In general, I’m not a fan of stencil art. I find it aesthetically beautiful but technically and conceptually dull. However, I’m not so snobbish that I can’t fall in love with random examples of the genre. A great example of a stencil piece I LOVE is this site specific installation on 16th Street between Hubbell and 7th. The mirroring of the tile work, the purposeful framing, the reclaiming of disused space – I tip my hat to whomever made this piece. Despite it’s roughness it’s quite clever – I’m a sucker for clever.
Looking at it, I wanted to know more about the tile work it mirrored. Was it part of a now-demolished building? Was it someone else’s playful intervention in the space? What exactly did that now-demolished building look like? Was it someplace important or interesting or beautiful? So off to the internet I went. And then suddenly – map hole.
I noticed this last week – an incongruous bit of brickwork from a construction site on Hyde Street. I meant to come back and take a photo but never did; until I saw this article on SF Gate. Turns out this minor street-side landscaping project exposed hundred year-old brickwork from San Francisco’s pre-earthquake City Hall. Huge, elaborate, expensive, and fatally flawed – the building took close to twenty five years to build and would collapse in mere seconds. By 1909 the ruins were gone, by 1915 the current City Hall had been constructed two blocks away, and by 1933 the Federal Building was constructed atop the old location.
Makes me wonder what other secrets are hidden beneath the pavement…
Instagram pictures from the block around my building. Oh Fruitvale, why must you be a dumping ground for all of Oakland’s questionable furniture and tragic bits of street dada?
The zombie apocalypse is now.
Shark vs. Jet Ski
Pedovan Still Life
After a spur of the moment trip to Burning Man I’ve restarted my photographic explorations of the city. Seems my prophesy in Temporary Ghost Advertising Zone was correct – they did replace the billboard and cover up the old Coca Cola sign underneath. See you again in five to seven years old friend.
PPPSSSTTT. Let me tell you a secret – Go to Port Costa, NOW. An old wheat shipping port well past it’s glory days; this tiny bayshore town is picturesque, eccentric, and situated in a geographic pocket of idyllic timelessness. In other words, it’s well worth the treacherous, winding drive from Crockett. Built into the cleft of a small canyon, the town ends at the shoreline parking lot for the infamous Warehouse Cafe. Per the New York Times, “The Warehouse Cafe was built in 1886 for the storage of wheat, hay and potatoes. Three stories tall and made of concrete with huge redwood beams, it has survived four fires, three earthquakes and countless wild parties.” Words simply cannot do it justice. Go there, drink beer from a mason jar, stare at the polar bear, and befriend old bikers. Just do it.
After exploring the area last weekend, I fell in love with the old theater marque sitting in the parking lot. Broken in two, it says State Theater and is decorated with poppies.
But Port Costa, even at it’s height, was never large enough to support a theater. So what is the provenance of this sign? And why is it sitting in the middle of nowhere, silently rotting away along the bayshore? Frankly, if this were a more generic, non-theater sign the question would be pointless – an internet rabbit hole leading nowhere. However, theater buffs are a meticulous and internet savvy breed making the sign’s origin easier to unravel.
1018 Mission Street
1018 Mission Street at Sixth Street; a five story SRO dating to 1911 and currently operating under the name Kean Hotel. Clear Channel recently removed a vandalized, weathered, and unused billboard from the building’s western wall temporarily revealing the long-hidden Coca Cola sign underneath. Will this sign remain visible for long? I’m guessing not. The billboard re/deinstallers never removed their scaffolding/platforms so I assume they intend to return and finish the job – and by “finish” I mean install a bigger and better billboard. Either that or they really, really wants someone to climb onto it and tag over the ghost sign.
This is actually one of two Coca Cola ghost signs on 1018 Mission Street. The other sign can be seen on the eastern wall facing towards 6th street. Both appear to be of a similar vintage. And what is that vintage? Well, they both feature the iconic “contour bottle” which was adopted in 1916 so they’re definitely no older than that (remember, the building is from 1911). However, it seems that until the mid-30′s a significant portion of Coca Cola’s advertising involved their soda served in a glass with the contour bottle gaining visual dominance somewhere in the late 30′s to late 40′s. So, if I had to make a vague, grasping, quasi-educated guess, I would put these ghost signs at the late 30′s through the late 40′s. Any Coca Cola experts care to further pinpoint the date?
1018 Mission before removal of the billboards. Photo circa December 2011.
Last weekend I traveled to Vancouver Island for a wedding. While there, Flickr user Espressobuzz and I stopped to photograph St. Ann’s Church outside the town of Duncan, BC. Founded by Father Pierre Rondeault in 1890, the current building dates to 1903 and is home to an active Roman Catholic congregation of mainly native Cowichans.
I don’t think I’ve seen a more touching cemetery before – the level of affection and love was quite evident in the sentimental tokens and floral arrangements covering each grave. It was gorgeous and sweet and very photogenic. I usually dislike photographing recent graves – it feels disrespectful and like I’m gawking at someone’s loss – but I made an exception for some of these.
The other weekend I went to Sunday Streets in the Bayview district. I have a soft spot for the Bayview; probably because it reminds me of my own neighborhood in Oakland. There’s a symmetry between the two – in the sagging Victorians and the underused industrial spaces, in the treeless sidewalks and the pitted streets and the patina of socio-economic neglect. There’s also a certain quiet stoicism to both neighborhoods. A feeling that the streets are patiently biding their time; waiting, disinterestedly, for their potential futures to manifest.
Or not. Underprivileged and overexploited light industrial/mixed use neighborhoods will always exist. The name may change but there will always be a “Bayveiw”.
I came away from Sunday Streets having found two random spots that spoke to me. Generally I don’t photograph people and I don’t photograph Big Important Buildings. I’m drawn instead to small details and tiny tensions and stories that trail off without…………… Both these sites fit that criteria; although in my opinion the photographs themselves fall a bit short artistically. Continue reading
View Ads of San Francisco in a larger map
I’m currently working on two slight variations of the Ghost Sign Mapping Project. The main map contains all the ghost signs in eastern San Francisco. The second map, pictured above, contains only the product/brand advertising signs. Created in March as a blog post for my day job (I work in advertising), it has been updated to reflect the last four months worth of sign research. Enjoy!
Today, July 17th 2012, it rained in Oakland. Well, it was more like a heavy misting but it was enough to bring out the snails. I hate snails. In elementary school my mother paid me 1¢ per snail I killed. I would collect them in a big bucket, dump them in the middle of the street, and crush them under my bicycle tires. I had an interesting childhood.
I’ve always wanted to do an art piece with snails; partly because their flesh repulses me and partly because I find their shells to be infinitely interesting objects. Which is probably why I’ve been so taken with these two blog posts/creative snail projects.
The Use of the Garden Snail (Helix Aspersa) in a Collaborative Art Practice
Inner City Snail
I’d love to take a whole bucket of similarly sized snails, paint them each a unique color, and arrange them in a grid ala Damien Hirst’s dot paintings. Watching the snails slither away and organically dissolve the piece would be quite conceptually satisfying and more than a little beautiful. Snails and Damien Hirst – what’s not to love/hate?