Art

Arthur Szyk: beauty in fairy tale... and Stalin

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Nowadays, being up on the news can actually make us stupider (more stupid, damn!), but when cartoonist Arthur Szyk was sketching his dense, fantastically detailed news caricatures, politics were still in need of explication – and all the more better if it was beautiful to boot. How else can one explain why one of the most whimsical artists of the 1930s and '40s became best known for his sketches of Hitler and Stalin playing poker?

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Scott Hammel's street treats

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One of the beauties of living in weirdo town is that the streets can always surprise you. The other day, I went out for a mushroom taco and came back with a bag of sparkly fabric from an artist collective's yard sale on lower Divisadero. I'm sure something attractive will happen with that bag, but after subsequently stumbling into Scott Hammel's toy art show in Mini Bar (through Jan. 30), I can't help but wonder: what would have happened if my plastic sack was instead a full trash bag of plastic kids toys, cigarette butts, and the odd syringe?

Besides the possibility of contagion, of course. But real talk, even in the heady first days of a blood-borne pathogen, I still wouldn't have come up with stuff this cool. Hammel's art looks like the productions of an adult Sid from Toy Story, if Sid had gotten fabulous and started doing LSD. Read more »

Mike Giant meditates

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When you're meeting up with a skateboarding design-graf-tattoo art giant, you prep a certain kind of question – 'how do you post your art on your website without getting arrested' comes to mind. But when I hung with Bay legend Mike Giant this week while he put the final touches on the pieces for his upcoming fine art show at Guerrero Gallery (opens Sat/11), I found myself ditching my notes for another line of inquiry. 

Which followed this line, roughly: where do I find some of what he's smoking? Read more »

Radical diplomacy: an interview with Guillermo Gómez-Peña

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“It welcomes hipsters, but advocates for a more intelligent hipsterism.”

Performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña is sitting in his unexpectedly luxurious Outer Mission live-work space, surrounded by walls of fake masonry, stacks of props for his work, and velvet paintings of lucha libre wrestlers, police officers, and John Wayne that have accumulated in the 16 years that Gómez-Peña has rent-controlled the place. In anticipation of his upcoming performance at Galeria de la Raza's 40th anniversary gala (Sun/21), we're trying to figure out a few minor details about life in 21st century America. Read more »

SF local artist's purpose within reach

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“I wanted to teach people, tell them how to do it. I always dream about taking back the city through art.” Reynaldo Cayetano Jr. is showing me his photographic prints in a Lower Haight coffee shop. He's explaining to me how a guy who grew up in San Francisco came to be on the brink of his third art show in San Francisco (Purpose: Beyond Reach, coming up on Sat/20 at Rancho Parnassus).

Is it weird that this trajectory needs explaining? Common sense says that growing up in a world-class art city would give you a leg up on an career amidst darkrooms and gallery openings. But that's not the case in cities, really. Local kids get the boot for all kinds of reasons in today's 21st century – especially creative types who aren't ready to divest their days to the rat race necessary to stay and live in our great urban spaces. Read more »

Open Studios spotlight: Calixto Robles

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Because Open Studios is about more than just the free wine and occasional sushi board score. Really! The annual organized voyeurism of creative space in the city will showcase artists' studios in different neighborhoods each weekend this month. In gleeful anticipation, we visited screen-printer and long time Mission visual artist Calixto Robles, who is helping to throw open the doors to his Life Art Studios (151 Potrero, SF) this weekend. Read more »

The family Yañez and their evolving altars

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To hear father and son artistic team Rene and Rio Yañez talk about San Francisco's Day of the Dead celebration is to realize how much the holiday has taken on its own light here in the city. “It's about personal experience, but also politics,” Rene says. The duo have crafted another year of homage to the dead around us -- and in so doing also reflect a shifting scene in San Francisco art.

No art event in the city reflects evolving tradition more than the Yañezs' yearly exhibit of Dia de los Muertos altars at SOMArts Cultural Center (opening Fri/8). As the three of us sit in Rene's office at SOMArts next to the cow brain in a mason jar on top of which the elder Yañez -- the center's director of special projects -- has stacked a pair of headphones and a plush Taco Bell chihuahua, Rene tells his son and myself about the first public Day of the Dead celebration in San Francisco. Read more »

Lending art in the TL

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Throughout the course of writing my feature story about the Tenderloin this week, which looks at the role art is playing in the gradually changing neighborhood, a couple of questions kept cycling back into the forefront of my mind. What should be the role of art in community-building? What kinds of art benefit the residents of a neighborhood? It's tough to categorically define the answers, but Rick Darnell and the North of Market Community Benefit District's plans for a TL art lending library come damn close to a perfect score.

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Golden age remix: Bay graff gets its props

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Nate1's business card is totally dope. It's front depicts a Kry-lon paint can, the brand most used  for graffiti in the days he was coming up as a street writer in 1980s San Francisco. “Back then we used to have to make art with automotive paint,” he tells me at 1AM gallery, where his new show on the golden age of Bay tagging, “The Classics” opens today (Fri/10). “We're talking about paint to paint red wagons and doors,” he remembers, smiling like a man that didn't mind too much. Read more »

The Photo Issue: Dean Dempsey

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SFBG What's it's like stepping in front of your camera?
Dean Dempsey I don't have any strong feelings about it, perhaps because I know there is so much post-production involved. I certainly behave as though I am being watched, or surveyed. A bit like what John Berger said, "Women watch themselves being looked at," and although I'm not a biological woman that rings true for me, and perhaps for many artists who turn the camera onto themselves.There is a spectacle element involved. Read more »