Bert Rodriguez is an idiosyncratic contemporary artist who’s works include planting himself in front of the Bass Museum in Miami (“What A Tree Feels Like,” 2010) and making Cuban food in a gallery with his mom (“A Meal I Made With My Mother,” 2008). He also like pot a lot.
Recently, he’s begun a partnership with Grenco Science, makers of the G Pen Personal Vaporizer, and it’s been a fruitful collaboration resulting in an installation at G Pen’s Coachella party earlier this year and a forthcoming exclusive vaporizer.
A little context: it’s a rarity for an accomplished conceptual artist like the Los Angeles-based Rodriguez to work directly with bud brands, but Rodriguez’s work is particularly suited to working with companies like Absolut vodka and Beck’s beer, for whom he designed a label.
But, as with all his brand collaborations, Rodriguez’s involvement with G Pen came organically and from an artistically rigorous intent. “When e-cigarettes first came out,” he explains, “I thought it was the most brilliant technology ever invented, because, in science fiction, no one saw this coming. Bladerunner, the most classic sci-fi film of all time -- they only use real cigarettes. I never really smoked cigarettes, but I started smoking e-cigs. I smoked a bit of weed growing up, but once I discovered the vaporizer, I was like, ‘Now, I’m a pot smoker.’”
When G Pen’s owner Chris Folkerts -- who is a longtime fan -- approached him with the opportunity to build something at their G-Life Pool Party during Coachella, Rodriguez jumped at the chance, refurbishing an arcade game in a piece called “I Will Always Let You (W)in,” that fit in perfectly with the event. “They were going to have a gifting suite, where they were giving away G Pens,” Rodriguez says. “I already had a claw machine that I was taking apart and customizing. At the event, I had it filled up with gifts from the sponsors. People were allowed to play the game for free, and it had a giant neon behind it that said, ‘I Will Always Let You Win,’ and the W flickered on and off, suggesting the idea of emotional gifting.”
Once the installation was set up, Rodriguez spent the rest of the weekend sampling the myriad waxes and flowers that proliferated the party. He doesn’t remember much, but he does recall members of the Wu-Tang Clan and Odd Future passing vaporizers to him. “I was pretty stoned the whole time,” says Rodriguez, who is represented by OHWOW Gallery, Los Angeles. “I had never dabbed before, and I tripped and went off into the desert. For five hours, I was hallucinating, and I had my dog with me, and I sat holding him, staring out at the desert.”
Settled back in his studio after the desert adventure, Rodriguez is currently collaborating with the brand to create a limited-edition custom G Pen to be released next year. “It’s going to be unbelievably beautiful, and it’ll work for all the essential oils, as well as the flowers,” Rodriguez says. “It’s basically a sculpture.”
Rodriguez’s recent undertakings have led him to a stonier lifestyle of late. Despite his comparative nascence to the pot-smoking game, Rodriguez is gung-ho on marijuana’s effectiveness on the art-making process. “I’m into the science now, especially the wax,” he says. “There are waxes that are perfectly designed to excite neurons in the brain in a way that you can start allowing yourself to think of things and get shit done. I get a sativa wax that helps with brainstorming.”