Category Archives: political art

Get Your Black History Month On…

black history month quotes

There’s just one week left. So if you haven’t yet done something to honor our black brothers and sisters of Oakland, here are a slew of diverse and interesting options to choose from this weekend…

Friday – 2/21

  • African American Heritage through Storytelling (2pm)

    Kirk Waller is a storyteller who utilizes his musicality, physicality, emotion and spoken word to convey a wide array of African and African American Folktales, Stories and Legends. Fun for the whole family.
    Oakland Public Library, Main Branch 125 14th St., Oakland 510-238-3134

  • Blackball Universe: Black Minus Afrika (7pm – 12am)

    Black Minus Afrika is an exhibition that takes a look at modern perceptions of Africa as well as contemporary notions of ‘Blackness’. The exhibit features art by Oakland-based artist Gathinji Mbire, among many others, and runs through the end of March. This reception is FREE and open to the public and will feature refreshments and music by Fantastic Negrito.
    Blackball Universe – 230 Madison St., Oakland 94607

Saturday – 2/22

  • Black History Month Walking Tour (10am – 12pm)

    FREE downtown walking tours highlighting African-American leaders who helped shape present-day Oakland. Learn how Lionel Wilson, Delilah Beasley and Marcus Foster changed the city and the Bay Area. Simply meet at AAMLO shortly before 10am to participate.
    African American Museum and Library at Oakland – 659 14th St.
    510-238-3234  www.oaklandnet.com

  • The 18th Annual Art of Living Black Exhibition (12pm – 6pm)

    Bay Area Black Artists Exhibition and Self-Guided Art Tour features emerging, mid-career and established artists of African American descent from the San Francisco Bay Area. FREE and open to the public.
    American Steel Studios: 1960 Mandela Parkway, Oakland 94607

  • Black Vines: A Toast to Black Wineries & Diverse Art (1pm – 4pm)

    The third annual celebration of art, culture, and wine, bringing together African American artists and vintners. Tickets presale $30; door $40 purchase tickets here
    Betti Ono Gallery – 1427 Broadway, Oakland 94612

    African American Heritage through Storytelling (2pm)

    Kirk Waller is a storyteller who utilizes his musicality, physicality, emotion and spoken word to convey a wide array of African and African American Folktales, Stories and Legends. Fun for the whole family.
    Oakland Public Library, Montclair Branch 1687 Mountain Blvd., Oakland 510-482-7810

  • Blackball Universe: Black Minus Afrika (7pm – 12am)

    Black Minus Afrika is an exhibition that takes a look at modern perceptions of Africa as well as contemporary notions of ‘Blackness’. The exhibit features art by Oakland-based artist Gathinji Mbire, among many others, and runs through the end of March. This reception is FREE and open to the public and will feature refreshments and music by Fantastic Negrito.
    Blackball Universe – 230 Madison St., Oakland 94607

Sunday 2/23

  • The 18th Annual Art of Living Black Exhibition (12pm – 6pm)

    Bay Area Black Artists Exhibition and Self-Guided Art Tour features emerging, mid-career and established artists of African American descent from the San Francisco Bay Area. FREE and open to the public.
    American Steel Studios: 1960 Mandela Parkway, Oakland 94607

  • Freedom Songs: Valerie Troutt, Amy Lacour, Tiffany Austin & Kimiko Joy (6:30pm – 8:30pm)

    Four Bay Area vocalists in the round featuring selections from the traditions of gospel, spiritual, folk, and soul. 6pm doors, $10-15 suggested donation
    2013 Studio Grand – 3234 Grand Avenue, Oakland 94610

TONIGHT: Art & Wine Gallery Night with Friends of OAM

Fun event tonight at two very cool uptown galleries, Classic Cars West and Warehouse 416. I’ve written about both in previous posts, which I’ll link at the bottom…

Tonight is a fundraiser and membership drive for Friends of OAM. Tickets are $15 for the individual event. Or with the purchase of an annual membership of $50, you get free admission tonight and to all other quarterly gallery nights such as this one. Your contribution is tax-deductible and supports an organization doing great work in our city.

Friends of OAM work to “support the Oakland Art Murmur in its mission to increase awareness of and participation in the visual arts in Oakland.”

Classic Cars West is hosting Passage by Night, a unique installation of work by collaborative team Isaac Amala and Liz Simpson, featuring sculptural and painterly constructions from neckties.

And Warehouse 416 presents In Search of Sheba: Black Women Artists 2014 in honor of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March). Numerous artists’ works in a variety of mediums (sculpture, painting, textile fashion, video, photography, pen & ink, and découpage) will be featured.

Hope to see you there…

FOAM-gallery-night

Historical posts:

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Colin David Harris discusses AHC’s new mural in West Oakland

AHC mural, west oakland mural, san pablo mural, super heroes mural

A wonderful new mural is gracing the underpass of the 580 freeway at San Pablo in West Oakland.  I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times I must have driven past this previously blank stretch of concrete in my 10 years of living in West Oakland. I always thought… Man, it’s too bad there isn’t something fabulous painted there. I even dreamt up various artistic scenarios, but they stayed firmly planted in my brain and never made their way into fruition in the real world.  Until now.

Organized and implemented by Attitudinal Healing Connection, Inc. (AHC) – an organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by breaking the cycle of violence, through platforms for creative expression and communication for children, youth, adults and families – the piece is part of the Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project, slated to produce 5 more murals in this stretch of West Oakland adjacent to Emeryville.  I can say from personal experience, this neighborhood could use a little love, and I’m thrilled about the prospect of transforming a somewhat bleak stretch through art filled with positive messages of vibrant community.  If you feel the same way, please help by support the project.  Donations are needed but there are other ways to get involved as well.

Lots has already been written about this project – I am a bit late to the game as usual (damn that day job!), so I’m not going to try to encapsulate everything you could possibly want to know.  Rather I’ll let one of the artists, Colin David Harris, share his experience of involvement through our conversation below, and I’ll include some links at the end to other relevant posts.

west oakland san pablo mural, AHC mural

ARTIST INTERVIEW with Colin David Harris

* How did you get involved in the project?  Did you respond to the Call for Artists put out by the organizing entity, Attitudinal Healing Center (AHC) in Oakland?

I am one of the Art Esteem Instructors that work for the Attitudinal Healing Connection, teaching art enrichment classes during school hours to K-8 students throughout Oakland. I applied for the mural project through them along with two other teachers, and was one of about 12 artists that came together to work on the project.

* I understand AHC orchestrated much of the design work with local middle & high school students.  Were you involved at all in this stage?

I was not involved with the students at McClymonds High School where the students helped to design the mural but was teaching at West Oakland Middle School  in the hopes of working towards another mural concept.  Amana Harris, the director of Art Esteem, worked with the high school students in conjunction with Aaron De La Cruz and lead artist David Burke. (more on these three lead artists)

* Can you talk about the experience of either having input into the design, or working towards executing someone else’s design, depending on answer to previous question?

The design was already complete once the painters were brought into the mix but David Burke worked very well with the crew and had the concept and reference imagery down.  It was a very pleasant experience being able to just paint the students vision and not have to focus on my own.

california hotel, oakland california hotel

* I see from your own blog that you work with all kinds of artistic mediums… mixed media, sculpture, printmaking, painting, etc.  Had you ever worked on a large scale mural before?  If so, how was this experience different (or similar) to previous experiences you had?

I have.  In 2006 I was commissioned by the Hospice to paint a mural in the morgue of Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco.  This was a very solitary and long mural process but extremely rewarding for me personally and professionally.  As an art instructor I have also painted murals at three elementary schools in Oakland through the AHC.  These were large scale murals and at Santa Fe Elementary school Ryan Martin and I installed 12 murals that were composed of hundreds of one by one foot wooden tiles that we mounted onto the walls all around the school.   The mural on San Pablo Ave. is the largest piece that I have worked on so far.

* What made you want to be involved in this project?

I wanted to be apart of this project to work with a team of artists, and to be apart of such a large scale work that will affect the community so directly.  For 2 years I lived on San Pablo ave. and on 34th st. close to where the mural is located.  I have worked at various schools in the neighborhood,  and done a few steel installations as well.  I have a strong desire to add as much joy and beauty to the neighborhood as possible, there are way too many dreary buildings with huge blank walls around not to!  It would be great to see West Oakland looking like the mission district in San Francisco in the next five years.

AHC mural, Art Esteem

* How many other artists were involved and how did you all work together?  Did any of the middle & high school students who worked on the design also paint?

There were about twelve other artists working on this project including an additional six volunteers and high school students that painted throughout.  David Burke was the lead artist and he really spent a lot of time orchestrating how we would all work together.  Every day we had to assemble and disassemble the scaffolding and store it at the AHC, it was time consuming but everyone did their part.

* Can you talk about the difference, to you personally, between working on a collaborative project like this versus an artistic project you would work on solely as an individual artist?  And the difference between working on a public street project versus something that might only be seen in a gallery?

I love working collaboratively with other artists though most of my work has been done alone.  I have found that to be the main downside as an artist is that you are forced to work in a solitary environment the majority of the time.  While I enjoy solitude more than most I also find that there is more of a spontaneous playfulness that happens when working with others. It was amazing working with this group of painters, all doing our part to complete the massive undertaking. I have often gravitated more towards playing music because of this sense of connection and try to balance between music and fine art as much as possible.

Lindsey Millikan, Rafasz

* My understanding is the goal of the project (and the continued mural series – 5 more are to be painted in the next 3 years) is to “revitalize, beautify, uplift, positively transform and bring hope to the West Oakland/Emeryville area.”  What are your thoughts about art and its power to transform?

Art has an amazing power to heal, uplift, and shine a light of hope in dark dreary places of the mind.  I have seen people whose self image is as negative as you can imagine, find a creative voice for the first time, and in an instant their reality changes.  Most people are discouraged from pursuing creative options as a career by their parents and the school system, and suffer through numerous failings in life because they can’t easily integrate into the system. Art or any form of creative expression for that matter can transform lives, instill confidence and change how someone perceives the world around them, from a locked door to an open and inviting place of self discovery.  In underserved communities such as West Oakland it can really make a difference in presenting positive outlets for the youth and positive changes to the visual landscape that negatively affect peoples psyches over time.   Murals such as this can, if nothing else, at least brighten up someones day for the 5 minutes they walk past that before was just another 5 possibly miserable minutes through the same old concrete jungle.

Peace and Freedom, Darius Varize, Antonio Ramos

* Over how long of a period did the actual painting take place?  And did you receive any kind of feedback from local neighborhood folks and random passerbys while painting?

The painting of the mural took place over 18 days of straight painting from early in the morning to 5pm every day.  Very few painters worked that entire time but it was still a breakneck schedule that got the job done.  The feedback we received was overwhelming from the constant deafening horns and thankful exaltations to the many pedestrians that personally thanked us and talked to us during the whole process.  There was a very obvious powerful change in the energy under the freeway and it was great to be a part of that shift. It was truly an amazing experience.

* OHA’s website mentions that they surveyed residents of the local neighborhood to describe positive & negative aspects of the neighborhood, as well as their hopes and dreams for the community and future public art pieces.  How important is this step to the process?

I would say that this is a very important step in the process. It isn’t as meaningful to fill a neighborhood with outsiders’ ideas of beautification.  Not to say that people from outside the community can’t have input and create  public art pieces, but to really raise the community up and instill a sense of pride and unity it’s best to have as much input and participation from the people in the neighborhood as possible.

Shaina Yang, Amana Harris

* The mural actually reminds me of a much older mural on San Pablo that I featured on my blog (https://oaktownart.com/2010/04/22/street-tattoo-mural-san-pablo/) in that it depicts positive scenes of an engaged and diverse community.  My understanding is the older mural featured real persons and that the images were fashioned together from photographs.  Does the new mural feature “real” people?  Any thoughts on similarities or differences between the two?

The Mural does feature real people.  Many of the people depicted are students at McClymonds that posed for the images.  There is also a historical aspect involved near the far left of the mural there are Blues and Jazz musicians painted who actually played at the California Hotel next door and other venues in the area back in the day.  They also used real houses from the neighborhood in the painting too.

* Lastly, what’s your favorite color?

Blue

mural designed by high school students, McClymonds High School

For more info…

Oakland Mural Project Press

Colin David Harris’s blog post: The West Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project

Our Oakland’s blog post: New mural adorns Oakland underpass

Art Esteem, self-awareness, mindfulness and compassion

Hope

Today I am feeling hopeful.  More hopeful.  Perhaps it’s because my car’s driver-side door lock miraculously fixed itself after a few annoyingly troublesome weeks.  Perhaps it’s because the Supreme Court handed down some good decisions this week.  Perhaps it’s because I have a three day weekend ahead of me and summer is here and it’s Friday afternoon and I have a cool beer waiting in my fridge for me. Or maybe it’s just my own conscious decision to embrace optimism.

Whatever the case, I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile.  It’s a sweet little installation.  Wish I had posted it before it got tagged…

Have a great weekend y’all!

oakland mural, hope mural, 14th avenue mural
bird mural, hope mural, 14th avenue oakland

Art Murmur is cool. And it’s tonight.

Here are some shots from my last Art Murmur back in March.   Yes, March.  I know.  I’m lame.

In any case, this weekend is a big one for ART.  Art Murmur, East Bay Open Studios, the Temescal Art Hop and more…  Maybe I can redeem myself by cramming!  And actually tending to this blog for a bit.

Who’s in?

We came upon this gorgeous mural somewhere on 26th street. I think we were next to Uptown Body & Fender, or maybe this was part of Uptown Body & Fender… I’m not quite sure. But there was this incredible mural, which looks to me like a collaborative effort. I recognize the work of thomas christopher haag (I have shots of some of his other murals I’ve yet to post). I love his fantastical creatures and use of geometric building blocks that remind me of Chuck Close crossed with Piet Mondrian. Or something like that.


I love the diá de los muertos skull above, and the incredible four-eyed face below. I’m too square to read the tags on the mural, so if anyone knows who else contributed to this, please send some info…

oakland mural, thomas christopher haag, uptown mural
oakland mural, thomas christopher haag, uptown mural
Then of course there were the fancy cars…
vintage cars, uptown body & fender
vintage cars, uptown body & fender
And a nice Eddie Colla piece I hadn’t seen before.
eddie colla, like a sieve, vintage car, little red corvette
And lastly, the preamble from the Declaration of Independence, which begins, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”
declaration of independence, preamble, right to revolution, despotism, we hold these truths to be self evident
And ends with “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Deep.

Intro to Mosiacs – here we go…

In addition to being a gorgeous mosaic with which to kick off my Mosaics Series, this also seems a particularly fitting image for this Monday morning news cycle (Bin Laden is Dead)… Call me naive (or idealistic) but it’s hard to stomach people cheering over killing (even if the person killed was a really bad guy).

peaceful streets, guns into art, peace dove with broken gun, peace dove mosaic

I spotted this piece on the front of St. Elizabeth’s Church, which dates back to the late 1800’s, in the Fruitvale district of Oakland. It caught my eye both for its traditional mosaic technique (small shapes of colored glass arranged to portray something pictorial) and also for its more contemporary aspect (the inclusion of a real handgun, broken into pieces).

The piece was produced by the group Guns Into Art, based in San Francisco. In addition to working with local communities on violence prevention through youth classes and community events, often near the site of a gun-related death, the group actually encourages residents to turn in their guns to be fashioned into art, “transforming the negative power of violence into a positive, lasting memory.”

The gun included in the mosaic above is a 9mm Berreta pistol (the same pistol used by the U.S. Military, according to Guns Into Art). The mosaic is part of a series of gun related art at St. Elizabeth’s, coordinated by local resident Miguel Angel Sandoval who became involved with the Guns Into Art program after a friend was killed in a drive by shooting.

Much much more about mosaics coming in the next several posts… with lots of stunning Oaktown examples.  Please stay tuned.

“Art in the Streets” – LA Style

zebra muralI took a quick jaunt to LA this week; the trip just happened to coincide with the opening of a much ballyhooed exhibit at MOCA – what was to be “a groundbreaking exhibition of street art, the most ambitious show of its kind ever mounted in the United States.” So of course, I went!

My girlfriend and I went to the members-only opening Saturday night amidst a buzz of press and paparazzi – the line for them nearly as long as the line for new members, both of which were dwarfed by the queue for existing members with invitations. As we all waited to get in to the Geffen Contemporary (a 40,000 square foot former police car warehouse in Little Tokyo renovated by the noted California architect Frank O. Gehry, and one of three museums housed under the umbrella of MOCA), the first piece of the exhibit, itself a whirlwind of controversy, loomed large above the crowd.

You can read all about it in the LA Weekly’s “Street Art at MOCA” by Shelley Leopold, but I will summarize… the director of MOCA, Jeffrey Deitch, was tasked with the challenge of boosting new membership to the flailing museum. One idea he had was to showcase the cutting edge world of street art, and to open the show with a bang, he commissioned the Italian muralist Blu to make the entire north wall of the Geffen Contemporary his canvas. Unfortunately, what Blu chose to paint (controversial imagery of coffins draped with money) was deemed inappropriate and was later painted over by Lee Quinones along with “a handpicked contingency of dudes”, producing a native American tribute titled We the People. I actually didn’t even see this mural as it was on the backside of the building.

Lee Quinones, MOCA Street Art, coffins draped with dollars

photo right by LindsayT on Flickr

Instead our introduction to the show was the piece below… a tribute to the innovative graffiti artist BLADE. Here’s an interesting blogpost by the artist commissioned to do the piece… (Blade Tribute at the MOCA).

Jersey Joe Art, Blade Tribute, Freedom sketch for Blade Tribute

The show was quite good, although I definitely had problems with several of the installations that attempted to replicate street environments inside the museum. One in particular was a movie-set-like construction of a back alleyway, dimly lit, strewn with trash, complete with a live character hobo huddling in the corner. I don’t know if this was the actual artist having a bit of fun, or just another out of work LA actor taking any gig he could get, but either way… it was just too damn contrived.

The show comprised over 50 artists’ works over the last few decades (including early visionaries like Jean-Michel Basquiat & Keith Haring to more contemporaries like Shepard Fairey, Os Gemeos, and even Banksy), and focused on “key cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and Sao Paulo, where a unique visual language or attitude has evolved.” You can see a complete list of artists here.

I didn’t take that many pictures because there was so much art to try and take in, it was a little overwhelming, but here are a few…

Geffen Contemporary, Street Art, Los Angeles

Roa rabbit, ROA bird, MOCA street art

ROA

stelios, street art, stelios mural

Stelios

shepard fairey, obey giant, shepard fairey installation moca

Me shooting everyone shooting Shepard Fairey

os gemeos installation, os gemeos street art, os gemeos moca

The Os Gemeos installation was huge and included instruments for the crowd to play - I played the drums! (but not as well as this 10 year old boy)

Os Gemeos at MOCA, Os Gemeos LA installation

Os Gemeos

swoon paper installation, swoon installation moca

Paper installation by Swoon

MOCA Geffen Contemporary, street art exhibit los angelesMOCA los angeles, art in the streets

If you can get down to Los Angeles in the next few months, this show will be up through August 8th.