more reason to acknowledge the dark side of an L.A. subculture that is now more Latino-diverse. 
Von Dutch pinstriping. Photo by Nathandelaney

Comments

Popular Posts