The VIP event included a special retrospective given by Robert Williams as well as a follow on Q&A session. During the event, Vans treated everybody to an open bar and kept our hunger at bay with food provided by the KTCHN Food Truck. Vans went the extra mile and decked out Resident LA in tribute to Robert Williams with custom signage and artwork.
It was incredibly impressive to hear Robert Williams tell the history of his life and how his art evolved. It's impossible to sum this up in a few lines, but I can touch on some highlights. He spoke at some length of his rocky early life and how that affected his "lowbrow" art style. Williams' work with Ed "Big Daddy" Roth was a milestone in his life and really launched his follow-on career when the studio closed in the late 60's. After moving on from Roth's studio, Williams joined the Zap Comix collective with R. Crumb, another artist whose art would eventually get its own Vans collaboration. In 1982 his book The Lowbrow Art of Robert Williams was published and Williams' ultra-violent imagery garnered a new following within the punk rock movement. He founded Juxtapoz Magazine which erupted from humble beginnings in 1994 to become one of the most widely-circulated art publications in the world. Williams went on to publish many other books, be featured in one man shows, and have a biography entitled Robert Williams, Mr. Bitchin' released with raucous fanfare in 2010.
After the Q&A, we were invited inside to hear the distorted tones of OFF! and Meatbodies. OFF! frontman Keith Morris is a founding member of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks and it was highly appropriate to see him playing at this event as he has also appeared on Vans in the past. Some of the older crowd might remember this Vans Pro Team video from years ago. After the set, the DJ took over and we chopped it up with people whom we've only had digital relationships with so far. It was great to put faces to names and discuss the artist and brand that brought us all together.
Robert Williams has defied the norm his entire life. When society told him to go left, he went right. And when society started catching on and began following him, he didn't change. He let them catch up and just kept on keeping on. We can see some really great parallels with Vans here. For 50 years now, Vans has remained true to its roots and devoted to the culture and people that made it what it is, no matter what societal norms dictated. We find that pretty comforting.
Special shoutouts to all the guys and gals we met at the event. It was really nice to meet all of you. Thanks for all the love and daps you gave us. Let's do this again sometime, yeah?