Thanks to some new activity on the 1700 block of Oak, First Fridays have been a little louder this year on the east side of the Crossroads. The most recent arrival on the block is Kultured Chameleon, a graffiti-and-glass gallery at 1739 Oak. Next door at 1735 Oak, commercial photography space 8183 Studio is up and running. And since late last year, Moore Remodeling has been quietly upgrading a large, crumbling storefront at 1729 Oak into a sort of warehouse-headquarters-loft-party palace.
The alley that runs behind these buildings has emerged as a free-flowing thoroughfare for wayward gallerygoers. I like the Charlotte Street Foundation and its affiliated artists and events as much as the next guy, but if I have to choose between cool-kid establishment parties and hanging out in a weird alley, I'm picking the alley every single time. In May, I watched a teenage girl set up a drum kit in a gravel lot and bash the hell out of it for a half-hour straight. Down the way, where the alley hits 18th Street, near Grinders, four women in black booty shorts and tank tops mingled with some Overland Park-looking dads in Dockers. "Dancers, probably," I said to my friend, as we dumbly stared at their asses. In addition to a handful of scooters, the Moore Remodeling fleet includes a Cushman, which is like a go-kart version of a truck. Some guy named Cappy was zipping around in it, giving people rides to their cars and to galleries.
Last Friday, Moore Remodeling hosted its first gallery show, with paintings by Rob Schamberger. You might recognize Schamberger's name from these pages: He's the man on a Sufjan Stevens-like quest to paint every single pro-wrestling world heavyweight champion ("The Art of Wrestling," April 26, 2012). Kevin Moore, the company's owner, lives above the space with Dylan Sly, who has poured fancy drinks all over town: at R Bar, Manifesto, the Rieger and, now, Grünauer. Sly is also one of the founders of the Traveling Cocktail Club, an artisan-cocktail catering company. For the occasion, the Traveling Cocktail Club put together a wrestling-inspired menu and served up free drinks to the steady crowds passing through. I got around to trying only the Four Horsemen (rye whiskey, ginger syrup, lemon juice, and angostura bitters), which I gulped down with the kind of greedy, guilty thirst that forces me to reassess my relationship with alcohol. But I heard that the Battle Royal (tequila, lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, sparkling wine, and habanero bitters) was also quite tasty.
The party was centralized in the warehouse space, which is full of power tools, paint cans and other industrial equipment. Schamberger's paintings were hung a little ways off from the party, in a clean space near the building's entrance on Oak. It's rare to see visual art that is both good and hilarious, so I took the time to really breathe it all in. So many legendary men were represented on those walls: the Ultimate Warrior, Jerry "The King" Lawler, Kurt Angle, Hulk Hogan.
"Enough people have found out about this that it's gotten to where these wrestlers are getting in touch with me about doing their paintings," Schamberger told me. Hogan is planning on signing his portrait, and Bret "Hitman" Hart recently tweeted in praise of his Owen Hart rendering.
My favorite was the Randy Savage portrait, which got me thinking about Macho Man's 2003 rap album, Be a Man. On the title track, he disses Hogan and brags about his "feature" role in Spider-Man. (The chorus goes Be a man, Hulk/Come on don't be scared/You're runnin' from Macho that's what I heard/Be a man, Hogan/Come on don't be a chump/I never thought Hulk would go out like a punk.) And then there's "Perfect Friend," his tribute to his fallen friend, Curt Hennig, aka Mr. Perfect.
"Have you done Mr. Perfect yet?" I asked Schamberger, which brought about a discussion regarding what constitutes a "world heavyweight champion." It's somewhat complicated. Whether Hennig's 1987 AWA title counts seems to be up in the air. The WWF Intercontinental belt, which Hennig won twice in his career, does not qualify him for portraiture.