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San Francisco's Divisadero Street Is Covered In Art and Zines

Open Canvas is a traveling outdoor art exhibit curated by ABSOLUT. The first installment was in Brooklyn a few weeks back, and the second is happening right this second in San Francisco.
Κείμενο Sam Neise

Open Canvas is a traveling outdoor art exhibit curated by ABSOLUT. The first installment was in Brooklyn a few weeks back, and the second is happening right this second in San Francisco. A couple of weeks ago, when the opportunity to fly out to SF and cover the event on ABSOLUT's dime presented itself, I took it, as I tend to do when opportunities to go to fun places and/or events on other people's dimes present themselves, and so it was that last Saturday I found myself at the show's opening day.

I had never been to San Francisco, and although I had seen pictures and heard the rumors, I was not prepared for the reality of walking at an 89-degree angle everywhere I went. By the time I made it to the opening for the show, about a mile and a half from my hotel, my calf muscles felt like they had been stuffed with lonsdaleite. The first thing I noticed after getting to Divisadero street, where the Open Canvas was held, was an old man playing a harmonica like his entire existence depended on it. He furrowed his brow and danced in place as a crowd of onlookers gathered around him, wide-eyed.

I never caught his name, but if you’re ever in San Francisco and see this guy standing on the corner do yourself a favor and stop for a listen. He made Mad Cat look like an amateur.

As soon as Harmonica Guy quieted down the ABSOLUT PR lady gave us the skinny on why exactly we were all there. Following the same template as the Brooklyn event, Open Canvas SF began by painting the majority of the block of Divisadero street between Hayes and Grove white. According to the rep, “We worked with the community to get a bunch of the building facades, scaffolding, flower pots, and bike racks painted stark white, and each of the artists had total free reign to do whatever they wanted [within legal parameters], as long as it met their definition of being transformative or celebrating the future and creative risk-taking. Everything looks very different and unique because people could create whatever they wanted.”

Henry Taylor

Henry Taylor, who has had work featured in the Whitney, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and MoMA, to name a few, was set up inside a small garage-like space just feet away from the harmonica player. His exhibition, titled Henry’s Family Reunion, included members of his actual family just hanging out and shooting the shit. When I walked in he was painting a young woman’s portrait, and his other work hung on the walls around him. I think there was even some food on a fold-out card table in the middle of the room, and the whole thing had a comforting, familial vibe, which I guess was the idea, so job well done, Henry.

Lele Saveri, Citrus News

Walking out of Henry’s garage and hanging a right on Divisadero, I stumbled upon photographer, artist, and frequent VICE contributor Lele Saveri’s Open Canvas contribution, Citrus News. Much like his “Newsstand” in New York, which we spoke to him about a couple of weeks ago and did an in-depth report on, Citrus News is a zine store in disguise. Lele told me when he was approached about creating a pop-up store in San Francisco, he “decided to do an installation that's more inspired by what was around here. In San Francisco there's not anything similar to what I was doing in New York, and I wanted to do something that had more of a market feel, like a fruit stand with more of a Mexican type of feel. That's why I put more coloring in this one—I was trying to make it more playful.” Lele’s stand, which will be on Divisadero until the end of this weekend, features zines from local San Francisco shops, as well as local collectives like Hamburger Eyes and Colpa Press. The stand will be constantly updated with new zines, so if you’re a fan of neat printed things, I’d recommend stopping by more than once.

These are Chuck's sweet spring-loaded shoes. Chuck is some guy who walked up to Lele's stand while we were chatting quite literally with a spring in his step. When we asked him about his shoes, he started talking excitedly and at-length about how great they were and why we should all get them. I have to say, they did look like the most comfortable shoes I've ever seen.

Chuck was telling everyone who would listen about how great his shoes were. He said he had been a nurse for years and these bad boys were a godsend for a guy who had spent much of his professional life on his feet. He also said that for every ten people who say "Chuck sent me" while buying shoes from these guys, he gets a free pair. Chuck made that very clear. So go buy a pair of these things and help Chuck at the same time. You're welcome, Chuck.

Michael Krouse, 1 Big Tree, 1000 Little Trees.

Catty-corner from the fruit stand and Chuck is Michael Krouse’s installation, 1 Big Tree, 1000 Little Trees. Walking up to it I was hit with the smell of pine-scented air fresheners like a brick covered in pine-scented air fresheners. Michael’s contribution to Open Canvas is true to its title, in that he has hung 1000 tree-shaped air fresheners in one large tree.

Krouse, trying not to kill himself while hanging air fresheners in a tree.

If you have an air freshener nearby, stick it up your nose while you’re looking at the two images above and it’ll be just like you were there. Michael is a San Francisco local and heavily involved in the city’s art scene. He’s an organizer in the Divisadero Summer Art Walk, which took place the week before Open Canvas.

Tofer Chin, 3 Stalagmites (White). Photo courtesy Tofer Chin.

Tofer Chin had one of the most visually striking installations, painting the side of a building with 3-D-looking pyramids and capping them off on the roof with three “stalagmites.” Those bizarre stalagmites have become something of a recurring theme in Tofer’s work, so I asked him why he’s so obsessed with them. “My obsession with stalagmites comes from my first visit to Bryce Canyon as a kid, and definitely from the original MAGIC ROCKS: Instant Crystal™ Growing Kit,” he said. “With my geometric interpretation of stalagmites, they've become living and breathing souls, ghosts, spirits, voids, shadows.” In the past, Tofer has created his stalagmites in both 2-D and 3-D, but he had never combined them.

“What's extra special about this mural,” he told me, “Is the 3-D element. I've made 2-D paintings where the stalagmites appear to be popping off the surface and I've made sculptural installations indoors and outdoors with my stalagmite forms, but this is the first time I've had the opportunity to combine a 2-dimensional painting seamlessly with 3-dimensional elements.”

When all was said and done over 18 artists had contributed their work to the block. In addition to the installations, there will be events surrounding the artwork. Last night Dent May, DJ Craze, DJ Miss Ninja, and DJ Marija Dunn performed at the Independent, and as with everything having to do with Open Canvas, it cost zero dollars to get in.

Divisadero street will remain infested with non-sucky street art throughout the weekend, so if you are in the San Francisco area it’d be worth your time to take a trip down there. I’ll leave you with a few other images I snapped while gawking around last weekend, but keep in mind a few new things have probably popped up, as this was an ongoing project, morphing around like an aesthetically pleasing blob throughout the week.

David Benjamin Sherry, Winter Storm in Zion Canyon, Zion, Utah

Henry Taylor

Henry Taylor


Jesse Willenbring and Darren Bader, JWDB _ 24/08/2013

Matthew McGrath, Hortus Conclusus