Photo Feature: ABSOLUT Open Canvas: San Francisco

by Admin on 08/27/2013

Last Saturday, Divisadero Street between Grove and Hayes, perhaps most well known for its nearby towering Victorian homes and Alamo Square Historic District, celebrated contemporary art, artists and the community around it. ABSOLUT Vodka’s Open Canvas project chose nineteen artists, including both local and national artists and one a local sweepstakes winner, to creatively (and temporarily) transform each side of the block. The sunny afternoon launch was not about the finished artwork, but about inviting the public into the artistic process, and seeing the artists at work. As the second city involved in Open Canvas (the first was in Brooklyn, New York), San Francisco provided a spirited and inspirational chapter this ambitious project.

At Divisadero Street’s old Harding Theater, three artists were invited to complete public works, and each one performed their craft uniquely. Emerging local artist Jenny Sharaf, the winner of the ABSOLUT sweepstakes, was given a prime location to install artwork at the base of the theater.  Femmescape #22 continues the artist’s exploration into the mythology and reality of the California Blonde archetype seen in media, literature, and pop culture. Above Sharaf’s installation, David Benjamin Sherry’s cerulean-tinted photograph, Winter Storm in Zion Canyon, Zion Utah re-injects  the sublime into familiar, natural environments, transforming it into a dreamlike landscape. Oakland artist Alicia McCarthy’s abstract mural alongside Sharaf and below Sherry provides an abstracted foil to the figurative work that surrounds. McCarthy’s  deep roots in San Francisco, most widely known for her inclusion in the well-known Mission School, paired with emerging local artist Sharaf and Los Angeles-based artist Sherry also pleasantly unites artists of disparate backgrounds into one project.

Across the street, San Francisco-based artist Joe Roberts created The Edge of Magic, a colorful mural of some jungle-like environment using his animation-style imagery and a wide range of media: pencil on paper drawings, collage, paint, and aerosol.  Says ABSOLUT: “Joe often uses cultural iconography to trigger viewers’ nostalgia for adolescence, building upon formative memories to create more self aware, often macabre, themes.” Above Roberts’ mural,  3 Stalagmites (White) made by Los Angeles artist Tofer Chin plays with the architecture of our Victorian, turn of the century building by painting them vibrant colors, and adding simply geometric appendages to the roof that alter the building’s outlines. At the other side of Divisadero, internatioanlly acclaimed Polish artist Olek transforms another bare wall space at the other end of the street with her intriguing crochet creation,  Money Won’t Love You Back in her unique, camouflage style. In addition to her wall piece, she created mannequins donned in crochet body suits that dot the sidewalk alongside Harding Theatre and above buildings, hugging lampposts. It is said Olek uses this medium as a metaphor for the at times complex interconnectedness of our body and psychological selves.

San Francisco artist Mathew McGrath and Los Angeles artist Brian Sharp worked alongside each other at Alouis’ Radiators and Air Conditioning. McGrath’s wall of plants transforms the foreboding space, as he organizes the plants inside barred windows, retaining their utility but disguising the necessity. These beautiful objects not only transform the space, but challenge the viewers’ preconceptions of the confluence of natural and urban environments. Sharp’s unassuming yellow diamonds distort perception with optics and color to create a space that is constantly in a visual flux. Michael Krouse, owner of the Madrone Art Bar and a major leader in the Divisadero Art Walk, contributed a humorous but thought-provoking installation,  1 Big Tree, 1000 Little Trees, where he installed thousands of the well-known tree-shaped air fresheners (the larger ones he made himself) into a tree that lines the sidewalk. His clever appropriation of the popular object as a universal symbol of the meeting of artificiality and the natural simply but boldly explores the relationships between humans and the urban environment with nature.

Many more incredibly talented local and national artists are included in this massive installation project. Grab a free map at 1305 Grove Street before taking the stroll, or check it out online (21+ site). Open Canvas is on view to the public along the 600 block of Divisadero Street through September 1st.