At least two, at most five, artists have created this collaborative complex and multicultural female/male portrait. Most probably these artists did not sit down together to discuss the development of the piece, but the collaboration succeeds because each artist chooses to place his or her work in proximity to the work of another respectfully, honoring the work already there and using the space between as a useful element, another brushstroke. Rather than existing in competition, the individual works complement one another. The colors used in both portraits resonate easily, and what remains unsaid lies between the two portraits like a serious glue. The additional stickers -- random hero, the qr code, killed by a handgun -- are useful gracenotes. I don't know who these artists are or what their intention was, but I find the work evocative and thoughtful, and as collaboration . . . hopeful.
This piece to the right is a wheat paste screenprint, created in the studio and then pasted on a steel light post. ZOMBIE, in pink, is stenciled on the vertical to the right of the young woman, who hardly looks like a zombie. If anything, she looks ready to dance. If this is the work of an independent artist, I suppose that might have been the point . . . those wh0 are attached to fashion are zombies . . . I could enjoy the disconnect of that, the space between the innocence of the image and the weight of the word, except that there is a brand of sportswear, t-shirts for women called Pink Zombie, marketed to those at home on the street and with graffiti. This may just be an ad, clever product placement.
Zombies have been surfacing in the artistic consciousness for some months now, but this image, despite its street persona, is a far cry from the edgier and bolder political zombies created by the Oakland artist Ezra Eismont, for example. Those images are sharp, startling and provocative, including a zombie portrait of Ozombie bin Laden, the most nefarious of the undead, most recently exhibited at San Francisco's 941 Geary Gallery in their summer show The City We Love. Thinking of these two 'zombie' images together -- the innocent teenager and the mad bomber reduced to skull-faced creature -- does curious things to the brain, makes one think about the stultifying dangers of seemingly innocent consumerist culture.
Not too far from the zombie girl was another wheatpaste print that, at first, feels overtly political but not recognizably positional -- it could either be mocking or celebrating -- but after some thought, this too might be advertising. If the zombie girl is advertising t-shirts, this altered portrait of the North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Il might be quietly promoting the bio-pic being made of his life. After all, this is the photo that has been used in various online and print discussions of the film. Certainly, it is not surprising that much of the street art found within blocks of the Beverley Center is more advertising than art . . . but I must admit, that even if this piece is a quiet non-verbal ad, my first reaction is confusion. I do not find any aesthetic reason for the piece; it does not have poetic resonance for me, nor do I find that it is juxtaposed with its surroundings in such a way to create open space for the unexpected. It is simply there, but there is no there there. If it is meant to encourage me to see the film, it fails.
Now, this stencil piece, occurring repeatedly only on the sidewalk intrigued me. The repetition of an image block-to-block, seen only by those who glanced at their feet as they walked, interested me for two reasons. I liked the goofiness of portrait and its placement -- underfoot. It made me laugh delightedly. I also appreciated that it made me think about difference. When a stencil is used hurriedly, as one must do when working on a public sidewalk, the resulting image is usually slightly altered every time. The background necessarily changes -- this stretch of sidewalk has a crack, that spots of chewing gum or splatters of paint -- and the lines of the image shift; a line is lost or gained. By the time, I had seen the image ten times, I had convinced myself that the changes were far greater than they were. I imagined, glasses with cracks, lost teeth, and smile lines that came and went. Of course, that was not the case. The greatest difference was a change of color, a shift from black to blue. It was the same image, the same lopsided grin, again and again and again. I liked that my brain could revise to difference that which was the same. Back to front. Mano a mano.