Posts Tagged ‘murals’

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The murals inside Coit Tower’s first and second floors

August 14th, 2019

Coit Tower Murals
Coit Tower Murals Coit Tower Murals
Coit Tower Murals Coit Tower Murals
First floor murals
 

A couple years ago I visited the top of Coit Tower for the first time. In that blog post I noted:

I should point out there is a second activity at Coit Tower that isn’t as well advertised, and I have yet to try it myself: in addition to the Depression era murals in the lobby, there’s a small second floor above it with more murals.

On Saturday I finally went to tour the murals with the free City Guides Coit Tower Murals Tour. Here’s what I learned on the tour.

The lobby space was built without any particular purpose, but two local artists were able to secure funding from a New Deal program to hire muralists to paint the walls with frescoes. The left-leaning artists settled on the Social Realism style which was popular at the time, though not without some controversy.

As you can see from the photos at the top of this post, the themes of these murals focus on labor and daily life, as you’d expect for an art style closely associated with socialism.

Due to tourists slowly filling up the lobby (August is peak tourism season, after all) I wasn’t able to get as many photos as I would have liked. A particular mural depicts a scene at a library where most people are reading newspapers with headlines contemporary for the day, but is mostly known for prominently featuring a man in the front pulling a copy of Das Kapital off a library shelf. One group after another came in and snapped selfies of themselves in front of it.

It’s worth pointing out that the ethnicity of the people in the murals is skewed to the point of historical revisionism. The absence of Chinese Americans and Latin Americans is especially jarring.

 
What’s on the second floor?
 

Coit Tower’s second floor is densely covered in murals but was typically off limits to the public until their 2014 restoration. What’s up there? Let’s take a look.

 
Coit Tower Murals, 2nd floor
Coit Tower Murals, 2nd floor Coit Tower Murals, 2nd floor
 

After going through a “secret” door, a spiral staircase features murals on both walls depicting life along Powell Street. Although these murals are approaching 90 years old it’s amazing how little has changed, fashion choices aside. People are carrying suitcases and walking their dogs, and the cable cars and oversized fire hydrants look identical to what you’ll see today.

Here’s another view from the second floor down the spiral staircase:

 
Coit Tower Murals, 2nd floor
 

Compared to the murals downstairs, this street life scene appears to represent a transition of sorts. Instead of farmers and factory workers we see mostly well-dressed and presumably wealthier people. The workers are few and far between, many of whom are police officers.

This transition becomes more obvious when exiting the staircase to the second floor landing.

 
Coit Tower Murals, 2nd floor
Coit Tower Murals, 2nd floor Coit Tower Murals, 2nd floor
 

Just above the stairs is a small landing with a series of sports murals. At first it seems like it could be Olympic games, but if you turn around and look at the wall over the staircase, it’s clearly a Cal-Stanford football game. So I think it’s safe to assume this mural is about local college sports.

 
Coit Tower Murals, 2nd floor
Coit Tower Murals, 2nd floor Coit Tower Murals, 2nd floor
 

From there the hallway wraps around in a semi-circle, with murals on either side depicting outdoor leisure activities: hunting, picnicking, and relaxing in the sun around a creek. One man even has a large film camera with him.

 
Coit Tower Murals, 2nd floor
 

In the last room on the second floor there’s a much more abstract mural depicting a wealthy home, perhaps preparing a dinner party. This is the only painting that’s not a fresco, instead opting for tempera paint. The bright orange background color looks like a sunset, almost glowing.

This last mural also completes the transition on the second floor, depicting an increasingly wealthy life with disposable income. This family clearly doesn’t need to pick oranges at an orchard or work in a factory to make ends meet.
 

The second floor murals left me with a nagging question: who was supposed to see these murals? Unlike the first floor, Coit Tower’s second floor is so narrow there’s not much room for people to move around. Today it’s limited to about six people at a time.

As far as I’m aware the space has largely been used as an access to a back room for administrative purposes over the years, yet if it was intended to be opened to the masses the hallways are too narrow for murals. And if it wasn’t intended for the public, why have murals at all?

The guide did not have any answer to this one. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d bet the unused balcony over the entrance to the tower — accessible by the second floor — was originally intended for some sort of public use. Like the rest of the second floor, this balcony is not used much today either. It all raises more questions than answers.

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Mission mural roundup

January 20th, 2019

Calvin and Hobbes mural
 

It’s been too long since I posted about murals at home here in the Mission District. To fix that here’s some recent photos of murals in the neighborhood, starting with the Calvin and Hobbes one above across vacant storefronts.

The image seemed familiar; after Googling around I found the original on this page, which claims it was for the LA Times to accompany an interview they did with Bill Watterson.

 
Mission Street Mural
 

Further down Mission Street is this mural depicting a bird’s impossibly-colored feathers with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. It’s by Cameron “Camer1” Moberg, who also created the mural at the nearby Cornerstone Church.

Now on to Clarion Alley. I haven’t been terribly impressed with many recent murals there, but a few caught my eye.

 
Clarion Alley mural
 

The mural of a woman here somehow fits this funny bookmark-shaped spot perfectly. If it looks familiar, it replaced a similar mural by the same artist group, WHOLE9 from Osaka, Japan.

 
Clarion Alley mural
 

The least serious mural here is a depiction of Adam Bomb (scroll down) of the Garbage Pail Kids. If you don’t remember the Garbage Pail Kids, they were collectible stickers parodying the wholesome Cabbage Patch dolls by depicting them in disgusting and disturbing situations.

There is a local street artist who goes by GPK, but the “GPK” here could also be a reference to the Garbage Pail Kids? Or both? I’m not sure about this one.

 
Clarion Alley mural
 

Somehow I never took a photo of Girlmobb‘s depiction of disembodied hands holding smartphones until recently, but the mural’s been there for a while. There’s something amusing about taking a photo of this one with your smartphone.

 
Clarion Alley mural
 

I’m afraid I’ve saved the saddest one for last. This one’s by Twin Walls in honor of Luis D. Gongora Pat. If this mural’s the first you’ve heard of him don’t be surprised — he was killed by SFPD but the news of his death didn’t get much local coverage. For all the details you’ll have to read about it in The Guardian. (The British paper, not the defunct local publication.)

Toward the end of his life Gongora Pat became homeless and spent a lot of time practicing soccer on Folsom Street in the Mission. Never knew the guy but that’s where I remember seeing him, kicking a ball around on the sidewalk.

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The murals of Chicano Park

January 2nd, 2019

Chicano Park
 

Every now and then some boring government official decides what to do with a boring piece of land under a boring freeway overpass. More often than not the land ends up as a parking lot or some other type of storage — and that’s almost what happened with a stretch of land in the Barrio Logan neighborhood of San Diego in the early 1970’s.

But when the mostly Latino neighbors found out about the plan, they organized and pressured the city to put a park there instead. Gotta love a story where the little guy wins. For more details on the history of Chicano Park head over to Wikipedia.

A key element of the park’s development happened early on when an artist came up with the idea of using the freeway pillars in the park as surfaces for murals. Today the murals themselves seem like more of an attraction than the park.

 
Chicano Park Chicano Park Chicano Park Chicano Park Chicano Park
 

Even the trees and benches are painted with park’s theme:

 
Chicano Park Chicano Park
 

The park includes a few skate ramps, complete with corresponding skate-themed murals:

 
Chicano Park Chicano Park Chicano Park
 

One archway seems to implore the park to extend “Hasta la bahia” or “All the way to the bay.” Several murals appear on freeway posts outside the boundaries of the park. It remains to be seen if the park itself will extend further over the years.

 
Chicano Park Chicano Park
 

The original intent for this blog post was to just throw together a photo gallery of street art in San Diego. But after looking at all the photos, it was pretty clear Chicano Park was the star attraction. While you can find plenty of great street art all around San Diego, Chicano Park has many great murals in one place — and an inspiring story too.

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Muni Murals outside Laguna Honda

May 7th, 2017

About a year ago, the wall facing Forest Hill station at Laguna Honda hospital got the mural treatment. Today I (finally) found myself over there and decided to check it out. Among other aspects, the mural features two fun depictions of Muni over the years that connect the past with the present.

First, here’s a Muni trolley exiting Twin Peaks tunnel at West Portal. This represents the original West Portal station, a glorified bus stop with a facade that looks similar to those of the old piers along the Embarcadero.

Muni Murals

 

The second Muni-themed part of the mural depicts a modern Muni Metro LRV heading to the nearby Forest Hill station. Once known as Laguna Honda Station, it’s the oldest San Francisco subway station that’s still in use today. Regular Muni Metro riders can identify the station’s platform level in the mural by the checkered pattern on the wall. Or you might recognize it from a certain Clint Eastwood movie.

Muni Murals

 
“But wait,” is the question I doubt anyone would ask, “Which Clint Eastwood movie that takes place in San Francisco could you possibly be referring to?” Well, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the next blog post to find out. Try not to let the suspense kill you!

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Honey bears invade BART station

March 22nd, 2017

BART Honey Bears from fnnch
 

A series of fnnch’s honey bears have invaded the Powell BART/Muni Metro station as I discovered on the way home this evening. These are among the larger honey bear murals I’ve come across, though I think thees are the same size as the one that was once across the street from Dolores Park.

According to Broke-Ass Stuart, these murals are a little different from fnnch’s other work in that they were painted on panels that were then taped to the wall. It’s an interesting mural technique because it makes it simpler to put up (and remove, presumably) but also opens the door to this type of street art installation in a confined space where spray paint fumes wouldn’t be welcome.

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Murals of Lilac Alley

September 4th, 2016

These days it seems pretty much every alley around 24th and Mission is a de-facto canvas for street artists. Overall this is a good thing; it keeps the Mission’s colorful, artistic elements in plain view, acting as a counterbalance to the obscene housing prices that have made the area affordable to many artists. Go out there almost any weekend and you’re bound to find at least one such mural in progress.

Here’s a few I snapped photos of today on a stroll through Lilac Alley. Click any of them for a larger view on Flickr.
 

Lilac Alley murals

Lilac Alley murals

Lilac Alley murals

Lilac Alley murals< Lilac Alley murals

Lilac Alley murals

Lilac Alley murals

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Sam and Max mural spotted in the Mission

August 21st, 2016

Mural of Max (of Sam and Max, Freelance Police)
 

While wandering through the Sunday Streets crowd today I got a little off the beaten path and spotted the mural above. It’s unmistakably a depiction of Max, the short, sarcastic, violent bunny character from Sam & Max. I looked around but couldn’t find a corresponding mural of Sam, the 6-foot tall dog who dresses like he just walked out of a hard-boiled detective novel.

For those unfamiliar with the characters, Sam & Max started out as a series of relatively obscure comic books by artist Steve Purcell. The two characters work together as “freelance police” to solve crimes, though they don’t have any particular respect for the law themselves.

In 1993 Purcell produced an adventure video game based on the characters at LucasArts called Sam & Max Hit the Road. In the game the two go on a road trip to solve a missing persons case, visiting tacky tourist destinations (a carnival freak show, the world’s largest ball of twine, etc.) It’s widely regarded as one of the best — and funniest — adventure games of the era.

In the years since the characters were adapted to a short-lived animated TV show and several smaller adventure games from Telltale.

So why is this find interesting enough to be worthy of a blog post? It’s not uncommon for street murals to feature well known commercial characters like Ronald McDonald, Bugs Bunny, or even the Mario Bros. But these characters are not well known outside of a relatively small circle of fans. I bet most people who’ve seen this mural don’t know what it’s referencing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go rummage through my closet and see if I still have my old Sam & Max comics somewhere.

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Murals of Osage Alley

February 15th, 2016

One of the few places to find actual underground murals in the Mission these days — in other words the kind explicitly not approved by some shady collective — is Osage Alley. Instead of stale and increasingly contrived attempts at political statements, at Osage Alley you’ll mostly find the funky old school and copyright-agnostic murals that the Mission was once known for.

The murals on this two and a half block long alley change frequently. For some of the previous art, check out the images on Google Street View.

Osage Alley murals Osage Alley murals Osage Alley murals Osage Alley murals

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Amos Goldbaum’s Clinton St. murals

January 2nd, 2016

Amos Goldbaum's Clinton Park murals

Amos Goldbaum's Clinton Park murals

You know that guy who sells t-shirts with line drawings on the street in the Mission? That’s local artist Amos Goldbaum, who recently did the murals seen above (click for larger) on Clinton Street.

The murals are similar in style and color to his shirts, though the larger of the two also contains bright swirls of color in what appears to be depicting a process of creating artistic homemade goods. The larger mural appears to be a tribute to a family member who recently passed away.

If you want to see these in person you’ll find them at Clinton and Valencia, between Burma Love and the Greek church.

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The wild murals of Erie Street

December 12th, 2015

Tucked behind a series of warehouses and repair shops by the old Central Freeway viaduct is Erie Street. Despite the name, it’s actually a small alley that’s only a block and a half long. But it’s also home to some of the more interesting murals in the city. Maybe one day they’ll become as increasingly stale — and frankly, conservative — as the murals approved by the local art groups, but for now the Erie Street murals still have a wild, almost psychedelic sensibility about them.

Check out some of my favorites below. Click any photo for a larger version.

Erie St. mural
Erie St. mural
Erie St. mural
Erie St. mural
Erie St. mural
Erie St. mural
Erie St. mural
Erie St. mural