Posts Tagged ‘streetart’

Signs of the COVID-19 times part 3

June 30th, 2020

Since last month’s entry in this ongoing series, a number of local, national, and world events have occurred. It’s been a strange, though hopeful time for the most part. Here’ some more changes I’ve seen around San Francisco.

 

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In the most literal sense of the title of this post, the city’s Department of Public Health has been busy printing and distributing signs with the ever-changing set of rules we’re all supposed to be following.

Many of these signs are related to the reopening plans. As it turns out our entire economy is built on people eating at restaurants and shopping for clothes. It took a pandemic to make anyone realize this was a horrible idea, but here we are.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

The official signs apparently are not enough as some people have been making their own signs. In this case it seems someone was frustrated by people not wearing masks near Valencia and 18th Street.

While it’s true not everyone is wearing masks on the sidewalk, as far as I know nobody around here has thrown a tantrum over mask requirements in stores… yet.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

I’m not entirely certain what the intended message is here, but someone’s been placing stickers of infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci around the neighborhood.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

Indoor dining is strictly not allowed (you can’t eat and wear a mask, obviously) but some restaurants are opting for the outdoor and sidewalk seating approach.

To position tables less than six feet apart, some restaurants — like the 16th Street outpost of Pakwan pictured above — are placing barriers between tables. Does this actually work? Should we be dining out at all? I’m guessing probably not on both counts.

I’m not sure people are really interested in sitting outside in 60/65 F weather anyway. Maybe that will change when San Francisco’s summer begins in mid to late August.

 

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Although many stores and restaurants have reopened in some limited capacity, many dragged (or are continuing to drag) their feet on removing the boards on their storefronts. And of course many will not reopen, so there’s plenty of space for street art.

 

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At the beginning of the month there was a large Black Lives Matter protest that began at Mission High School at 18th and Dolores. This led to many store owners running essential businesses to board up their windows. Turns out that was an overreaction as there wasn’t really much in the way of property damage anyway.

But it also sparked a change in the art appearing on boarded up storefronts. Rather than being largely decorative a new theme emerged: Black Lives Matter. Many of these took the “Say Their Names” approach, listing names of Black people who were murdered by police.

And on that note…

 

COVID-19 changes

Signs of the COVID-19 times part 2

May 22nd, 2020

Since last month’s entry the pandemic-related changes around the Mission and Castro area have only accelerated. As retail slowly reopens some of these changes may be short lived, so let’s take a look at where things stand now.

 

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The city’s Department of Public Health has plastered almost every block with signs about social distancing, wearing masks, getting tested, etc. Many of the signs are in multiple languages. Anecdotally it seems most are following the spirit of these new guidelines, though the part about wearing masks hasn’t quite gotten to everyone yet.

At the same time, the signs that went up a month or so ago about sheltering in place have disappeared. Presumably this coincides with phase two of the reopening plans.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

The flat grassy section of Dolores Park that’s often used for soccer and volleyball now has circles painted on the grass to encourage staying apart while picnicking.

Other sections of the park with more hilly terrain didn’t get the circle paint treatment. I’d assume this is simply due to it being more challenging to measure or paint.

 

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After numerous storefronts were covered in plywood, they’ve slowly been transformed by street artists. Many of the murals were commissioned by Paint the Void, which is raising money to fund this type of art during the pandemic.

At least for me even with the murals it’s a little more jarring to see fashion retailers boarded up than a neighborhood bar. For example before they were boarded up, Everlane looked like an Apple Store that accidentally started selling clothes.

 

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Not all the plywood-covered storefronts are decorated with murals… some have whimsical wheatpastes instead.

All of these photos of wheatpastes were taken on Market between Church and Castro. That stretch has had a lot of retail vacancies recently so I’m not sure these are all necessarily related to COVID-19 or just the collapse of retail there in general.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

Some of the street art is very topical, such as this wheatpaste depicting a coyote walking down a deserted sidewalk.

The graphic is patterned after a real photo which I believe originated in this tweet.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

Finally, fnnch’s honey bears now have an N95 mask version. Here we have a honey bear with pizza, a David Bowie honey bear, and a honey bear with an ice cream cone. Of course, eating and singing aren’t really activities that lend themselves to wearing a protective mask.

Sacramento street art

February 18th, 2020

Like a lot of cities with abandoned buildings and big blank walls facing unused lots, in recent years Sacramento has turned to street art to make the city more inviting and these walls less prone to graffiti.

The difference between Sacramento and most cities however is that it has a much larger hole to climb out of. At the end of World War 2 there was a migration out of cities to nearby suburbs all around the country, but Sacramento also had to deal with the aftermath of its large Japanese population being sent to internment camps and the decline of the railroad industry.

 

Downtown/Midtown

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The downtown and midtown areas are a hotbed of all types of street art murals, in part because there’s just so many blank walls and abandoned buildings to choose from. Like most of the street art throughout Sacramento it’s a mix of pieces commissioned by building owners, murals painted as part of the Wide Open Walls festival, and completely guerrilla installations.

There’s so much street art in downtown in particular that I found a sign opposing it entirely, claiming that the murals were responsible for increasing local rents. I have no idea if that’s true, though it’s a complete 180 degree pivot from the way most people thought about street art just a couple decades ago.

 

Sacramento street art

 

You can’t talk about the downtown Sacramento street art without mentioning the Johnny Cash mural from Shepard Fairey. I’m not sure exactly where the mural is best seen from but you can get glimpses of it from all over downtown.

Fairey’s intention with this one was to honor Cash’s own cause of prison reform. I’m told the mural is fifteen stories tall and took about a week to complete.

 

R Street Historic District

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While wandering over to the food tour of the R Street historic district I snapped photos of a number of murals. The tour guide pointed out a few others to us between food stops.

What makes this part of the city a little different is it was a hot spot for the local art scene due to the sheer number of abandoned warehouse spaces. Despite a recent wave of gentrification, artists have remained in the area. Some of the new construction intentionally includes blank walls used as canvases for commissioned murals.

I personally really enjoyed the mural with the girl trying to fit in with a bear family; it’s ostensibly about how people are treated in a society, though it could just as easily be a metaphor for a neighborhood of misfits.

The murals at 23rd and Capp

November 18th, 2019
Murals at 23rd and Capp

 

At the intersection of 23rd Street and Capp — two relatively small streets — there’s a series of colorful murals so wide it spans two buildings and a fence. I couldn’t find a way to fit it all in one shot.

Surprisingly it still looks good as new despite being up for nearly a decade. Of course it’s been touched up a few times, but even some of the most beloved murals in the Mission tend to be more short lived than these.

 

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The murals facing Capp Street are on the abstract side, with a man vs. machine vibe against a sky blue background. There’s a lot to unpack with various hidden faces, skulls, cracked teeth, and more; all woven together in a quasi-organic fabric.

 

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On the 23rd Street side the murals depict daily life in the Mission District — on the surface, anyway. Street food vendors are selling ice cream, hot dogs, fruit, and tamales. In the background we see landmarks like the New Mission Theater, Mission San Francisco de Asis (aka Mission Dolores), and the long gone Giant Value building.

But on closer inspection, the food theme extends beyond the street food vendors. The streets themselves have been replaced with colorful stripes as though they were rows on a farm. If that’s too subtle, the eagle logo of the United Farm Workers Union takes up a section of the mural.

What I find particularly notable about these murals is how much they stand out — both in size and color — compared to everything else on this corner. And yet you don’t have to go terribly far from this little island of murals to find all the street art around 24th Street, most notably Balmy Alley.

Rest in ravioli

August 5th, 2019

Mission mural in The Mission
 

Over the weekend I wandered by a brand new mural by local artist Sirron Norris, whose cartoonish illustrative style and bright colors are instantly recognizable.

This one’s located on a garage door in the Mission District. The imagery and the text “Soy de aqui” (Spanish for “I’m from here”) make the theme pretty clear: it’s about the neighborhood and respecting the past.

Front and center is Mission San Francisco de Asis itself, the oldest structure in the neighborhood still standing. Going upward we see the 14 Mission Muni bus line, BART, and a blue cartoon bear literally holding on to a piece of the past, the tower at Mission High School — the building on 18th Street across from the tennis courts at Dolores Park. The giant bell in Dolores Park also makes an appearance. The top features Bernal Heights Park and its weird looking antenna, an easily visible landmark in many parts of the Mission.

I’m not totally sure what’s going on with the left side, where a… dragon(?) has its head cleverly obscured by a firefighter’s pipe.

 
Mission mural in The Mission
 

On the left wall we see the New Mission Theater, over a century old at this point (and finally operating again after decades of neglect) with its iconic marquee repurposed to deliver a message: “Our mission is to preserve and honor the culture of the Mission District.”

If you didn’t get the message at first glance, it’s written here in plain text.

 
Mission mural in The Mission
 

The right wall features Lucca’s, an old school Italian grocery and deli that recently closed after generations in business on the corner of 22nd and Valencia. A sign out front reads “Rest in Ravioli,” a nod to Lucca’s full name of “Lucca Ravioli Co.”

It was the only store to pick up authentic Italian ingredients outside of North Beach in San Francisco, and had significantly more affordable prices to boot. Big handwritten signs written on butcher paper taped to the windows advertised the store’s current sales. To be clear this Lucca’s is unrelated to the similarly named deli in The Marina.

This is the saddest part of the mural in a way, yet in my opinion the loss of a neighborhood institution is perfectly understandable when the owner retires. We don’t last forever — nothing lasts forever.

And that goes for this mural too, so if you want to see it while it’s still fresh and new, you can find it between Mission and Valencia on 21st Street on the south side of the street.

Reno street art: Midtown

May 5th, 2019

Reno street art
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In the last post I went over some of the street art in Reno’s downtown. Now, onto the Midtown neighborhood.

Not long ago Midtown was known for dingy motels and strip clubs; to some extent that’s still true, but it’s undergoing a renaissance these days. And why not? It’s a short walk from downtown — just across the river, really — and has become a destination for nearby office workers to have lunch or grab a drink after work.

I don’t think I would have considered visiting Midtown to see its street art on my own, but while searching for food tours in Reno I came across the Midtown & Murals Tour from Reno Food Tours. I don’t want to go into the food aspect too much here except to say I was very stuffed by the end.

The highlight of the tour was completely unplanned: while looking at one of his murals, we just happened to cross paths with prolific Reno muralist Joe C. Rock. Our guide immediately spotted and introduced us to him.

Some though not all of the murals in the above photo gallery were featured on this tour. It’s pretty easy to find most of these murals; they’re either in parking lots along Virginia Street, or off to the side in alleys, parking lots, and on the backs of buildings. There’s no need to go on this or any other tour to walk around Midtown and see plenty of murals on your own.

I’ll admit I was surprised by the quantity, quality, and variety of street art in Reno — particularly in Midtown. It’s definitely not a city I would have associated with street art, and I was happy to be proven wrong.

Reno street art: Downtown

May 5th, 2019

While in Reno I came across so much street art I’m doing two posts about it, starting with downtown Reno. Since I only spent 48 hours in Reno there’s probably many glaring omissions here. Even this first post is split into two galleries for reasons that should make sense momentarily.

 
Reno street art
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Downtown Reno looks pretty shabby overall these days, so what better way to add some color to boarded up buildings and big blank walls than with murals? The pieces range considerably in size and style. The above photos are just a select sample of what I came across walking around downtown within a five by five block radius or so.

I should point out there’s also a significant number of pieces that are just decorative, like patterns painted on utility boxes — not as exciting though definitely a welcome splash of color.

 
Reno street art
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City Plaza is a hot spot for skateboarders with its large evenly-paved surface and makeshift ramps. There’s a number of utility boxes in the plaza with murals of cartoon raccoons on skateboards; while photographing these a guy skateboarded past me and boasted “my friend painted that!”

Come to think of it, everyone I saw there was either skateboarding or taking photos.

What the plaza’s best known for though are its two sculptures originally built for Burning Man: a giant 3D sign that says “BELIEVE,” and two stained glass whales known as Space Whale which feature internal lights that glow after dark. Both of these act as selfie magnets for the Instagram crowd.

The impact of Burning Man on Reno isn’t something I’d thought about before. As it’s the biggest city on the way to Black Rock City, Reno bears the brunt of its problems (guess where the trash gets dumped?) but it’s also beneficial for the tourism industry and local art scene.

Street art in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood

April 28th, 2019

RiNo street art
Love this city
 

There’s street art all over Denver, from the murals hidden under bridges to the sculptures in the alleys along the 16th Street Mall. But there’s only one neighborhood that’s famous for its street art: River North, also known as RiNo.

Walking to RiNo from downtown is a pretty reasonable 20 minutes or so. The main street in the area is Larimer Street, northeast of Broadway if you’re approaching from downtown.

Like many rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods it’s a mix of all types of restaurants and bars, brand new condos, and small older homes. What makes the neighborhood unique though is a block or two away from the busy Larimer corridor are several mid-sized beer and cider brewing companies.

 
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Many of the larger murals in RiNo are commissioned pieces painted as part of a yearly festival called CRUSH. Still others were commissioned by the city to spruce up abandoned storefronts. And then of course are those back alley murals that may not technically speaking be entirely legal.

The artists behind the murals in RiNo are everyone from local art school students to internationally recognized artists. I suspect even the most amateur street art enthusiast can spot the mural in this blog post by Shepard Fairey.

 
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Aside from the above galleries, I wanted to point out a few of the more unique murals I spotted in RiNo.

 
RiNo street art
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Local artist Jeremy Burns took a blank wall with “fins” protruding from it and turned a single wall into two murals. Depending on which way you approach the wall you’ll either see a cartoonish boy or girl figure. From head on across the street it doesn’t look like anything at all!

 
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What strikes me about this painting is how hyper-realistic the two girls’ faces look, and yet it’s spray painted on an uneven brick wall. There’s some serious skill at work here.

I regret that I couldn’t find any signature on this one. I assume it’s signed one way or another, but there were cars parked too close for me to make anything out.

 
RiNo street art
 

On the more whimsical side there are tiny paintings of construction workers all over RiNo. These are from street artist Jaune who came all the way from Belgium.

The tiny construction workers find themselves in various situations, such as descending from a window in the above photo to climbing on gas meters.

 
RiNo street art
 

Lastly is this corner mural from a local street artist known as Gamma. It depicts a black woman with some kind of skin condition; perhaps vitiligo. From the opposite corner it seems she’s staring at you.

Getting closer a few more things pop out, especially the details on her eyes and lips that seem impossibly intricate for a spray paint mural.

And then there’s her skin condition, which is a map of the world.
 

My recommendation: If you’re into street art there’s plenty to see all over Denver, but if you want to see the most world class works head over to RiNo. Of course there’s no guarantee you’ll see any of the works I’ve photographed on your visit as they change all the time due to the ephemeral nature of street art.

The street art of Logan Square

April 18th, 2019

Logan Square Street Art
The most famous street art mural in Logan Square, if not all of Chicago
 

I almost skipped making a visit to Logan Square; it looked so far away on a map. Turns out it’s a fast, if somewhat cramped ride on the “L” from where I’m staying, and there were a few other places I had in mind to visit in the area. So off I went.

And I’m glad I did. It’s a relatively small neighborhood in comparison to much of Chicago with a lot of local businesses, upscale cafes, and small restaurants. Walking through the area there’s a lot of people jogging, walking their dogs, or riding bikes. And yet if you wander off to a side street you’ll find dirt roads and auto shops. Perhaps it’s a neighborhood where people of all social classes live and work together, perhaps it’s a nightmare of gentrification — most likely it’s a little of both, but what do I know? I was just passing through.

What was clear about Logan Square is it’s got the most street art of any part of Chicago I’ve seen. Most notably, the much-photographed “Greetings From Chicago” mural seen above is located in the neighborhood. It’s only a couple blocks from the California stop on the Blue Line.

Here’s a handful of other street art I got a kick out of in the area:

 
Logan Square Street Art Logan Square Street Art
Logan Square Street Art Logan Square Street Art
Logan Square Street Art Logan Square Street Art
 

Last but definitely not least is this enormous mural of the late Robin Williams and one of his most iconic characters, the genie from Aladdin:

 
Logan Square Street Art

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.