The Allure of Street Art

The Allure of Street Art

Abstract

This project discusses various pieces of street art from four cities of California: Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles. Street art is often specific to the region it is in, as it can be a means through which the community expresses their culture or shared beliefs. Street art often makes political or cultural statements that are on display for both members of the community, as well as for those that come to visit or view. Street art also is a way for people to honor members of their community who have passed, and it often memorializes their political voices. Street artists create the allure of expression; in today’s world they draw the attention of the public in order to make their point, often taking political stances or contributing to their communities’ stories.

Sacramento

In the state’s capitol there is street art to be found everywhere. Some of the city’s most notable street art has been done through annual public art displays held by an organization called Wide-Open Walls. They believe that having diverse artist create public art all around Sacramento in order to reach a wide range of individuals, whether through their tour or walking around the city. “The Sacramento Mural Festival was first conceived as an idea to activate spaces in alleyways and buildings throughout Sacramento” (Wide Open Walls). The city has allowed for artists to create murals to with the goal of filling the city with art work that tells a story of the community or to create an impact on a political level. Street art is often thrown into the same category as graffiti a more rebellious act. But street art itself is a form of expression, that allows the community to tell their story.

Stephon Clark

Stephon Clark was a student at Sacramento High; he played football and wanted to become a psychologist. He would tell his friends and family to call him Zoe, short for Alonzo, his middle name. On March 18, 2018, Stephon was shot by police twenty times in his back. They were responding to reports of a man breaking car windows. Seconds after officers confronted him in his grandmother’s backyard, he was dead. Police had mistaken his cellphone for a gun. There are several murals in the city that pay respect to Zoe and protest police brutality. This mural can be found at Improv Alley between 7th and 8th Street in Downtown Sacramento. 

“His death sparked  massive protests that have shut down freeways, and delayed NBA games and captured worldwide attention”(Egel).

This image is found on 2331 S street in poverty Ridge depicts Stephon Clark fading out next to a monarch butterfly symbolizing the next phase, with the word justice at the bottom. This portrait was painted by@hightech_lowlife and Stephon’s name was created by @pettycrimes.

 

The words Few and Far were painted by artist @memersweetsand the SOS below was created by @auroraloveofficial. The message below in white writes, “stop killing us”. This describes the tension Sacramento was feeling with a direct message to its city officials.

@fewandfaewomen @leaveyourmark

@A.J.KUTE

Art work by @bhang1, @leaveswell, @shaunburner, @ewfrank, @trustyourstrugglecollective.

Collaborative inpute @artbyaliyah and @brndn_alexndr #amplifymelanatedvoices

These three murals are located on J and 10th street in downtown Sacramento CA.

midtown Sacramento

Local artists created powerful murals down J Street, posted on store fronts a block from the capital. The murals feature a Malcolm X quote on how the media is biased and reinforces narratives that aim to demonize and shut down social movements. Each section captures a different point of view that media tends to cover instead of the larger social context of widespread police brutality.

@ursulaxyoung @fewandfarwomen

@dj_agana @fewandfarwomen

@miss_moth_design @fewandfarwomen

@ladimenua @fewandfarwomen

 These images are located on 24th and S Streets in Sacramento, CA. All photos credited @fewandfarwomen, which is an organization called Few and Far, Inc., Est. 2011, their motto is “Women refining the art of the streets.”  They are an international crew of street artists, graffiti writers, activists, and skaters.

The city of Oakland has a community Rejuvenation project, which “cultivates healthy communities through beautification, education, and celebration” (Murals). Their goal is beautifying Oakland with their bright murals and create a sense of community through their art. Much of the street art around Oakland captures life in the bay area and through its social justice pieces can be found around the city providing a bit of history. A lot of the recent murals around the city were created in the summer 2020 right after the murder of George Floyd. Artist gathered together to create murals that would help bring the message of unity to the public. 

 

"This is how we protest. This is how we know how to give radical love for the black communities whose liberation is directly tied to ours, acknowledging that their fight paved for us to be here to fight" - Cece Carpio

This mural, located in Oakland, was organized by @cececarpio. She is responsible for assisting on several murals in Oakland, CA. In her post on her instagram page, Carpio includes @samasamacooperative, @theletterthi @bali, @pmbarong

This mural was organized by artist @cececarpio, who in her Instagram post explained the process of organizing with friends to form solidarity in different parts of downtown Oakland, CA. She explains in this account, how street art allows for the freedom of expression, and  education on the oppression that is taking place. It also directly informs members of their community that they are not alone with the public displays. In her post she attaches the group of artists and organizers who helped create this mural and many others found on her page: @lileli82, @twinwallsmuralcompany, @michopowong, @withoutmyego, @agentdecoy, @cytsidi, @set_x, @robert_tres, @trustyourstrugglecollective, @panchopescador, @misterbouncer, @c.gazaleh, @the_letter_thi@nisha.k.sethi, @eightbirdz

 

This piece was done by the @illuminaries, in downtown Oakland in front of @tribunetavern. It depicts a black panther, likely with respect to Oakland being the founding place of the Black Panthers. @jonathandelong @cpastena @hugeinc.

"Justice is what love looks like in public"-@cornell west

This image is located in downtown Oakland, CA. It stands for solidarity and demanding justice for black and brown lives. @cececarpio @cornell_west

 

"A world where we don't fear the people sworn to protect us" - @deredwrk

 

This image is located in downtown Oakland, CA, by @deredwrk. He and a team of organizers set up murals of George Floyd all around the town during June 2020. George Perry Floyd Jr. was an African American man killed during an arrest after a store clerk alleged that Floyd had passed a counterfeit $20 bill in Minneapolis. A white police officer named Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for a period initially reported to be 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd made headlines all around the world as the man who was murdered by police brutality.

 

 

Many San Francisco locals would say the “Real” street art lies deep within the city, in the Mission District. One of the places with the most art is on Valencia, and between 17th and 18th Streets there is an alleyway called Clarion Alley. This path holds rich pieces of artwork that depict many cultural and political images and phrases that reflect the ideologies of the area’s historically predominant Latino community. Another example is Balmy Alley, a long block full of art, also in the Mission. The murals began to appear in the 80’s as artists used the space to express their outrage for the lack of human rights. The murals are constantly changing; as the state of the community changes, the cultural, political, and historical statements made in these works of art reflect these changes. These works capture the history and culture of the community and are part of the allure of the Mission District, attracting visitors in ways similar to how some people flock to exhibits in museums.

"I believe in my heart no one wants to be the one to unjustly kill another man, I believe that. but at the end of the day…the problem exists that police brutality is out of control. " @bip_graffiti

This mural in San Francisco California is by @bip_graffiti In his Instagram account he states. “I carried this piece in the back of my head for years. I kept practicing putting an adult expression on a child not really able to nail it, until I understood the image itself was about contrast and internal disagreement. when I made that understanding, I threw my old color studies and rebuilt the painting out of direct contrasts to echo that confliction”. @montana_colors, @atlas_prop_group, @swinstagessystens, @maximizevideo 

Hospitality House

This mural was created by @hospitalityhouse in Clarion Alley in 2016. Their message is “everyone deserves a healthy and safe community” -@clarionalleymuralproject. Murals like these create community awareness of programs set up by the city in order to help the people of San Francisco.

Culture Contains the Seed of Resistance

This mural contains a portrait of Silvio Rodriguez on the guitar; he is a Cuban musician and arguably one of Latin America’s greatest singer-songwriters. This piece lies in the middle of Balmy Alley in an area that is constantly changing due to gentrification. Many of the ever-changing murals depict cultural symbols that allow communities of color to relate and feel a connection to the city. Balmy Alley is located off of 24th Street in The Mission. It is parallel to Treat Ave and Harrison Street between 24th & 25th streets.

Justice

This piece is by @cleoff_le_baron. He has created beautiful murals for Clarion Alley in the past. This mural was defaced at least eleven times with hate crime vandalism, yet the artist returns to clean it up and makes sure his mural still stands.  The murals in Clarion Alley are created by multiple artists who own the space; the artists themselves can decide to change what is displayed or allow another artist to express themselves using their spot. The artist goes on to credit @pleasantstuff, @lulu_tower, @ashrose, for making this project  come together and possible.

 

This mural is located in Mission District down Balmy Alley. The mural is a religious depiction of the Virgin Mary next to a Native American man; there isn’t much known about the mural or the artist. Although there are many ways this mural of the Virgin Mary can be interpreted, and the skeletal legs are not a representation of a traditional portrait of a religious figure. The depiction of the virgin Mary alone can have an impact on the community  it’s important to incorporate due to it being a religious piece.Though other murals have been replaced this one still stands. Murals on this alley tend to rotate, and since some are political or religious, the murals are sometimes defaced. Still, this mural and others have been accepted by both tourists and the community.

 

No Ceiling

This mural is located in the San Francisco West field Center on the corner of Broadway and Columbus by @bip_graffiti. This mural was painted on a four story building in 1987, symbolizing the strong women of the bay area. The artist notes “something really special about this painting I never told anyone – the reference I ended up pulling from for most of the girl’s face was a photo I took of the girl I chose from Oakland, Ja’Niyha, looking up at her mom, Ramona, between takes. I always thought that was a real sweet moment considering the theme of the mural. I had actually tried to pose her in another way but had kept shooting film a little too long. and when I went back to the studio to review the images, I remember landing on that moment and immediately realizing it was better than what I had intended to create because it was actually real, it was actually one woman looking sincerely with love at another strong woman, and I love that”.

Photo by @la.priseza,@montana_color

The city of Los Angeles is filled with many beautiful works of street art throughout the city. A number of pieces have been organized by barrio.la; barrio.la is an independent company based in Los Angeles and run by locals.  They also sell handcrafted items as well as photographed pieces of street art with its author’s signature. This way visitors or locals can own a piece of Los Angeles framed. Much of the art around the city is meant to provide a sense of solidarity and comfort to the community. When police brutality occurs, the walls of the city tell the story.

 

This interactive mural created by @_showzart is part of the Beverly Center project in Los Angeles California, located in Beverly and La Cienega. The artist aims to gather the community to post a photo in front of the mural and tag him. He hopes to create awareness for the lives lost to the abuse of power whom faces are on the sleeve of what appears to be the American flag on a hand flicky the young boy.  @the_sidewalk_project, @beverlycenter,@paintthecitypeaceful,@leestapleton,@drakepierre,@spencer_william.

Sunset Cali Drip

This mural was created by @pricegoodman. In his Instagram he states that the mural took him eight days to create and finish, along with his two friends. @myinkflow and @dlordink. The mural was dedicated to @jmalka25 and @thecalidrip, it’s is located on 4th Street and Los Angeles Street in downtown Los Angeles, CA. This piece like many murals are created  to honor distinguished individuals that were influential in their community through the years. Some street art is created to show solidarity in a political movement and others are for remembering those who have passed. Street art is impactful; artists share their skill with onlookers and allow the community to mourn or pay their respects in unity on a grander scale.

 

 

 

 

City of Angles

You asked for my hustle I gave you my heart – Kob

This mural was created by @sloe_motions, located on 400 W Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. The murals were a donation from the artist and @hardcorefitcecilia. This was an important piece to place due to the mural including Kobe’s thirteen-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, who also passed away on January 26, 2020, with her father. The passing of Kobe has left an impact across the world, and arguably especially in LA, where he played for the Lakers for twenty years he joined the NBA at age seventeen with his parent cosign and turned eighteen before the season began. Kobe would lead on to help bring five championships to the city of Los Angeles.

The newest addition is by Mural Mile an organization that promote Arts and Culture in the San Fernando Valley. The mural was created by artist @leviponce and depicts the image of @ladymrod Monica Rodriguez LA city councilwoman. Photo by @thosedamnkidz.

Lady Justice

This Mural by @brittneysprice and is located on La Cienega and Beverly, Los Angeles, California. The artist Brittney Price depict a painted version of a statue, symbolizing in her words “fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, favor, greed, or prejudice”. Brittney  states she was inspired by current events to paint the depiction of Justice. “Recent events exposing the unjust systems in which we currently live have led me to want to personify what justice actually is. The concept of justice being something that is tangible living, breathing and evolving with the times, my Lady Justice is simply that”. 

@ponywave

‘Life is Beautiful’ by @mrbrainwash

This image of Audrey Hepburn is located in downtown LA #skidrow by @Freehumanity

About The Author

Jessica De León is a Master’s student in the school of Cinema at San Francisco State University. She earned her Bachelor’s degree at East Bay University in Stage Tech and Design. Her focus is on how black and brown incarcerated bodies are depicted on screen similar to the criminalization of immigrants. When not in school, Jessica spends time with family and friends and frequents between Los Angeles and The Bay. She enjoys going to theaters, or editing short videos.

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