Ever see things like this?
Works of art, like this one by Gats, get covered in silver spray paint sooner or later around these parts. Well, it turns out that many local instances of art destruction were perpetrated by one individual, a vigilante named Jim Sharp a.k.a. “The Silver Buff”, who has taken it upon himself to clean up “vandalism” by vandalizing public art that’s not legitimately recognized.
A battle between the likes of Sharp and local graffiti artists/taggers has raged on for decades, rendering Berkeley covered in silver spray paint that is arguably more offensive-looking than the original stickers and tags it was meant to destroy. Filmmakers Max Good and Nathan Wollman tracked down Sharp’s identity last year and are currently working on a documentary film about Sharp and others like him called “Vigilante Vigilante: The Battle for Expression.” While the Berkeley police don’t seem to mind graffiti very much, citizens like Sharp contend that it encourages crime. The broken windows theory (that vandalized urban environments give the appearance of lawlessness and breed more serious crimes) is compelling, but I have a hunch that crime is a symptom of greater social problems like poverty and lack of social services. Of course, it’s much easier to buff a veneer with silver paint than it is to reach deep to the root of the social problems underneath. I leave you with this to ponder:
Above: Justice for Oscar Grant, Broke
Below: pig star campaign
The pig star campaign (those seven-pointed, police badge-shaped stickers with pig faces in them) was started in the late ’90s by an anti-police brutality activist in the Bay Area. Now, the stickers resonate strongly as ever with the recent Oscar Grant verdict. Pig star seems to have created an updated version of the original badge sticker to reflect current events: “Join, we get away with murder.” The whole situation after the trial became such a mess, it still feels like everyone is shaken up from it sometimes. Mehserle’s sentencing date is November 5th so it’s still possible he’ll get the maximum sentence for doing the unspeakable. Although, who knows?
The mysterious Flower Eyes (as I will now refer to these works) made an appearance on this graffiti-ful warehouse. This piece looks like the lotus flowers in Buddhist iconography. The pattern of the red paint within the leaves recalls ocean waves; slivers of black climb up the stem like bark. I promise I didn’t rip that off from a haiku.
This paste-up and other ones like it resemble holographs of some sort because of the bright colors and two-dimensional patterns weaving through them– it’s like they’re from another dimension, man.
But seriously, all my hippie-dippie cliches aside, they look really cool. It’s always nice to have some flora around, especially on a brick wall.
This interlocking heart design was chalked up on a wall. No idea who the writer is; there was also a poem next to it but it was illegible because parts of the chalk had been wiped away. Pretty pastel colors, yay. The style is very graffiti-oriented with the way the hearts connect and flow into each other like lettering. I guess it looks like there’s an S and C… maybe the hearts in the middle are supposed to be O’s? If this is a sig, it’s a really pretty one.
What a beautiful, spacious urban canvas. These were done by several different writers. One of the things I’ve come to appreciate about graffiti/street art is that when people paint on the same wall, it naturally evolves into a work of art unto itself over time. The bright yellows, greens and blues of these tags are illuminated by the white left over from other graffiti underneath.
I couldn’t make out all the names in these; if anyone has any ideas feel free to comment. The one in the middle is SIK/ TFN but the others I’m not sure about.
The weather in Berkeley sucks today. Real bad. This song is good for when you’re chilling indoors avoiding the fog:
This is an awesome stencil; note the interesting details in the eyes and hair (that is, after you stop examining those giant nipples). The girl kind of reminds me of an anime character because of the large eyes, sharp chin and big boobs. Personally, I like the large, elf-like ears and the cute dots on her cheeks. The precise shading effects of this piece make a nice composition with the other more organic-looking handwritten tags on this mailbox.
Happy weekend yall!
I guess GATS has been really active in Berkeley this summer, and s/he seems to be favoring bright, warm colors. This is a really interesting work; the doors of this garage were painted white, red and yellow in a cross-hatching pattern imposed on a square grid. On the left side, the outline of GATS’ signature mask-like character is subtly visible.
What can I say? This is really brilliant. Walking past, it’s hard to notice at first. Whoever this shed belongs to should feel extremely lucky; I would let GATS vandalize any of my shit any day if it came out looking like this.
GATS has a ton of work up all over the Bay and, after a while, you begin to notice these guys everywhere. My family was visiting last week and, as we walked around the tourist-infested Fisherman’s Wharf, the crowds of doddering visitors with their cameras and weather-inappropriate shorts started giving me the heebie-jeebies. I looked up and noticed a large GATS sticker looking down at me; the placid face with its droopy eyes seemed to be giving me a wink of reassurance. Later, I went to a bar night at my friend’s co-op. When I went into the bathroom, without fail I saw a GATS character scrawled on the wall in Sharpie. It’s like the post horn in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, which is an insightful and really hilarious novel I think everyone should read. I’ll spare you the plot synopsis, but the main character finds post horns (basically, trumpets) scrawled all over California that eventually lead her to discover a secret, underground communication network. Paranoia or just coincidence?
This postal sticker is by Ras Terms, who has been a street artist for over 20 years according to this interview. Since his start in Miami during the 1980s, Terms was a mentor to many younger Miami street artists before moving to Oakland. He is a devout Rastafarian and prides himself in bringing African culture into street art. His characters always have transcendent, serene expressions and the one above looks like it has angel wings– probably a reflection of the artist’s spiritual side.
This is a work of much larger scale. The wing and face are slightly different, and the character casts his gaze off to the sidewalk rather than at the viewer like in the sticker pictured above. I love Ras Terms’ illustration-esque style and I’d really like to run into one of these babies in color.
This masterfully stenciled portrait has appeared (and then disappeared) on a few Berkeley sidewalks this summer. The artist calls him/herself 1040 Runsilent–an apt moniker for someone who managed to create a work of such detail during a stealth operation. The portrait uses starkly contrasting light and shadow, but there are very fine lines on the shirt and the face. It reminds me of Warhol’s portrait of Marylin Monroe. I’m not sure who the person depicted is, but it feels like someone I should recognize. Maybe not, though. I guess that’s the legacy of Pop Art; anyone and anything can be elevated to fame through repetition, but celebrities can be used as subject matter until their faces become iconic images rather than markers of personal identity. Maybe if this man’s face is repeated enough around town, he’ll come to be a sort of an icon in his own right for however short a time.
This is almost like an underground cave of graffiti treasure.
Counterclockwise from top left corner: Gulliver Rest in Peace, WETSO, GIAK.
Left to right: SIK, PI.
Pretty much all the tags I see scrawled on the backs of stop signs and such turned up here on full blast, colors galore. This wall’s somewhat hidden location probably provided these writers ample opportunity to go wild with the spray paint. I had to take these shots from across the fence; descending a steep, earthy slope and hopping across the creek with my camera didn’t seem like the wisest idea. I think the Gulliver tag has been there for a while, but it’s quite eye-catching. The letters look like they’re made of crumbling, brittle stone. I also enjoy the arrow designs interwoven within the letters of “WETSO” and the vibrant, 3-d effect the contrasting colors create in “PI.” Pro.