The world has said goodbye to the motorsport legend Ken Block. He wasn't only known for his love for powerful engines and frantic turns, but also for his fondness for art. He managed to take racing car aesthetics to a new level, especially through collaborations with artists such as Felipe Pantone, photographer Jim Mangan, GucciGhost and others.
Block launched his professional driver career only at the age of 38. Until then, his focus was primarily on the skate shoe brand DC Shoes, which he co-founded. Later, he sold his share and began racing under the Hoonigan Racing Division. He was fascinated by fast cars and he brought this experience to the public through fantastic camera work. One can say he elevated motorsport to a whole new level. His wild videos called Gymkhana quickly became popular on YouTube, mainly thanks to numerous chases and stunts, reaching out to even the youngest generation. The videos have several hundred million views combined.
However, fast machines weren't the only thing he enjoyed during his life – he was also very fond of art. He made sure that the recordings of his actions were of high quality; even to the point that he invited photographer Jim Mangan to one of his wild rides. Jim, following Ken mainly from a helicopter, captured the flawless Utah landscape, only then stirred by the wheels of a racing car Ford Fiesta H.F.H.V. (Hybrid Function Hoon Vehicle). That gave rise to a project called Blast, in which they produced a series of beautifully grained artistic photographs on 35mm film. Eventually, a book of the same name, full of breathtaking puffs of dust in ragged mountain scenery came to existence.
Ken very much liked to stand out, so he drove around in cars with unique, identical visuals. He became instantly recognizable, above all thanks to his collaboration with the artist Felipe Pantone. Felipe's work is like brewing a psychedelic neon potion saturated with contrasting geometry and grids, where he blends the new and the old, that is, the digital with the analog. One can say that his handwriting is easily recognizable at miles away, what he relied on also in the case of designs for Block and the Hoonigan Racing Division. He first created eight canvases on site, in Hoonigan's garage in Long Beach, California, which were then digitally translated, gently tweaked and applied to Ford Focus RS RX rallycross cars. Hoonigan then used the artwork to create an apparel line entitled The Hoonigan by Felipe Pantone. "I’m really stoked that I was able to partner with Felipe Pantone on this,” said Block. "I’m a huge fan of Felipe’s work and I think it’s awesome that we were able to have him create bespoke art in his signature style for us." The collaboration with an internationally acclaimed artist initiated a new era of exclusive style for both Block and the Hoonigan Divisions. The artwork is designed to express primarily energy and speed. Hoonigan relied on a design that looks fast even when standing still, which also captures the essence of the cars themselves. It's said to be the first time a graffiti artist had the opportunity to translate his work into such a format.
Block is said to have significantly raised the bar in race car aesthetics. His collaboration with Felipe Panton wasn't the only one of its kind. Another such collaboration was with Mexican artist It's a Living (real name Ricardo Gonzales), who is best known for his typographically perfect, building-size wordplays. This time, however, he created hand-painted canvases, which, same as Pantone's, got transferred on racing cars and on Hoonigan clothes. Block was genuinely happy about the collaboration: „The graphics we launch are really important to me, so I'm absolutely stoked to partner up with It’s a Living. I have been a big fan of his work for some time now. His mix of calligraphy and graffiti-drip style, blended with gradients and some graphic art styling, just really works for me." The excitement was mutual: "I’ve never had my art adapted to a car. It's one of the most amazing parts of this process to see how lettering can be adapted to objects. It will be interesting to see people’s reactions and to see the art in motion," admits Gonzales.
His most recent art collaboration was with Trouble Andrew aka GucciGhost (real name Trevor Andrew) and his design for a brand new Porsche racing cars SVRSR "Hoonipigasus". The car with its 1400 horsepower and all-wheel drive was designed specifically for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 2022 race and it's said to be the best racing car by Porsche in the world. Former Olympic snowboarder, musician and artist Trouble Andrew created an artistic car design which paid tribute to the Le Mans Porsche 917/20 "Pink Pig". He complemented the pink livery with his signature tags and a few art pieces repainted in his own manner. "When Ken and the team at Hoonigan called, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to team up to create something unique and memorable" said Andrew. „Reimagining iconic imagery and taking it in new, creative directions drives me, and in many ways my design parallels what Hoonigan and BBi have done with the car. This collaboration allows me to combine two things I love, art and competition, and for me, there’s no better partner for that journey than Ken Block.” However, Block and his new Porsche didn't participate in the legendary 100th hillclimb. The car suffered irreparable damage to the engine during the training.
Block worked also with such names as Troy Lee, Death Spray Custom, or designer and illustrator Ash Thorpe. Together they created a special series of NFTs focused on the concept of a Ford Mustang with a Fox body: that is, Hoonifox. Five unique NFT Hoonifox models were born out of this collaboration and they're now gradually being released for auction on the Ethernet Marketplace. „The Hoonifox is a car that Hoonigan and I still want to build someday, and this NFT project is the next step for us to bring this to life," said the legendary car racer, who tragically died this January after a snowmobile accident.