There, but not really. That’s the context for Barcelona-born artist Jaume Plensa’s public sculptures. They might seem like intrusions. They’re large. They’re set where people congregate. And the figures themselves are huge monumental heads. They sit in business districts and in front of an art museum. They emerge from the ocean. They hover above unsuspecting pedestrians. They rest in the neighborhood that surrounds the Venice Biennale.
The on-going conversation about San Francisco’s transforming social landscape is one full of shared bitterness and tension. In a city where any given conversation begins with the baseline grievances of high rents, gutted arts programs and the overall influx of wealth and monopolizing industries, it’s no wonder people are frustrated. With that said, one nonprofit is hoping to make a positive impact. Art City, founded by former techie Luke Groesbeck, is a cultural establishment bent on retooling the perspective of San Francisco’s citizens by implementing a month-long public art program. Teaming up with local curators Tova Lobatz and Jenny Sharaf, Way Out West sets out to replace commercial advertising spaces with striking contemporary artworks.
Swiss artists Pablo Togni and Christian Rebecchi join forces for a variety of interdisciplinary art projects as NEVERCREW. The duo is known for their large scaled murals and public art initiatives that share common grounds with not only graffiti, but illustration and graphic design as well. Their integrative style explores the relationship between public space, the artwork and the viewer — the strong interaction among the elements creates a balanced whole.
Jeff Soto’s (HF Vol. 16 cover artist) enigmatic creations contain both friendly creatures and personifications of the forces of the Earth, balancing a sense of innocence with the suggestion of a deeper power below the surface. The otherworldly characters skip spryly through his canvases and murals, their bodies and limbs composed of bubbling mud, mighty tree trunks and light tufts of moss. The artist recently traveled to Bordeaux, France for a public art project for the Fête le Vin 2014. The Bernard Magrez Cultural Institute invited Soto as a special guest in partnership with Spacejunk, an urban art gallery with locations all over France. While he was in the area, Soto painted a large wall at Darwin, an interdisciplinary cultural center and co-working space focused on sustainability.
German urban artist Katharina Grosse doesn’t limit her vibrant artworks to a wall- she colors the world around her. Color is absolutely essential to her graffiti that covers buildings, mounds of dirt, and installations that evoke natural wonders like the Northern Lights. Her strokes don’t follow the contours of the chosen environment. They follow that of her own hand as she moves through the space, telling an abstract, emotional narrative. If it looks as though she hovered over the Earth with a spray gun, you would be right. Grosse’s process often involves dangerously leaning over scaffolding or being suspended from a crane. Throughout her career, her materials have varied from the conventional to unconventional; acrylic on canvas paintings and gallery walls to plastic and styrofoam alien-like formations. See more of her work after the jump.
San Francisco’s notoriously sky-high rents have made headlines in recent months, and the avant-garde mecca of yore is rapidly becoming a poster child for gentrification and income inequality. A testament to the city’s rapid transformation and out-with-the-old mentality, Brian Goggin’s site-specific installation “Defenestration” will be taken down from Hugo Hotel on June 3 to make way for the building’s demolition this fall. Seventeen years of display time is much longer than the artist expected when he created the piece with the help of 100 volunteers in 1997. The installation became a beloved landmark for San Francisco residents and many donors, including Banksy, have contributed to preserve the work.