Tag Archives: safety first

There once was a garden here…

I was in my old hood the other day and passed a fenced in triangle of property at the intersection of 32nd and Union streets. I’ve driven or biked past this spot hundreds of times over the years.

It’s right in front of a couple loft developments, an older converted building called West Clawson Lofts (the building once housed the Clawson Elementary School ) and a newer development called Magnolia Row, built from scratch on the neighboring empty lots in the early 2000’s.

There once was a community garden installed in the small lot. I thought it was wonderful. I never knew who installed it there, but it existed for a year, maybe more, and consisted of raised vegetable beds surrounded by more ornamental flowering plants. One of the cool features was the reuse of old bicycle wheels (without the tires) along the chain link fence. They were used as trellising to encourage climbing plants (like morning glory) to obscure the ugly fence. I thought it was a lovely addition to the neighborhood.

But soon after it was established it was removed. My information is only hearsay so I can’t verify its validity, but someone told me that there was a dispute over the ownership of the lot and that, apparently, the rightful owner was intent upon installing a coffee stand/shop there.

I thought, well it’s a shame the garden is gone. But a coffee stand could be cool too.

It never came.

Years went by, and at one point it seemed promising as a small wood shack was erected inside the fence. But nothing ever followed.

And so for years, we West Oakland neighbors were deprived of our pretty little community garden, and instead, were left with a ramshackle hut inside a weed and litter strewn lot locked inside a chain-link fence. sigh.

empty lot west oakland, vacant lot art installation, west oakland graffiti

But recently some artists have taken measures to reclaim the lot, repurposing the walls of the hut as outdoor gallery space for their art. It currently houses a number of pieces but it looks like the bulk of it was jointly installed by a number of artists working collaboratively: Ras Terms, Dead Eyes, and Safety First included. I’m not sure about other participants.

Ras Terms, Safety First, Dead Eyes, Turnip, empty lot art

collaborative art installation, west oakland graffiti art, empty lot 32nd street

safety first graffiti art, safety first west oakland art

I hope more artists follow suit.

And who knows… maybe one day we could have our garden back too. A peaceful green space to sit and reflect upon the art…

Street Art ~ Modern Folk Art

Hey all… it’s a busy busy week.  Sorry no post yesterday, and today’s going to be a quickie!

I’ve got a few more  gallery stops to share from our Murmuring last Friday, but you’ll have to check back for those…

For now, a wheat paste we spotted on Broadway… a collaborative effort by four local street artists:  GATS, Ras Terms, Dead Eyes, and I’m not sure about the last guy… he does a lot of stickers proclaiming “Beer is Good”, a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.

ras terms, dead eyes, gats, graffiti against the system, broke

A couple of these guys’ works (and those by several more) will appear in a group show this Friday night at Basement Gallery, 7 – 10pm. 

Curated by local graffiti afficionado Endless Canvas, Deep Rooted Scribes is billed as “a look at modern cultural folk art.” Should be pretty cool…

Basement Gallery
1027 3rd Street
Oakland, CA 94607

courtesy of Ojos sin Vida's Flickr photostream

“the stylistic confides of lowbrow art…”

What exactly does this mean?

If you went to the Stand Tall exhibit at Old Crow Tattoo & Gallery on Grand Ave. last Friday night, you might have an idea, as that was the essence of their 20-plus artists show.

old crow tattoo, old crow gallery, art show old crow

stand tall, old crow tattoo, old crow art show, old crow gallery oakland

Featuring approximately 20 artists – some local, some not – I expected the show to be primarily graffiti aerosol art, but was surprised to find a much wider range of mediums and styles.

Stand Tall references the tall, but narrow, space that each artist had to work with. The two main gallery walls were each divided into 10 equal segments, 3 feet wide by 9 feet tall, providing 20 slim slates to be adorned however each artist saw fit. Some hung traditional canvases (easier for the out of town artists), some painted directly onto the wall, and some created elaborate mixed media installations incorporating, paint, wood, paper, found objects, smaller framed works, and more.

It was almost too much to take in. And while there wasn’t much cohesion between the individual artists’ pieces (everything from classic expressionism to modern graffiti lettering to flat abstract blocks of color to collaged interactive sculpture), the confines of their equally sized individual spaces marching repetitively along the walls did provide a layer of unity.

old crow tattoo & gallery, graffiti art show at old crow

old crow tattoo and gallery, art show at old crow oakland

old crow tattoo & gallery, stand tall art show, graffiti art show at old crow

stand tall art show, old crow gallery oakland

Several of the pieces were collaborative efforts. I was able to speak briefly with one of the artists, Dead Eyes, who had worked on one with his co-creator Safety First. He explained that collaboration is frequent in this genre, as local street artists are a close-knit group who all know each other and interact with each others’ work.

I asked how much of the collage was put together from already existing works. He said only a small percentage, and that about 80 percent was created originally for this show, focused on themes similar to those exhibited in their street art… visible throughout Oakland.

I also spoke briefly with Desi W.O.M.E. whose piece was one of my friend’s favorites. Though created within the span of a single day, and simple in layout – spray painted directly on the wall with no mixed media or multiple pieces – it was complex in its content. Layers of imagery overlap each other… a man’s face, seemingly in agony, an aztec-styled skull, a graffiti-writing mask over the two – all obscuring, revealing, and interacting with parts of each other. I don’t know what it means, but it seems… deep.

I could probably do a whole post on each of these panels, but you should just go check it out for yourself…
Show remains up until May 5th. I believe gallery hours are by appointment only.

PS – you can get tattoos there too. duh.