Whitehot Magazine

Art Lovers New York: Trippin’ Down Memory Lane with Jim Mangan, and recently deceased Ken Block

By NANCY SMITH October 15, 2023

Episode 3: Blast-off Jimmy, and the King of the Kens

A look back, at photographer Jim Mangan at the book launch, almost a decade ago, of his first, major book, “Blast”, a colorful and rugged visual collaboration with extreme rally driver, Ken Block. The book launch took place at  now defunct, photography gallery,  ‘Ave-A’, in the East Village, NYC, on Nov. 19, 2014. Archival photo by Nancy Smith. 

Framed, large format photographic prints of some of the best photos in the book, lined the gallery walls, of which you can get a glimpse, in the background, above.  

Congratulations . .  go out to  Jim, on the huge success of the ‘pre-launch’ of his newest photography project,  and forthcoming book: ‘The Crick’, which was featured in a resoundingly awesome, full page multi-photo essay, in the New York Times, Sept 24, 2023, which can be found in the ‘Opinion’ section, of that weekend, entitled: ‘The Young Men of a New West’, with a well-considered intro by Judith Freeman, followed up with a striking selection of Jim’s deeply-felt ‘Crick’ photographs, and his own penetrating, yet poetic, text.       

All photos courtesy & copyright Nancy Smith / artloversnewyork.com

Ken Block (1967-2023),  the super legendary, extreme rally car driver who collaborated with Jim, on, “Blast”;  blowing up the intense dust storms & creating the explosive tire ‘patterns’, in rugged, raw Southern Utah, between Capital Reef, and Goblin Valley. It was nice to see, that in person, underneath all the high-tech, high-performance, total body and head safety gear, not to mention the over-the-top, outrageous performance bravura; was a vulnerable, gentle, (or, at least on first meeting),  100% bio human, who was once--a-kid who just happened to be born, a hard-core, speed-inclined dare-devil, and was not, an advanced, sci fi, ‘AI-enchanced’ racing bot. Which you could have easily imagined from his many super professional, super glossy, and absolutely stunning, Youtube postings. His specialty was ‘drifting’ at very high speeds, in often dangerous locales,  just ducking by a 1/4 in. at most, oncoming speeding trains, etc. His millions of fans around the world, were devastated by his recent fatal accident, upon a snow-mobile this past winter.  I guess: born a dare-devil, die a dare-devil, is the most one could say in tribute. If you don’t think he was Ken-ough !! to be called: King of the Kens, then check out his “Gymkhana Hoonigan” series, on Youtube.

Check them out anyways, he was definitely an artist, of the very first degree / 

Performance artist, Earthworks artist, Video Producer, Book Collaborator, Creative Director, 

the list goes on. Extreme Rally Driving went onto a whole other level, when he was around.  

Ken Block, at the “Blast” book launch, Ave-A Gallery, NYC, Nov 19, 2014. 

Photo: Nancy Smith 

JIM MANGAN, “Blast”, featuring Ken Block, published by Dashwood Books, NYC, 2014. Hardcover, First Edition, a limited edition of 1,000 copies / 56 pages, original price: $45.

“Blast” cannot be found for sale anywhere, now; not for love, or money. 

Jim recently told me, “Winter’s Children,  was my first book published in late 2010, at age 37. I started taking photos with real intention the year before. Ken and I knew each other from the snow and skateboard world starting in 2002, and then he invited me to his wedding in 2004, and the rest is history.”


David Strettell, founder and owner of Dashwood Books, NYC, in front of one of the many framed, large format photographs, selected from  “Blast”, a Dashwood Books, 2014 publication.

the words: Monumental ‘earthwork’, does come to mind. 

Ken Block even had one of his customized “Monster” rally cars,  parked on the street, outside the former storefront gallery, during the opening. Gallery Ave-A, located at 205-A,  Ave. A in the East Village, now defunct; specialized in photography, and was co-founded by photographer Aaron Stern. It had a hip little run, there for a while, though the peak was this show, for sure. WM

Nancy Smith


Nancy Smith is an artist, and the publisher of artloversnewyork.com


Portrait by Taylor McKimens



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