“Travel broadens the mind.” Well I really hope that’s true! I had the chance to spend a few days in the Bay area, which gave me another opportunity to continue my favorite activity: urban exploration. As a European, it’s a bit risky to show my own vision of America’s urban environment, and express feelings that could be misunderstood. This time, I had the chance to be guided through San Francisco and Oakland by one of the most talented Canadian street artists, Troy Lovegates, based in San Francisco for the last 2 years, and so have my point of view challenged by an insider of the Bay Area art scene. We left SF for Oakland, went through West Oakland, playground of graffiti writers, reached downtown, with its big murals, passed by Athen B. gallery (where Lovegates was showing in a collaborative group exhibition with Zio Zegler, Jaz and EverSiempre), and ended up in Chinatown. I unfortunately do not have photos of Lovegates’ pieces, as his street art pieces are usually buffed or cleaned super fast. And he still has not had the opportunity to legally paint a wall in the Bay area. But he does not despair! Lovegates had to wait years before getting a wall in Montreal, and finally managed to paint 2 murals very late after he left Montreal for Toronto…
I was really amazed by Zio Zegler and Cannon Dill’s murals in Oakland (Zio Zegler’s murals are in some crazy locations too), happy, but not surprised at all, to see some big name murals in the Bay area like Os gemeos, How and Nosm, Ben Eine, Icy and Sot, Nychos, etc… as it is now common in big cultural capitals. Following Troy Lovegates’ advice, I made it to San Francisco’s Mission area, well known for its mural culture.
I usually try to move out of my comfort zone and look for more hidden street art, but taking an interest in street art means taking an interest in what is happening in the streets overall. The situation of homelessness in these parts is overwhelming. Not that this social problem does not exist in Europe, on the contrary, but center cities generally get “cleaned up”. That is not the case of San Francisco, yet. Also, when we were riding along the highway on the outskirts of West Oakland, Troy Lovegates made me notice the presence of several little huts intended for the homeless. Gregory Kloehn, an Oakland based artist, had the generous idea of building huts with material found on the streets, that are becoming precious temporary homes for people who desperately need real ones.
Thanks for the tour, Troy, and don’t forget to feed the birds.
Photos by Aline Mairet