Street artist Jeremy Novy is no stranger to controversy.
Before he won commissions to put his signature stencils of koi fish on public and private property in The City, his art — pasted on sidewalks and buildings — sometimes broke the law.
Starting Monday, Novy — a rare LGBT street artist in the hetero-dominated world of taggers and stencilists — was supposed to have a monthlong gay culture-themed show in the Castro.
Called “PHONE SEX = SAFE SEX,” the show was to run throughout Pride Month at Magnet, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation-run sexual health clinic in The Castro.
That’s all over now.
Novy’s show was abruptly canceled last month after claims of assault and domestic violence against him — including pictures of a man with bruises and black eyes, Novy’s supposed victim — circulated on Facebook.
According to publicly-available records, Novy hasn’t been charged with any crime. However, the community uproar — both against and in support of Novy — was enough for the nonprofit SF AIDS Foundation to steer clear.
“The cancellation of the art show is not a comment about his personal life … and it’s not a comment about his art,” said Andrew Hattori, a spokesman for the AIDS Foundation.
But after hearing accusations from both sides, it became clear “that Magnet couldn’t proceed without having controversy brought to our space,” Hattori added. “We can’t be put in the position where people feel polarized in the space.”
Novy, who’s had showings at Yale University, plus San Francisco and New Orleans, had been invited by Magnet’s leadership to apply for the monthlong spot, part of a lengthy rotating showcase of LGBT artists.
Reached via e-mail from Guerneville, where he now lives, Novy didn’t directly address the allegations but said his life’s work is “not something a violent person does.”
“I am masculine and have a strong point of view which makes me a great artist,” he wrote, noting that he’s recently been commissioned to create a Pride mural at Café Flore in the Castro. “These things mixed with social media bullying creates this.”
While there are no recorded incidents of violence in Novy’s criminal history, according to court records, he does have a reputation in the LGBT community for an unpredictable streak and a temper as well as for his art.
In 2011, he had a public dust-up with the leadership of The City’s gay newspaper, the Bay Area Reporter — whose offices he spraypainted with graffiti — that led to a judge granting a temporary restraining order.
No charges resulted from that case, and a judge tossed the case after one hearing, according to records.
Court records show Novy’s criminal history in San Francisco is three cases long, all of which were charges for vandalism or defacing property — occupational hazards for a street artist.
Novy’s supposed victim couldn’t be identified or contacted by The San Francisco Examiner on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Novy plans to go on with the show in a “secret location” to be announced Monday.