Art from El Rey: A Gnaa Graa Story
Amelia and I got to the Zeitgeist around 7:30-. After
a pitcher or two, Amelia and Spingo -- El Rey, I mean
-- were negotiating the price of art. Quickly, they moved
from straight ahead capitalism to the barter system.
much art can I get for a case of beer?
and I chimed in to try and help the haggling -- is a six
of good microbrew equal to a case of shittybrew? -- but
the patron and the artist wisely ignored us. For a case
of beer, the only question El Rey had was:
much art do you want?
on two pieces from the Coffee series. I threw
out an original idea : a portrait of James Coburn, the
dentally impressive James Coburn, and his teeth, with
the caption CLACK CLACK. Gnaa. Graa. A specific
request was that the Coburnian dentation be painted to
be glow-in-the-dark. Gnaa. Graa.
El Rey said,
For a case of beer, you get as much James Coburn
as I can paint between now and Saturday night. Deal!
we met El Rey at his night job, and he slipped us the
fresh art like a dealer meeting his favorite junkies.
The only task left was to deliver the three cases of beer
to his studio space the next day.
we started trundling along to the El Rey studio near Van
Ness and Bush. We figured we'd see a booze store on the
way. When we finally spotted one, I double parked and
listened to Radio Alice (alternative rock for girls).
Amelia went in and asked the counter guy if they had any
cases of beer.
the cheapest kind?
guy did a vague double take. Uh, Pabst. I think.
cases of Pabst, then.
The guy walked
into the back room, but came back out without beer.
I don't have the Pabst. I got Meister Brau and Bud.
The guy yelled to one of his co-workers: Hey, are
Bud and Meister Brau the same price?
the answer came back, same price.
The guy said
to Amelia, So I'll get you three cases of Bud --
make it the Meister Brau, she interrupted.
The guy stood
stock still and stared for a second. Wow.
As it turned
out, he only had a case and a half of Meister Brau, so
the commission ended up including a case and a half of
Bud anyway. As the guy was ringing up the sale, he said
to Amelia, Boy, I wouldn't want to make an enemy
out of YOU.
Actually, its for a good friend. But
she added a hunk of beef jerky to the purchase, and the
eventual commission, anyway. El Rey seemed entirely pleased:
Meister Brau, Bud, beef jerky and all. El Rey did ask
me to take some digital photos and send the images back
for his web site. See above.
When I unpacked
the art at home in Chicago, I stared at CLACK CLACK
for a while. I tried to get a photo of the teeth, glowing
in the dark, but I don't think it worked. (See above.)
Even so, I kept turning the lights on and off, watching
the glowing teeth appear and disappear, disembodied choppers
gleaming greenly at me, as if saying, in some ghostly
Morse code for teeth, Fine job, bucko. You got yourself
some fine art there.