Art replacing advertising in Mission street exhibition 

click to enlarge Sell Your Hopes
  • courtesy photo
  • Anthony Discenza’s large piece “Sell Your Hopes” is among the works in “Way Out West.”
A new organization in San Francisco is on a mission to democratize art.

Art City’s first exhibit, “Way Out West,” puts artwork on spaces usually reserved for advertising.

Curated by Toba Lovatz and Jenny Sharaf, the show — on view on billboards in the Inner Mission through Thursday and bus shelters through Aug. 14 — features works by 19 local artists focusing on the romantic idea of California as a frontier state and place for free thinkers. Styles range from graffiti art to abstract art to traditional and representational pieces.

“One of the things we’re trying to address is that we’re surrounded by ads,” Art City founder Luke Groesbeck says. “At the same time, there’s all of this amazing art, but it’s locked away. We wanted to see what would happen if we switched the two.”

The northernmost work in the show, Casey Gray’s “California Love” on a billboard at Valencia Street and Duboce Avenue, is a colorful spray-painted, psychedelic scene picturing pop and surf culture, complete with a pink flamingo, cocktail, cactus and beach pail.

On South Van Ness Avenue near 15th Street, conceptual artist Anthony Discenza’s piece, the largest in the show, is text-based; his blunt statement, “sell your hopes,” offers commentary regarding the primary purpose of a billboard.

An untitled piece on a billboard at Mission and 19th streets by graffiti artist Apex (aka Ricardo Richey) is a bold graphic abstract in orange and purple.

“Way Out West” also includes Mexican folk art, oil paintings, figurative drawings and photography.

In an attempt to encourage walking tours, show organizers created street maps drawn by artists — “It’s something you can keep and bring home like a physical artifact,” Groesbeck says — which are available at 826 Valencia and Park Life. An online map also is easily accessible.

Groesbeck says Art City chose the Mission as the location for its pilot project because it has a neighborhood history of street art, and because rapid gentrification has been pushing artists out of the area.

“The Mission is symbolic for some of the ways San Francisco is changing,” he adds. “Artists and blue-collar workers are being pushed out. We wanted to give back.”

“Way Out West” collaborators include Creativity Explored, a nonprofit gallery and studio providing resources for artists with developmental disabilities; three artists from the group are featured in the show.


Way Out West

Where: Mission Street and South Van Ness Avenue between Valencia and Folsom streets, S.F.

When: Billboards through Thursday, bus shelters through Aug. 14

Tickets: Free


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