San Francisco: Homegrown Graffiti Explosion


(Pic #1) Exterior, home in the Mission / painted utility box, center

“The difference between graffiti and art is permission.”  — San Francisco Police Dept.

On your next trip to the 415, check out the miles of high energy, super bold, larger-than-life street art.  It’s everywhere.  It jumps off the wall and then into your head. Much like the strip of graffiti art on Rue Denoyez in the Belleville section of Paris, many SF artists are now building up layers and creating a sense of dimension and heft (Pics #1, #2). They are painting in broad daylight, and sometimes, it’s even legal. A non-profit arts organization called “Precita’s Eyes” organizes artists to design and paint murals and mosaics on “approved” walls. But for the most part, what you see on the street is considered “vandalism” by San Francisco Police.

The city spends $20 million a year on graffiti cleanup.


(Pic #2) 3D graffiti mobile, Mission district

The San Francisco Public Safety Ordinance reads this way: “Graffiti is detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the community – in that it promotes a perception that the laws protecting property can be disregarded with impunity. This perception fosters a sense of disrespect that results in an increase in crime, degrades the community, and leads to urban blight.”

Precita’s Eyes believes its mural projects are “a bridge to the community; that artists communicate with the people; and the result is a reflection — a mirror — of that community.”

There may be truth in both of those statements, but the bottom line for me is: true art can be discovered anywhere. It may emerge from the cracks in the sidewalk or the drips on a can of paint. And if it’s fresh and new — even if it’s whimsically splashed onto an electrical panel — there’s a good chance it’s the real deal. Check out my photos below, and let me know what you think.
















Alcatraz (Part 2): Off the Wall


(Pic #1) Close-up of weathered Alcatraz inmate dining hall wall.

Time and decay reveal unintentional works of art.

Fresh from a visit to one of the most intriguing exhibits I’ve ever attended anywhere (See TLR post: Ai Weiwei) — I had to share my obsession with the textured, storied walls of our country’s most famous, historical federal penitentiary: The Rock, in San Francisco Bay.

The 6-month exhibition allows visitors to walk through inmate workrooms and guards’ gun galleries heretofore off limits. The halls and walls are eerie and decrepit, and you get a sense that decades of dark history could quickly be exposed with CSI on the untold number of layers of chipped and crusty paint. (Pics #1 -#9). Between the coats of mint green and institutional gray, you catch shades of peach, rose, and rust. The infirmary entrance sports three shades of what could be described as Martha Stewart Mediterranean teal (Pic #9) with scratches of powdery pink — a totally counterintuitive color palette for the world’s creepiest “pen.”

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(Pic #2) Dning hall.


(Pic #3) Infirmary bathroom.


(Pic #4) Alcatraz inmate “hall of industry”

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(Pic #5) Defunct “hall of industry” commodes.


(Pic #6) Jail cell wall; cell Block B

(Pic #7) Infirmary entrance

(Pic #7) Infirmary entrance

(Pic #8) Hospital room.

(Pic #8) Hospital room.

(Pic #9) Infirmary bath

(Pic #9) Infirmary bath

Factoids from “The Rock:”

Where did Alcatraz get its name?  The name Alcatraz comes from the Spanish explorer Don Juan Manuel de Ayala, the first European known to navigate San Francisco Bay, in 1775. He called it “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” which means “the island of the pelicans.”

Why did Alcatraz close? According to Smithsonian Magazine, in a word: extravagance. “The cost of housing a prisoner on Alcatraz, where all supplies – including potable water – arrived by boat, was more than three times higher than at other federal prisons.” In 1963, Attorney General Robert Kennedy announced Alcatraz shut down the historic facility for good.

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(Pic #10) Curious door frame next to warden’s quarters.


(Pic #11) Exterior vent, prison guard quarters

(Pic #12) Dining hall ; check out the imaginary form of mother and child

(Pic #12) Dining hall; check out the imaginary form of mother and child


(Pic #13) Operating table, inmate infirmary.