Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley in San Francisco’s Mission District are well-known for their high concentration of murals, for the diversity of color contained in one-block stretches of fences and residences with bustling commercial streets astride. Swoon, Andrew Schoultz, Sirron Norris, among many others, have added their signature styles, commissioned or not, to the famed narrow alleys. But it’s thanks to Intersection for the Arts in the Mid-Market for their exhibition programming that consistently explores, investigates, and expands on the ways in which people interact with art in public spaces.
On view until August 25th, Intersection’s group exhibit Motion Graphics: In and Beyond the Street transcends popular notions of what has come to be defined as street art. Art in non-art contexts, art that responds to the environment, distinct from vandalism or corporate advertising, art that is political, or spontaneous and fleeting as ever.
Eric Staller, Plaza Sweet lores, 1977; Courtesy of the Artist and Intersection for the Arts/ Intersection 5M
In the 1970s, artist Eric Staller took to the peopleless streets of New York at night to choreograph his long-exposure photography. To create sweeping arcs and tunnels of light, he attached sparklers to a broomstick and ran around the streets with the camera shutter open, never appearing in the photo. What’s left are blazing, astonishingly straight and uniform grooves of light piercing the still and darkened streets. It has everything to do with movement, the passage of time, and the impression a city can make on a person.
Ana Teresa Fernandez is well-known for her hyper-realistic oil paintings that confront gender and labor issues. Her two video pieces document her performances in public, with the piece Borrando la Frontera: Erasing the Border recording her painting the border wall, separating Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, from Border Field State Park in San Diego, that runs along the beach straight into the Pacific Ocean. The border is a monumental manifestation of xenophobia and fabrication, and Fernandez offers an alternate reality by painting a realistic shore that mirrors the marbled sea line and sky behind the wall, as if a gap had opened in the border. Fernandez’s work transforms the possibilities of physical, public space in both scale and substance.
What does it mean to throw your handwriting up in a highly visible, trafficked location? Known as “Apex” to the graffiti world, Ricardo Richey scribbles with remarkably lush lettering. In a video wherein he demonstrates techniques such as flare tags, he emphasizes the importance of controlling a steady stroke to achieve uniform letters, drawing distinctions between L.A., Philadelphia, and San Francisco writing styles. Similar to Staller’s desire for symmetry and balance, and perhaps in impulse, Richey’s work is different conceptually. His, though perhaps not meant to be preserved, has more permanence. A signature that is perpetually identifiable, to be recognized city and nationwide, a separate sort of celebration of place and time.
Ephemera and erasure bring us to Evan Bissell’s chalk portraits in the Tenderloin. Bissell depicts youth and staff from the community non-profit Larkin Youth Street Services interacting with each other in self-chosen compassionate gestures: an embrace, a hand on a shoulder, a sympathetic stare. Created over several months, the portraits were mostly erased each week, drawn over and replaced with another portrait, addressing the impermanence of a portrait versus the significance of lasting compassion that begins from within.
Chad Hasegawa; Courtesy of the Artist and Intersection for the Arts/ Intersection 5M
Chad Hasegawa’s vibrant and energetic installation is a hybrid between sculpture and painting, an assemblage of painted wood, that close up looks like a frenetic bang of primary colors, but when seen from a distance, the image of a bear reveals itself, a symbol of a protector spirit, watching over the neighborhoods they inhabit. Considering how one would approach his work, Hasegawa pays close attention to the spatial and visual changes of his protector bears, organizing reality from the inside out.
This group of artists continually challenge their spaces, keeping street art current, changing, social, and, above all, moving beyond the dividing lines.
(Image on top: Eric Staller, Citroen lores, 1977; Courtesy of the Artist and Intersection for the Arts/ Intersection 5M)