Gregory "Griz" Robinson calls himself "the starving artist of the motorcycle business." The Pueblo native and longtime motorcycle racer and enthusiast owns the fastest fuel drag bike in Colorado. (It's so fast, in fact, that he won at Sturgis last year with it.) When he's not competing, the blue-collar Harley-Davidson aficionado is hard at work at his garage, the Chop Shop, fixing and fancying-up bikes for trendy types. "I was building bikes when those guys were all babies," Griz says. "I'm infamous, but I'm not rich."
He got his first bike, a Harley Duo-Glide panhead, at sixteen, and remains in love with that particular model close to forty years later, as is evidenced by his own little corner in the summer show Full Throttle: Underground Art and the Motorcycle, now on display at Pueblo's Sangre de Cristo Arts & Conference Center. Though it makes up only a small portion of the comprehensive, three-floor exhibit of bikes and pop-culture artworks, Robinson's Chop Shop display is a color- concentrated powerhouse of bikes with the panhead-style motor, all of which were made from 1948 to 1965. The hogs are appropriately surrounded by photographs of tattoos done by fellow Puebloan and Steel City Tattoo owner Rich Ives.
Just a few steps beyond the bikes and body art is a roomful of rock-and-roll photographs and drawings set off by a magnificent trio of cherry-red, spoke-wheeled Indians dated 1920, 1924 and 1926. Round the bend are the Europeans: The perky turquoise Vespa scooter. The "Little Ant," an off-white 1956 Moto Rumi Formichino with a compact cast-aluminum body. Along the way, you'll also find more Indians, dating from 1904 up through the 2004 model (a custom masterpiece with a buffalo-nickel plaque on the gear box, a tooled leather seat and elegant pinstriping); several antique Harleys (including one from 1903, the first year they were made); a classic Easy Rider-style chopper painted blue with exquisite orange-flame detailing; and a 1954 German torpedo sidecar with red tuck-and-roll upholstery. The third floor holds still more Euro gems, including shiny Triumphs, Ducatis and a 1916 military-green Royal Enfield, all owned by Colorado Springs collector Pat Holmes. Of the eleven bikes Holmes loaned the center, his favorite is a sporty -- and beautiful -- black-and-chrome 1948 Sunbeam.
"It's a very elegant machine that was designed to be the Rolls-Royce of motorbikes at that time," notes Holmes, who rides and races many of his vintage bikes because they're so modern and romantic. "The kind of technology that's considered the very latest today was already evident in this stuff back in the 'teens," he says. "And there a was a certain bravado associated with riding a motorbike, especially in the 'teens and '20s. The men and women who rode them were the talk of the town."
This tour de force show, created by the center's visual-arts curator, Jina Pierce, with help from numerous collectors, is sure to be the talk of Pueblo this summer. In conjunction with the exhibit, the center is hosting a Full Throttle Brush Bash, with pinstriping demonstrations, oldies music and special tours, on June 10 and 11, and a Euro Bike Rally from June 17 to 19.
So get down to Pueblo and encounter Griz's world. Or, as he puts it, "You just get on and take off. Whenever the customers start piling up and the grease starts piling up on you, you can get on the thing and just go."
Listen to Griz.