Jimmy Chen’s San Francisco

September 19, 2008

One of our featured artists for San Fran, Jimmy Chen utilizes cityscapes taken from the internet, manipulated and then re-presented through painting. Incorporating flat colors and muted tones to create a landscape that is strong in presence and presentation, Chen’s oils are an examination of vacancy in blues and black. He is represented by HANG gallery, and they have some samples of his work online. Before taking a tour of his neighborhood we discussed his process of removing people and automobiles from the photos he utilizes before translating the image to canvas. It’s an effective means to get to what is essential – which for Chen is the landscape itself – yet he manages to retain the sense that these are inhabited spaces as well. I discovered a similar approach later on when we met with painter Robert Olsen in LA.

Jimmy took us through the Potrero district and his pick of Phil’z coffee on 24th street was a real treat. Amongst the espressos , double frap half soy lattes and lemon twist mochas of the world, Phil’z specializes in single cup drip coffee. Drinking a coffee from this place is a very unique experience, and for those devoted to espresso should give this a try. Truly. We were surprised and amazed at how good it was.

Phil'z Coffee, San Francisco

Phil’z shares the neighborhood an assortment of businesses from cheap eats to high end fare. Of note within this area are a number of murals adorning the walls on a host of buildings and alleyways, creating a gallery of urban art inspired in part by the Latino tradition of mural painting. Cruise down 24th and you’ll be privy to a few of the more stand-out works on display.

Phil'z Coffee, San Francisco

From here we toured the Mission district and strolling up Valencia, visiting a few sights of interest. Jimmy took us to Spork, an spin on fast food with a decidedly slower, more quality oriented approach. We also stopped by 826 Valencia to look at pirate garb and give props to the back-room work these scribes do for the literary arts. Serving as a tutorial centre and independent publishing house, word is they can exist only if their operation has a retail component. Pirate stuff. Why not? This publishing house is franchised to a number of major cities too. The place and was alive with shoppers and readers. The arts are alive and well in the bay. So are parrots and peg legs. And eye patches.

All in all, Potrero, Mission and Valencia are areas which obviously offer a number of excellent shops to visit and avenues to stroll down within San Fran. The murals alone are worth doing a tour of the area.


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