October 26, 2006 was a pretty BIG day for me.
It was kind of a tipping point for me as an artist, of sorts.
Had you told an 11 year old, Kenny Morgan, one day he'd be involved in a gallery show celebrating the life and art of Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth (one of his idols) in Los Angeles, California...he would have laughed in your face.
But it happened. It was kinda cosmic in the way that it transpired, let me explain.
In 1991 I was working at MATTEL and became friends with another like minded misfit named David Chodosh. David was working with the Nickelodeon group and I was bouncing from Disney preschool to male action (where I thought the grass would be greener). We found that we had very similar interests etc. and became friends. While at MATTEL I noticed that a lot of us had things going on in the 'outside world'. David was ALWAYS developing and inventing all sorts of cool shit, and I was starting a collectible/model kit company called Barker Brothers with my college friend Dan Platt. In 1994, we change the name from Barker Brothers to Sideshow Productions, and I started making plans to leave MATTEL. Fast forward to 2004/2005, both David and I have left MATTEL years earlier, and we reconnect. I find out that he's been managing Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth's licensing and making some cool Rat Fink toys. Sideshow Collectibles (as we are now called) begins to distribute some of his action figures, and we end up making a giant 5' tall fiberglass Rat Fink collectible statue...I was in heaven.
In 2005 I make my exit from Sideshow. I'm burnt out, needing a break and looking for more fulfilling experiences. That fulfilling experience would become my first ever Group Art Show, and I have to thank David for it. Since David had been managing the Roth Licensing with Ilene (Roth's widow), he was always looking for new ways to keep Roth's work alive and current. Well, he helped to pull off one the coolest damn events I ever had the pleasure of being involved with - a Rat Fink Gallery Show WITHIN a Gallery Show celebrating Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth, at the world renowned Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles!
The event was called: Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth ... The Original Rat Fink. This was going to be one hell of a show, it was going to include for the first time the largest collection of Roth's custom vehicles, a retrospective of his screen printed and airbrushed shirts/sweatshirts, the water decals & toys, the infamous REVELL model kits (that got us hooked on Rat Fink) and a special screening of the documentary by Ron Mann: TALES OF THE RAT FINK, all under one roof!
It was going to be a great retrospective for one of my heroes, and I got to be a part of it.
We decided that the best way to honor Roth, would be to to create his iconic alter ego, Rat Fink, in model kit form and have 100 different artists do THEIR interpretation of him. But we needed a new Rat Fink sculpture, so that's when I called in a huge favor to my friend and Sideshow Collectibles collaborator, Oluf Hartvigson to do the job. Luckily for all of us he agreed and thought it would be a fun thing to do. He felt that doing a digital sculpt would be the quickest and easiest way to get it done and get the approvals, and we agreed. BUT, since this was in the early days of ZBrush, and printing/output resolution wasn't as good as it is today, the final 'sculpt' was going to need a little fine tuning, courtesy of some sculpting wax. It was a combination of old & new school collectible making. Oluf knocked it out of the park and provided us with the perfect 'blank slate' Rat Fink that the artists would be able to have fun with. I took those masters and sent them to my contacts in China and had copies made for all our artists to use as their foundation...and started the clock.
This what they got
That damn clock ticked a lot faster than I had hoped.
Since we wanted to have a book available for the opening on October 26, that meant everyone was gonna have to bust their asses to get their Finks done in time to be photographed so they could make it into the book. Unfortunately for some, they didn't make it...I BARELY made it. Because we all know that MOST artists suck at time management and wait until the last minute to finish shit...that meant someone had to babysit a bunch of temperamental artists, and that task fell on David. I honestly felt bad for him having to deal with all that shit, but the guy did it, I don't know how, but he did.
We teamed up with an amazing design studio in town called Tornado Design to layout/print the book. Let me just say, the name of their studio is PERFECT! Al Quattrocchi & Jeff Smith pulled off the impossible putting this book together. They were literally a friggin' tornado. They got images right up until the last minute...mine being one of them.
I should point out that the late delivery of my images wasn't ENTIRELY my fault. I had finished my piece in time for my scheduled photoshoot...nearly killed me, but I got it done. On the day of the shoot, I get in my car with my boxed piece, put it on the passenger seat and make my way down PCH from Thousand Oaks to the South Bay...about an hour drive. Well, I get to Santa Monica and stop at a light...but the guy behind me doesn't notice. I hear screeching tires, I brace for the worst, and like a cartoon his car comes to a stop and BARELY touches my rear bumper. Well, you would have thought I got slammed by a big rig based on how the box on the passenger seat reacted. It went flying into my dashboard, causing my Rat Fink Statue to 'kinda' explode. I was fucking heartbroken.
I had to somehow fix my piece.
It also meant that I wouldn't be able to get my piece photographed in time to get it in the book. I was fucking devastated. I was going to miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity of being in a gallery book with some of my art heroes. FUCK ME. Then I remembered that I had taken some progress pictures to share with a few friends on my shitty digital camera. The piece wasn't 100% complete in those photos, but at least I had something. I sent my shitty photos to the guys at Tornado Design, they laughed, but they put them in the book. So, now my horribly photographed Rat Fink is in an amazing gallery publication with some of my heroes for eternity. Better than nothing I suppose.
My glorious page with the shitty photos of my unfinished piece.
Here is how it actually looked in the show-once I repaired all the damage.
A few shots that no one could see...
We decided that it would be a great idea to do a limited run of Rat Fink Model Kits, and offer them for sale so people could be inspired and create their own. So the guys from Tornado Designs knocked it out of the parlance again and put together a really cool collector edition for the fans.
...and this is what you got:
Slip case that could double as a display stand
Book from the show
I share a spread with Mark Mothersbaugh, how cool is that?!
Certificate of authenticity
...last but not least - the infamous Rat Fink Kit sculpted by Oluf Hartvigson
The show was a huge success and I like to think that everyone that experienced it, had a great time. In the end I was pretty happy with the results, I didn't feel TOO insecure displaying my piece along with guys like: Glenn Barr, Dave Burk, Craola, Adam Cruz, Dirty Donny, Ron English, Gary Panter, Rockin' Jelly Bean, The Pizz, Chet Zar...shit, fucking everyone! Being involved in something like this was a dream for me, and I have David to thank...so THANK YOU, David! It was quite the baptism into the LA Group Art Show machine.
Hell, I even signed a bunch a books, I felt like a rock star for a few minutes that night. You can't beat that.