Another San Fran artist, Paul Hayes, is primarily a sculpturist that currently favours working with organic materials. His installations combining paper and wood within flowing and chandelier like compositions are an acute study of nature represented through these manufactured materials. The work that we documented; since removed from the gallery window at the SF Art Commission Gallery, 155 Grove St. , was a great example of this process. The building apparently doesn’t allow for spectators to enter, so the front window itself was the viewing gallery, so people on the street could view the pieces from outside. It was interesting to overhear some of the comments made by passersby as we shot, and Paul confessed that when he was installing the piece that he enjoyed being incognito to overhear these little sound bites.

Despite the restrictions for viewers to go inside, we were able to get venture in and get inside the piece itself. It was a great vantage point and the buildings natural light through the ceiling windows provided for some dynamic visuals as the light reflecting off the paper created some interesting shadows and reflections. There was a great flow to the piece and once inside, we really got a sense of its movement and flow.

Before visiting his work at the commission we met up at the Alemany Flea Market, where Paul often finds some of the objects he uses in his installations. Trinkets abound: velvet paintings are stacked and an assortment of lively characters sell their wares. It’s a good place to start the day if you are interested in curios and possibly discovering something of value. Paul picked himself up a brass ball, a pair of welding goggles and a grade school book about fishes from the 1970. In that order.

We stayed in that area and took a stroll up Bernal Hill. Fantastic view. It gives one a pretty good vantage on point off the bay area in general. Do this. It’s free.

Golden Gate park was our next destination. We hung out with the other hanger-outs and Paul pointed out the tree where apparently Janis Joplin would climb up and sit inside the tree and pen her song writing. Paul obliged us and did same, sans song writing. Being 6 foot 5, this was quite a feat, and once up there, we imagined the requisite 60s style sunglasses and flower patterned headbands.

Next stop was the Botanical Gardens where Paul talked extensively about the connection between nature – and more specifically the visual patterns nature so often produces in plants, trees and other such things. There are number of exotic plants with exquisite detail, and trees from seemingly disparate backgrounds neighboring one another throughout. Of particular interest was the Japanese ‘moon viewing’ garden, which stood out for its formal design, finely manicured features, and small, friendly water fowl. There’s a nice little pagoda and overhanging tree within its midst too. The gardens overall offer a surprising array of species and spaces to experience and explore. Definitely great for a picnic. It’s bigger than Central Park too. Who knew?

We stopped in at the de Young museum too. One of San Francisco’s newest structures devoted to Contemporary Art. It’s a beautiful building. And the work inside isn’t too shoddy either.

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.