The Lazinc School at Petersen Automotive Museum

Kustom Kulture: Celebrating the Artistic Intersection of Cars, Culture, and Creativity

An Interview with Craig Stecyk and Joseph Harper

In the realm of film, cars often play a dramatic role, symbolizing determination, resignation, or brooding contemplation. But there is a vibrant subculture of creatives who view cars as more than mere transportation. They see them as vehicles of artistic self-expression, like Von Dutch and Big Daddy Roth, who celebrated their cars with speed and sass. This fusion of cars and art led to the emergence of Kustom Kulture, a movement that has influenced artists and car enthusiasts alike.

Origins of Kustom Kulture

Collaborative Creation and Counterculture

The first Kustom Kulture show in 1993 was the result of spirited discussions among a group of individuals, including Craig Stecyk and Susan Anderson. The show aimed to bridge the gap between automotive and art worlds, showcasing the radical rethinking of Detroit design and celebrating the artistry of customizing cars. By emphasizing the connection between cars, culture, and art, Kustom Kulture created a platform for a new movement.

Auto Didactic: Linking Kustom Kulture and Lazinc

New Perspectives and Combined Origins

The Auto Didactic exhibition at the Petersen Automotive Museum sought to explore the link between Kustom Kulture and the development of Lazinc, an influential art magazine. By showcasing contemporary artists featured in Lazinc alongside the philosophy rooted in Kustom Kulture, the exhibition emphasized the shared origins and continuous evolution of these creative movements.

The Car as a Medium of Artistic Expression

Beyond Transportation: Aesthetic Dimensions and Self-Identification

Cars transcend their utilitarian purpose and become a medium of communication, allowing individuals to express their identities and connect with society and culture. Kustom Kulture has taken this further by using visual elements from mainstream culture and subverting them to transform their function in society. The emphasis on technique, craftsmanship, and aesthetic decisions reflects the desire to reimagine reality and create art that challenges mainstream conventions.

The Car as a Lifestyle

From Speed to Personalized Expression

California’s car-centric culture, influenced by Hollywood’s fantasy and the state’s moderate climate, provided fertile ground for the Kustom Kulture movement. What began as a pursuit of speed and radical redesign of Detroit cars has evolved into a diverse aesthetic influenced by a range of car styles, from hot rods to lowriders and muscle cars. Kustom Kulture encompasses more than just cars; it has become a lifestyle, impacting various aspects of visual culture.

The Car and Street Art

Parallel Progression and Societal Perceptions

In many ways, street art mirrors the progression of Kustom Kulture as both movements have challenged societal norms. Street art, like Kustom Kulture, has faced legal battles and societal scrutiny, even as its commercial value has grown. Yet, street art persists, much like the art forms that have influenced it throughout history, from prehistoric cave paintings to Pompeii’s graffiti. Street art and Kustom Kulture both demonstrate the subversive power of art in public spaces.

A Diverse Palette of Inspiration

Subverting Social and Academic Proscriptions

Lowbrow art, or feral art as Robert prefers to call it, draws inspiration from a wide range of sources including television, comics, album covers, psychedelic posters, and tattoos. These forms of artistic expression were once deemed unacceptable by society and academia. However, over time, they have gained recognition as valuable forms of art, challenging mainstream cultural norms.


The Kustom Kulture movement has connected the worlds of cars, culture, and creativity, paving the way for a new generation of artists and enthusiasts. Auto Didactic, the exhibition at the Petersen Automotive Museum, explores this intersection and highlights the ongoing evolution of Kustom Kulture. By showcasing the diverse artistic expressions influenced by cars, the exhibition invites visitors to reconsider the relationship between art and everyday life, and the power of customization as a form of self-expression.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Kustom Kulture?

Kustom Kulture is an artistic movement that originated from the celebration and customization of cars. It encompasses various art forms, including lowbrow art, underground comix, graffiti, and street art, and emphasizes the link between cars, culture, and individual expression.

2. How did Kustom Kulture influence the development of Lazinc?

Kustom Kulture played a significant role in the founding of Lazinc, an influential art magazine. The movement challenged mainstream conventions and provided a platform for artists who celebrated alternative forms of artistic expression. Lazinc continued this legacy, showcasing contemporary artists who followed a similar creative ethos.

3. What is the significance of cars in Kustom Kulture?

Cars symbolize more than just transportation in Kustom Kulture. They are seen as artistic canvases, allowing individuals to express their identities and challenge societal norms. The customization of cars has become an art form in its own right, reflecting the desire to reimagine reality and create personalized forms of transportation.

4. How does Kustom Kulture relate to street art?

Kustom Kulture and street art share common themes of challenging societal norms and utilizing public spaces for artistic expression. While Kustom Kulture focuses on the customization of cars, street art encompasses various forms of urban art, including graffiti, murals, and installations. Both movements have faced legal and societal challenges while gaining recognition as significant artistic expressions.

5. What can visitors expect from the Auto Didactic exhibition?

The Auto Didactic exhibition at the Petersen Automotive Museum offers a comprehensive exploration of Kustom Kulture and its influence on contemporary art. Visitors can expect to see a diverse range of artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and installations, showcasing the ongoing evolution of the movement. The exhibition invites viewers to reconsider the relationship between art, cars, and culture in a thought-provoking and immersive experience.