Von Dutch: A Look At Kenneth Robert Howard’s Racist Past

[YouTube][Thomas Ullrich]

Damir Mujezinovic

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California is one of the world's largest and most famous automotive museums, with more than 100 vehicles on display.

A unique exhibition, Auto-Didactic: The Juxtapoz School, had its debut at the museum in 2018. The exhibition featured a vehicle customized by Kenneth Robert Howard.

Howard, also known as Von Dutch, is considered to be one of the fathers of the so-called Kustom Kulture -- but he was also a racist, and an admirer of the Third Reich.

Art Vs. Pop Culture Museums

In a column for the Los Angeles Times, art critic Christopher Knight wrote that rules which apply to art museums do not seem to apply to pop culture museums.

"If an art museum today were to open a group exhibition that featured, without comment, the work of an avowedly racist and anti-Semitic contemporary artist, all hell would break loose," Knight wrote at the time.

Anger aimed at such an exhibition would be completely justified, the art citric continued, before quoting what Von Dutch said about Jews, African-Americans, and Mexicans.


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Von Dutch In His Own Words

"I am not willing to go through it anymore only to emerge in a place full of [N-word], Mexicans and Jews," Von Dutch once said, Knight pointed out.

"I have always been a Nazi and still believe it was the last time the world had a chance of being operated with logic. What a shame so many Americans died and suffered to make the rich richer and save England & France again, or was that still. I hope you lying wimps get swallowed up with your stupidity."

Whitewashing Von Dutch

According to Knight, the exhibition whitewashed Von Dutch, since there was absolutely no mention of his bigotry -- the man was simply described as the father of Lowbrow art.

The exhibition featured a custom pickup made by Howard called the Kenford Truck. The vehicle is monogrammed with Howard's logo, a bloodshot eyeball with wings.

"It is not difficult to see Howard’s jaunty 'Flying Eyeball' logo, which dates to 1948, as an adolescent’s malicious cartoon riff on the wreathed swastika surmounted by a winged eagle... that was an emblem of recently defeated Nazi Germany," Knight noted.

Life And Death Of Von Dutch

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Howard was born in 1929, and died in 1992 at the age of 63 due to liver problems, as reported by Heavy.

He was reportedly an alcoholic, and even added custom chutes to his cars to dispose of beer cans more easily.

Howard left behind daughters Lisa and Lorna who sold the rights to the Von Dutch name to Michael Cassel and Robert Vaughn, allowing them to launch the Von Dutch fashion brand.

Von Dutch's life was examined in a new Hulu documentary series The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For.