San Francisco

While combing the streets of San Francisco, I was struck by the dozens of intriguing surreal images that grace the city’s visual landscape. Pictured above is the work of the anonymous street painter known simply as BiP. I captured it on my last day in San Francisco, as it was near completion. What follows are several more images — marked by a surreal sensibility — that gripped me:

San Francisco-based Austrian artist Nychos

Also by Nychos

Bay Area-artists: Mars 1 with Damon Soule, NoMe Edonna, David Choong Lee & Oliver Vernon; segment of large mural as seen at dusk

San Francisco-based Lango Oliveira

New Delhi-based Seattle native Jonathan Matas, close-up

San Francisco-based Hyde1 with his distinct Aztec aesthetic

Photos by Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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While visiting San Francisco earlier this summer, I discovered Max Ehrman‘s aka Eon75 mesmerizing public artworks. Eager to find out more about the talented artist, I posed a few questions to him:

Where and when did you first paint on a public space?

The first wall that I painted was a legal wall of fame in Gainesville, Florida. I was in my early 20’s.

What inspired you at the time?

I was inspired by a memorial wall that Daim and Seemso had painted on that spot. It was amazing! I had never seen anything like it before — in terms of design, color, layout and balance.

What keeps you doing it? Painting in public spaces — in addition to your studio work? You are quite prolific!

Passion! It is something I love doing.

You’ve traveled quite a bit. Have you any favorite cities or specific sites where you like to paint? 

Anywhere that I can paint and sit on a beach is top on my list. So Barcelona, Puerto Rico, Naples, Florida and Thailand for sure.

What is your favorite medium when you work outdoors? 

Spraypaint — definitely!

What about your name? Eon 75?

A friend in Europe gave it to me. Extermination.of.reality — and 75 is the year I was born.

Have any particular artists or cultures inspired your aesthetic?

Mostly Mother Nature and the cosmos.

Do you prefer working alone — or collaborating with others? 

I love working with other artists…some of my favorite people to paint with are San Francisco-based Ian Ross and Ratur from France.

Have you a formal art education?

No, I went to school for architecture. When It comes to art, I’m self taught.

How has your work evolved through the years — since you first started painting back in Gainesville, Florida?

I would say it’s gotten more complex, and I love working in lots of diverse mediums which leads to changes in styles.

What’s ahead?

More traveling and painting. I’d like to paint more characters and get into sculpture.

Good luck! And it would be great to see your work here in NYC!

Images

1  Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco

2 Collaboration with Vance DNA in Bangkok, Thailand, close-up

3 Cooks Valley Campground in Piercy, California

4 Abandoned train in California

5 Collaboration with Ian Ross in San Francisco, close-up

6 Collaboration with Ratur on San Francisco rooftop

All photos courtesy the artist

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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While visiting the Bay Area earlier this summer, I met up with photojournalist, Juxtapoz Magazine contributor and fellow graffiti/street art enthusiast Iqvinder Singh. I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview him:

What is your first street art/graffiti-related memory?

My earliest memory goes back to the late 70’s/early 80’s in Northern India. I grew up in Rajisthan and Punjab, where it was normal there for people to express their opinions and feelings on the walls. Print and broadcasted media were still considered a luxury for the rich, and the city walls reflected the voices of the unheard. I would see people painting the walls during the daytime without any fear of the police or shop owners. The messages were written in Hindi, English, Punjabi, Gujrati, Urdu and other local dialects. It was something expected and normal in my surroundings. It was odd to see blank walls with no messages. Smaller villages were less political, but they too decorated their walls, though with cultural and religious symbolism. Geometric patterns inspired by the muhgals, swastikas, flowers of life and Hindu dieties were very common. Some farmers even branded their cows with similar symbols. Colorful walls made the cities and villages livelier and more welcoming.

What was your initial impression of the streets here?

When my mom and I moved to Oakland in 1982, I was introduced to different types of markings and monikers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Suburbia meant clean walls, and any kind of wall markings were only found in the “bad areas” of the city. At an early age, I learned to appreciate the intricate hand styles of the local graffiti artists and witnessed what was to come in the 90’s and into the new century.

Did any particular artists stand out? Inspire you?

Among my earliest inspirations were East Bay graffiti artists: Plato, Fresh Kid, Echo and Rocs. In the early 90s, I met the late Mike Francisco a.k.a. Dream at the College of Alameda. He was one of my greatest inspirations, not only from a graffiti perspective, but also because of his views and stance on social/civil rights issues. He was very vocal about police brutality and other injustices that plagued our communities. Many of us aspired to reach Mike’s style status. I also admired Dizny from the TPC crew. Dizny was from Berkeley and painted beautiful murals touching on local and global topics. Where Dream had mastered the letter form, Dizny told stories with characters and broke down complex politics for an average kid from Oakland. San Francisco also blessed us with inspiring artists like: Twist, Margaret Kilgallen, Dug 1, KR, Revyon, Caryone and UB40.

You’ve been documenting the Bay Area graffiti and street are scene for awhile now.

Yes! So many different styles came out of the San Francisco Bay Area, and I thought it was important to keep a record of it all. In 1997, I started a zine called Suitable 4 Framin’ which focused on underrepresented artists. I don’t think there were any other graffiti publications in Northern California at that time. I printed about 1000 copies of each issue and sold them at cost or traded them for other zines and magazines.  I want to capture it all. The piece on the wall, the artist painting it, and whatever else is brewing the neighborhood. I try to post stuff that others may have missed or capture it from a different angle. I try to catch the artists in action, and I try to understand their influences and histories. Bay Area has churned out so many great artists, and those same artists influenced hundreds of others. From the 80’s to today, it’s been an amazing experience to live through so much good art. Graffiti is definitely here to stay, and I hope to tell the story from my perspective.

With easy access to social media, there are so many people documenting the graff/street art scene in the Bay Area these days. It’s always interesting to meet the photographers behind their Flickr or Instagram pages. They all started at different stages, and they all have a certain focus. Some are focused strictly on selected crews, hand styles, freights, throw-ups, burners, trucks… Some are good photographers but don’t know the artists or the history, and others are seasoned veterans.

You’ve photographed thousands of images. Do any particular pieces of graffiti and street art in the Bay Area stand out?  

There are many. Whenever I see a piece by Lango, it’s always a treat. He is doing some next level painting with spraypaints. Stuff by Nychos and Aryz is always on a grand scale and their pieces always run for a while.

How has the Bay Area scene changed since you first became involved with it?

When I was active, your alias was very sacred. The goal was to be everywhere without anyone knowing who you were. Nowadays, graffiti/street artists hand you their business cards, links to their website, flyers and more. That mystery element is gone expect for the selected few. Graffiti/street art in general is a lot more acceptable. I remember when I did one of my first legal graffiti pieces in North Oakland in the late 80’s; it was a big thing at the time. Nowadays, most of the big productions are sponsored, and they are popping up everywhere, so people don’t get that excited. In the 80’s into 90’s, it was all about lettering, and there were many unique styles. Now, kids bring in characters, vegetables, clouds, animals, and other monikers as their tags. Work by guys like Ras Terms, Plantrees, and Broke speaks volume without any lettering. I personally prefer lettering, but I can still appreciate different trends. Paints are better, and there are even classes in graffiti.  It’s, also, definitely more commercialized. And with the advent of Internet, artists have a lot more resources now. Artists use graff to sell merchandise or as a stepping stone for other business endeavors. Graffiti for the sake of graffiti is gone. There’s nothing wrong with earning money from something you love, but don’t exploit the art form.

Besides your documentation of graffiti, you’ve also photographed life in many ethnic communities across the country.  

Yes, for some of my previous corporate gigs, I had the opportunity to travel over the country. I started documenting immigrant communities in my travels. I photographed Indians, Japanese, Mexicans, Chinese, Hmongs, and many others. It was a cultural experience to discover their roots and learn about their struggles to achieve that American experience. And, yet, I was most intrigued by the Chinese.

Your solo exhibit, Everything’s Fine in Chinatown, was  recently on view at the historic Throckmorton Theatre Gallery in Mill Valley. Have you any impressions of the graffiti you’ve encountered in the Chinatowns that you’ve visited? And what spurs your intense interest in Chinatowns?

Graffiti was one of the main reasons I used to go to Chinatowns. Chinatowns had some of the best trucks. I think the businesses learned that there was no point in painting over this stuff, as it wasn’t hurting their business. I’m intrigued by how the Chinese, particularly the ones living and working in Chinatowns, hold on to their cultural identity like no other ethnic group. Regardless of what goes in the world, there never seems to be any politics in Chinatown. It’s always business as usual. There’s a blend of old, new and hints of the future in Chinatown. It’s a mashup of everything you want in one place: restaurants, art galleries, temples/churches, schools… My goal with these photographs is to not only capture life as it exists today but also to document the changes that are brewing in the background.

Images

1 Iqvinder Singh at the “Out of Order” art show, Bay Area 

2 Political poster in India

Barry McGee aka Twist

Barry McGee aka Twist at Oakland Art Museum

Baer

6 Nychos  

7 Ras Terms & Leaf Leaver

8  from Iqvinder Singh‘s solo exhibit “Everything’s Fine in Chinatown”

All photos courtesy Iqvinder Singh

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Back in 2012, Chicago-native Shawn Bullen brought his wonderful talents to Bushwick. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet up with the gifted artist who has just returned to NYC after spending several years in San Francisco.

Shawn-Bullen-mural-art

When and where did you first get up in a public space?

When I was 17, I got hold of some Mean Streak markers and started tagging the mailboxes in my Chicago neighborhood.

What inspired you to get up?

My friends were doing it, and it seemed like a fun thing to do. I didn’t really think about what I was doing, and I certainly didn’t take it seriously. I also wasn’t very good at it!

Do you remember when you first became aware of graffiti?

There was a graffiti wall in New Hyde Park that I used to pass almost every day. But I didn’t quite get it! I thought, “Why would anyone write something that nobody else could read or understand?”

Shawn-Bullen-Miami-Mural-art

Once you began getting up, did you ever get arrested?

I was arrested twice. The first time, I had climbed on top of a nearby fruit and vegetable stand to write my name. I was caught on camera, and I ended up having to turn myself in. Ironically it led to my first paid gig as the owner of the space offered me $200 to paint his truck.

What was the riskiest thing you ever did back then?

My friend and I would crawl across train tracks lined with live wires through dangerous neighborhoods.

Why did you do that?

To get to rooftop walls that we liked along the Green line.

Shawn-Bullen-mural-Bushwick-NYC

How did your family react to all this?

My mom was hot happy that I was breaking the law, but she was always confident that what I was doing would lead to something.

Do you have a formal art education?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing! But, yes, I studied Photography throughout high school. And then I studied Photography and Drawing at Columbia College in Chicago before transferring to NSCAD, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. But I didn’t graduate. I left after two years.

Why was that?

I noticed that most of the graduates were working in coffee shops. Few had jobs related to art. I had also felt that I had learned enough.

Shawn-Bullen-mural-art-SF

How you feel about the role of the Internet and social media in this scene?

I think the Internet is a beautiful tool that allows us to share our work with others. It is difficult, though, to keep up with social media, and I know that I need to focus more on my Instagram account. I can get lazy!

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I was exposed early on to the hip-hop culture. Undoubtedly, it has influenced my aesthetic. And when I paint, I almost always listen to hip-hop – Kenye West, Jay Z, Drake…

Have you any favorite artists?

So many! To name a few…Kehinde Wiley, Chuck Close, Basquiat, Aryz, the Etam Crew, and – of course – Michelangelo hasn’t been topped yet!

Shawn-bullen-SF-I still-have-a dream

That’s quite a diverse group! Do you prefer working alone or would you rather collaborate with others?

From ages 17-22, 90% of what I painted was with my crew, the IDC Art House, but these days I feel more and more that I like making my own decisions.

Do you generally work with a sketch-in-hand or do you just let it flow?

It depends. I love to freestyle. It is so much fun. But for commissions I often have to present a sketch first.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

It’s never as good as I’d imagined it to be, but since I can’t spend years on it, I’m generally proud of myself.

shawn-bullen-paints

Have you exhibited in galleries? Any thoughts about street artists and graffiti writers showing in gallery settings?

Yes, I’ve exhibited in several shows, both solo and group. I don’t have a problem with street artists exhibiting in galleries. All artists need as much exposure and financial support as they can get. And I have only respect for artists who have moved onto the fine art world.

What about the corporate world? Any thoughts about that?

I have mixed feelings about it. Clearly not all corporations are evil. And, yes, I’ve worked with corporations. Corporate gigs, in fact, make it possible for me to survive as an artist. And why shouldn’t corporations support artists?

And do you work full-time as an artist?

Yes! From age 18 on, I was either teaching art or doing art.

Shawn-Bullen-mural

What inspires you these days?

I’m interested in exploring people’s ideas as to how we can save the world. I’m intent on uncovering solutions to problems that affect us all.

How has your artwork evolved in the past few years?

I think much more about concepts, and I continue to paint on a larger and larger scale.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

It’s up to each artist to decide his or her role. I see my role as making life better. I want use my art to make people feel better.  I would love to change someone’s life with my painting!

Shawn-Bullen-Boom+Boom

What’s ahead?

I want to paint! I’d like to create at least one piece of public art in every country in the world. And I’d love NYC to be my home base!

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos courtesy of Shawn Bullen, SHAWNBULLEN1@GMAIL.COM

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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