Category Archives: Historical

Alhambra Sweet Dream ~ 25th btw J & K

The Alhambra Theater was built in 1927 and demolished nearly 50 years later in 1974 after voters rejected a bond measure that would have preserved the historic movie house (1). This mural on 26th between J & K is a remembrance of the lovely theater that once graced our city.

Wikipedia describes the Alhambra as the preeminent movie house in the greater Sacramento area during its era (2). The theater was designed in the Moorish style including a large courtyard and fountain (3).

The interior was lavishly appointed with red carpet, gold trim, and large pillars. It was located directly beyond the eastern terminus of K Street at 1025 Thirty-First Street, now Alhambra Boulevard, Sacramento, California 95816, in the East Sacramento neighborhood. (4)

The Art:

When the beautiful theater was torn down, the community lost a piece of its past, and artist, Stephen Bauer, hopes that his mural reminds people of the treasures in our community and encourages people to take care of the community and their neighborhoods (5). The boy waving goodbye is a metaphor for many area residents who grew up going to the theater and experienced the loss most directly (6).

Bauer choose a fruit label postcard image for the background to reflect several elements of the history of the theater. The orange and yellow tints are indicative of the art deco-style of the theater and the entire design is also reminiscent of fruit label designs popular during that time. The citrus colors and theme also links to the old orange grove that grew on the north side of the building (7).

The Artist:

Bauer lives in Sacramento and is a free-lance wallpaper restorationist (8). A profile page for Bauer on the Artistic License site describes him as having “truly unique genius for historic design” (9).

While he was working on the mural, midtown residents approached him asking about his work.

“They were all excited about having that image here,” Bauer said. “A lot of younger people hadn’t seen what it looked like before.. I think the colors excited them, too. The wall before pretty much went unnoticed. I think the transformation was pretty dramatic to a lot of people.” (10).

Midtown Murals Project

The Alhambra mural was the inaugural mural to kick-off Midtown Murals Project, a non-profit organization that (at one time) planned to create 12 such community murals in Midtown “to beautify and provide a recognizable, positive identity for the area” that focuses on the “rich history, cultural diversification and natural artistic beauty” (11).

Title: Alhambra Sweet Dreams
Artist: Stephen Bauer
Date: 1998
Media: paint
Location: 25th between J & K


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(1) http://www.seeart.org/murals/news4111.htm
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra_Theatre_%28Sacramento%29
(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra_Theatre_%28Sacramento%29
(4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra_Theatre_%28Sacramento%29
(5) http://www.seeart.org/murals/news4111.htm
(6) http://www.seeart.org/murals/news4111.htm
(7) http://www.seeart.org/murals/news4111.htm
(8) http://www.seeart.org/murals/news4111.htm
(9) http://www.artisticlicense.org/members/bauer/index.html
(10) http://www.seeart.org/murals/news4111.htm
(11) http://www.seeart.org/murals/index.htm

Sojourner Truth ~ 13th & K

Update August 2014: Through the persistence and effort of community members and SMAC, Sojourner has been restored and is now safely exhibited on the main floor (inside) the Crocker Art Museum.

Update 1/15/13: I am dismayed to report that the Sojourner Truth sculpture was vandalized on 1/6/13. The sculpture was pushed off of the pedestal and broke in pieces on the ground. It is still unclear whether the sculpture can be repaired but Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission and others are seeking every avenue to restore this wonderful piece. I’ve included a photo of the broken sculpture at the bottom of this post.

Nearly 7′ tall standing with dignity and a flare of her skirt, this unembellished but powerful sculpture is a testament to the woman who inspired her (1).

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was a former slave who escaped to freedom and became an activist contributing passionately in the fight for abolition and women’s rights (2). Among many other remarkable events of her life she was the first black person to win a court case against a white man (3), and she once bared her breasts in a meeting room to silence accusations that she was a man (accusations likely stemming from her nearly 6′ stature and non-demure manner) (4).

The Artist:

Through her artwork, Elizabeth Catlett (1919-2012) also spent her life fighting injustices against African Americans and women (5). Targeted during the McCarthy era for her politics, she moved to Mexico and for a period of time was denied re-entry into the U.S. (despite being a citizen) (6).

In a clip of the video called, Sculpting the Truth, she says, “I admire things I think are true. I admire things I think are just.” The social implications of her work was always the primary focus of her art:

“I learned how you use your art for the service of people, struggling people, to whom only realism is meaningful.” (7)
“I have always wanted my art to service my people — to reflect us, to relate to us, to stimulate us, to make us aware of our potential.” (8)

Some of her most popular works include: Malcolm Speaks For Us, The Sharecropper, Negro Es Bello, Survivor, Dancing, Two Generations, Black is Beautiful, Latch Key Child, Madonna, The Singing Head, Recycling Nude, and The Seated Woman (9).

At age 95, she completed one of her last sculptures, a life-size bronze sculpture of gospel legend, Mahalia Jackson (10) [Side note: Sacramento is hosting its first production of the highly acclaimed show, Mahalia: A Gospel Musical, through 9/23].

I think Sojourner would be proud to have been sculpted by Catlett, her sister in truth and justice.

 

Below is the photo of the recently vandalized sculpture (1/15/13).

sojourner

Title: Sojourner
Artist: Elizabeth Catlett
Date: 1999
Media: Mexican Limestone
Location: 13th & K


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(1) http://cityofsacramento.pastperfect-online.com/36991cgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=E07395A9-92EE-4E3F-8575-108427269244;type=101
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sojourner_Truth#cite_note-Sojourner_TruthInstitute-3
(3) http://ehistory.osu.edu/uscw/features/people/bio.cfm?PID=79
(4) http://www.sojournertruth.org/History/Biography/BC.htm
(5) http://my.saic.edu/news/89312/In-Memory-In-Memory-Elizabeth-Catlett.htm
(6) http://elizabethcatlett.net
(7) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/arts/design/elizabeth-catlett-sculptor-with-eye-on-social-issues-dies-at-96.html
(8) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/arts/design/elizabeth-catlett-sculptor-with-eye-on-social-issues-dies-at-96.html
(9) http://jassed.com/visual-artists/contemporary-art/140-elizabeth-catlett-celebrates-95the-birthday
(10) http://jassed.com/visual-artists/contemporary-art/140-elizabeth-catlett-celebrates-95the-birthday

Ishi ~ 24th & Broadway

A wall over-looking a gas station parking lot is a surprising place for such a riveting mural as this one titled, Ishi, painted by Alex Forster (aka Cabrón). Cabrón was selected amongst a pool of entrants in a mural contest by the non-profit organization, Valley Vision, for the 16′ x 80′ external wall of their office building (which is next to the gas station).

The Art:

The contest called for a mural reflecting the Sacramento Valley, and Cabrón focused his piece on the history of the valley:

I wanted to do something about the past of the Sacramento Valley. The first thing that came to my mind was the Californian Gold Rush, the epiphany of the American Dream, which drew tens of thousands of people from all over the world to this area.

The clash with the Native American Peoples and subsequent permanent demographic changes that resulted from this fateful event in American/Californian history is best represented by “Ishi, the last of the Yahi”, who was called the last “savage” alive when he first emerged from the wilderness. (1)

Cabrón’s mural invites us into the story of what happened to Ishi, his tribe, tribes throughout California, and Native American peoples across the entire continent when Europeans arrived in mass numbers. It was indeed a “permanent demographic change” that deserves our willingness to face the deeply disturbing events that happened in the Sacramento valley and throughout the United States.

The History:

One hundred years ago in August of 1911, Ishi appeared on a farm in Oroville unable to speak English or a known Native language (2). He was cited for vagrancy and put in the Butte County jail, but was released when anthropologists from San Francisco were able to identify him as a member of the Yana trip in the Deer Creek region (about 30 miles north west of Chico) (3). Ishi spent the remainder of his life at the University Museum in Berkeley and then at the San Francisco Anthropology Museum (4). He developed a relationship with the anthropologists who were appointed as his guardians, Alfred L. Kroeber and T. T. Waterman, and through him, they learned the story of the decimation of the Yahi people.

The tale Ishi told was grim. The Yana peoples suffered the complete loss of their lands and way of life when the Americans came during the Gold Rush… Ishi used to refer to the time of the American arrival as ‘when the stars fell.’ (5)

The Yahi initially numbered around 400. Lacking firearms, they were destroyed by four raids by armed white settlers. On August 6, 1865, seventeen settlers raided a Yahi village at dawn. In 1866, more Yahis were massacred when they were caught by surprise in a ravine. Around 1867, thirty-three Yahis were killed after being tracked to a cave. Finally, around 1868, four cowboys trapped about thirty Yahis in another cave. (6)

While still a child sometime in the 1870′s, Ishi’s own father was killed in a village massacre. The boy and his mother escaped by jumping into a nearby river. The Yahi who fought to preserve their territory against unequal odds and long range rifles were slaughtered until only a remnant band of 40 or so remained. The survivors of this tiny band hid successfully for nearly forty years, undetected by the outside world.” (7)

The decimation of the Yani people is mirrored in tribe after tribe throughout the history of the Gold Rush and the history of the European migration across America.

The Artist:

Cabrón spent his first 19 years in Vienna, Austria. Since then, he’s been on the road often but always doing art; comics for awhile and then, in his late twenties, he shifted to painting (8). Eventually he made his way to Sacramento, and his gallery page on A Bitchin’ Space describes the back-story for that move:

Cabrón, being an old school cynic from Vienna, firmly believes in the power of irony and consciously decided to move to Sacramento, the “city of gold”, at the height of recession and job scarcity in order to be a full time artist. (9)

In an interview with KVIE, Cabrón speaks to his experience with creating public art:

Public art is so accessible for everyone, anyone can enjoy it. It humbles me too because then I realize the full extent of my work, that I actually can touch someone with a piece of art. that’s what I love the most about it – is the interaction with people. (10)

Valley Vision:

Valley Vision is an ‘action tank’ that is “dedicated to securing the social, environmental and economic health of the Sacramento Region.”

Civic leadership at a regional scale: Valley Vision is a nonprofit association of people and organizations working to secure the social, environmental and economic health of the Sacramento Region. Founded in 1994, we are an objective, nonpartisan “action tank” committed to regional problem-solving as well as impartial research for sound decision-making. We act as a bridge, uniting neighbors and organizations that together can make a real difference in our communities.

Title: Ishi
Artist: Alex Forster (aka Cabrón) (www.cabron.us)
Date: 2010
Media: Paint
Location: 24th & Broadway


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(1) http://www.valleyvision.org/work/vvlocalart.html
(2) http://www.californiamuseum.org/Ishi_100
(3) http://www.californiamuseum.org/Ishi_100
(4) (http://www.theespresso.com/2011/09/ishi-commemorating-the-last-of-the-northern-california-yahi-indians-a-century-later/
(5) http://www.theespresso.com/2011/09/ishi-commemorating-the-last-of-the-northern-california-yahi-indians-a-century-later/
(6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yana_people
(7) http://www.theespresso.com/2011/09/ishi-commemorating-the-last-of-the-northern-california-yahi-indians-a-century-later
(8) http://www.abitchinspace.com/cabron.html
(9) http://www.abitchinspace.com/cabron.html
(10) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edyZWAEEqm0

Gold Rush Fountain ~ 5th & I

A stand of beautiful white-barked trees forms a soft backdrop for the Gold Rush fountain in front of the Sacramento Federal Courthouse at 501 I Street. This fountain is more than just a cascade of water; cartoonish bronze figures dot the entire plaza. Anthropomorphized animals, Native Americans, Western miners, pioneers, and even Uncle Sam, are in and around the symbolic river creating an allegorical image of the Gold Rush.

One online article referred to the sculpture as a “whimsical representation of early California history” (1). Otterness’ figures are whimsical but the piece as a whole is not simply whimsy. Like much of Otterness’ works, Gold Rush also speaks to the darker elements of the story. The plaque nearby describes that “Otterness’ intention is to prompt viewers to reevaluate certain beliefs (and myths) about American history.”

While designing a different piece for the bankruptcy court in Sacramento, Otterness, faced criticism from a judge regarding his initial design — a chess board with 6′ tall chess pieces in the form of money bags (2). The article by Pranay Gupte quotes the judge saying: “Forget it. The last thing that anyone wants to see outside a bankruptcy court is a radical economic critique.” (3) Otterness worked with the feedback and his design evolved. He described this process as “a kind of surrealistic collaboration with a very conservative judge” and said the process taught him “that when it comes to public art, you need to work closely with local officials and others who understand the environment, the local culture.” (4)

Otterness’ public art work appears across the US, Canada, and worldwide (5). One of his best known works is, Life Underground, that includes more than 100 different pieces scattered throughout subway stations in NYC. Otterness described the subject of Life Underground as “the impossibility of understanding life in New York” (6).

“His style is often described as cartoonish and cheerful but tends to carry a political punch. His sculptures are filled with multiple meanings and allude to sex, class, money and race.” (7)

Controversy surrounds Otterness an awful act of animal cruelty that he did as art in 1977 (8). He issued an apology but it is a disturbing fact of his history.

I like this quote from Otterness about how he wants us engage with his work:

My work is really social commentary….I want people to touch these sculptures, to discuss them, to argue about them, to find in them whatever meaning they might draw from my work. Not everything in my work is explainable, of course. But that’s good, too. It’s sometimes good to leave people somewhat puzzled. The important thing is that they touch my sculptures, and talk about them.(9)

The plauqe reads:

A native of Wichita, Kansas, sculptor Tom Otterness is known for creating bronze and cast stone scupltures. Most of his work utilizes allegorical human and anthropomorphic animal figures. Otterness includes humorous elements in much of his work, even when dealing with serious social or political subjects. For the Sacramento Courthouse, artist Otterness created an assortment of knee-high characters reminiscent of California’s early history – animals and fish, native Americans and pioneers. He choose to position his whimsical yet enigmatic figures along the plaza’s fountain, which serves as a reminder of the significant role the Sacramento River and other waterways have played in the history of the state. Using the Gold Rush as his theme, Otterness worked both with and against the artistic traditions of the American West, especially the sculptor Frederick Remington. With the familiar cast of characters, Otterness’ intention is to prompt viewers to reevaluate certain beliefs (and myths) about American history.

Title: Gold Rush
Artist: Tom Otterness (www.tomostudio.com)
Date: 1999
Media: Cast Bronze Sculptures
Location: Sacramento Federal Courthouse, 501 I Street


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(1) www.examiner.com/culture-events-in-sacramento/art-is-all-around-us-walking-tour
(2) http://www.pranaygupte.com/article.php?index=285)
(3) http://www.pranaygupte.com/article.php?index=285
(4) (http://www.pranaygupte.com/article.php?index=285)
(5) http://www.tomostudio.com/exhibitions_publicart_landing.html
(6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_Underground
(7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Otterness
(8) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Otterness#Controversy
(9) http://www.pranaygupte.com/article.php?index=285

Metamorphosis Mural ~ 4th & K

The Metamorphosis mural was created by Centro de Artistas Chicanos and is located on the eastern façade of the Downtown Plaza parking lot at 3rd & L. The mural was a collaborative effort by artists Juanishi Orosco, Stan Pidilla, Esteban Villa and others in the Centro de Artistas Chicano (1).

Each section of Metamorphosis represents a layer of energy. I assume each of the four sections of this mural measure 6’x62′; the same measurements as the “sister” mural installed on the opposite side of the parking lot called, The Way Home.

The bottom section of Metamorphosis represents the core of life (2). The central image of this section is an elder man sitting deep in the earth surrounded by crystals and holding a glowing inner flame (also, notice the hand prints on the stone arch above him):

The next section of the mural represents the energy of the earth (3), and this turtle swims along the left edge of the section:

The right edge of the earth section is an image called the Sacred Circle: (4)

The lower left figures in the image are the Guardians of the Sacred Circle and here is a detail of the guardians as the painting was being created:

Guardians of the Sacred Circle, California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, Dept of Special Collections

The third section of the mural represents technology, innovation, and impact on the earth, and the top layer represents the heavens and universe (5). Russ Andris has a photo gallery with good detail images of those sections here and here.

The central image of the mural is a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly representing change and renewal of life (6). In the center of the center of the mural is this powerful figure flanked by drummers:

Here is a wonderful detail of the figure’s face from the California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, Dept of Special Collections:

California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, Dept of Special Collections

The Centro de Artistas Chicano was created in 1972 by the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF), which is an art collective based here in Sacramento, California. I’ll write a dedicated post about the RCAF in the coming weeks, but here is a small introduction.

The RCAF is best known for its mural paintings, poster art production, and individual artistic contributions. The artists of the Centro have produced murals and exhibitions from San Diego to Seattle. RCAF is significant as a collective that has maintained a forty year history of engaging communities to express their Chicano culture, history and struggle for equal rights (7).

In an KVIE interview with several members of RCAF, Stan Padilla describes how the Metamorphosis mural was seen as a departure from the tradition of Chicano muralists that painted primarily political, economic, and social themes. He explains that Metamorphosis is a “human mural” and tells a story about a beautiful moment that occurred on the day they finished the mural.

[The mural] was very controversial at the time, not only from the arts people but from our own people saying, “Where are all the power fists? Where are all the huelga birds? We’re not used to this new kind of art. This does not seem to be a Chicano mural.” Well we said we believe this to be a human mural. I remember the day we finished the mural, when we finished the big butterfly, that there was an actual Tiger Swallowtail butterfly that flew from the top of Macy’s building and it flew right to the center of the painted butterfly. It almost genuflected, it paused there, and then it flew away. We all watched it. And we knew we had completed it. And it was confirmed what we had done (8).


Title: Metamorphosis
Artist: Juanishi Orosco, Stan Pidilla, Esteban Villa and The Centro de Artistas Chicano (9)
Date: 1980
Media: Airbrushed and brushwork on concrete (10)
Location: Eastern façade of the parking garage on Third and L Streets


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(1) http://www.sacramentopress.com/headline/24388/Public_Art_Walkabout_Conservation_of_Public_Art
(2) http://www.sacramentopress.com/headline/24388/Public_Art_Walkabout_Conservation_of_Public_Art
(3) http://www.sacramentopress.com/headline/24388/Public_Art_Walkabout_Conservation_of_Public_Art
(4) http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/hb2r29p0gx/?query=Metamorphosis&brand=calisphere
(5) http://www.sacramentopress.com/headline/24388/Public_Art_Walkabout_Conservation_of_Public_Art
(6) http://www.sacramentopress.com/headline/24388/Public_Art_Walkabout_Conservation_of_Public_Art
(7) http://www.chilipie.com/rcaf/
(8) http://www.kvie.org/programs/kvie/viewfinder/rcaf_flies_again/
(9) http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/hb2m3nb38x/?layout=metadata&brand=calisphere
(10) http://www.oac.cdlib.org/view?docId=kt9d5nd53d;style=oac4;view=dsc

Dimple Records Mural ~ 16th & Broadway

The Dimple Records building at 16th & Broadway was one of the original locations for Tower Records. Tower opened there in the mid-1960’s and stayed open for nearly 40 years (1). After Tower folded in 2006, Russ Solomon (the original founder of Tower) opened R5, an independent record store, and moved into the site.

In 2008, this mural of 13 iconic musicians was created for the R5 store by Shaun Turner, and Daniel Osterhoff painted the mural on the other side of the building (photos below) (2). Recently, Solomon retired, R5 closed, and Dimple moved in (3). Dimple re-painted the outside of the building but kept the murals mostly intact (4).

Iggy Pop •• J Dilla •• Lauryn Hill •• Stevie Wonder

Tower is so much a part of Sacramento history that it is fitting to include some of that story here:

Tower was founded in 1960 by Russ Solomon in Sacramento, California. The store was named after his father’s drugstore, which shared a building and name with the Tower Theater, where Solomon first started selling records. The first Tower Records store was opened in 1960 on Watt Avenue in Sacramento. By 1976, Solomon had opened Tower Books, Posters, and Plants at 1600 Broadway, next door to Tower Records (5).

… the chain spread to San Francisco and Los Angeles before expanding across the US and internationally. It opened its first store in the UK in the early 1990s, and closed its last shop there a decade later. By the mid-1990s there were more than 200 Tower stores around the world generating $1bn a year in sales. Its megastores boasted well-informed staff, extensive stock and long hours (6).

In 2004, when the group first filed for bankruptcy, the Solomon family gave up 85% of its holding. In the last fiscal year, sales dropped 10% to $430m, although only 13 of Tower’s 89 American stores were thought to be losing money. Retail music sales as a whole fell 17% in the US from 2000-2005 (7).

Debbie Harry (Blondie) •• Bootsy Collins (Parliament) •• John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)

I found another Turner and Osterhoff mural; created for Osterhoff’s father’s sandwich shop (called Dad’s Sandwich Shop) and you can see a photo of the artists with the unfinished mural on Russ Andris’ amazing gallery of public Sacramento murals.

James Brown •• Eric Dolphy

Turner is part of a group called, Trust Your Struggle, which “is a collective of visual artists, educators, and cultural workers dedicated to social justice and community activism through the medium of art.” (8). You can read more about them at these sites: http://tys.mvmt.com/, http://www.erinyoshi.com/, http://trustyourhustle.blogspot.com/.

Our collective strives through art and visual mediums to back and support anyone who is pushing to make the changes we all are looking to see in the world.We want you to believe that whatever you are going threw in the name of your peoples is valid and worth having faith in so we bring it to the frontline to remind folks that when it comes to the people’s struggle, well in the words of T La Rock “it’s yours!!” so trust it, believe in it, love it, give it your all, but don’t ever let nobody take it from you (9).

Here is a video of Turner painting the outside wall of Sol Collective, a community based arts education center in Sacramento. Amazing to see how quickly and skillfully he works (although I was bummed the Frida image was covered).

Miles Davis

You can see Turner’s entire mural in one photomerged image by Russ Andris.

A mural by Osterhoff covers the west side of the building. It is made up of mostly words for different musical styles (Rock n’ Roll, Reggae, Country, Metal, etc) in vibrant, expressive fonts. On the far end is a fabulous image of Billie Holiday.

Osterhoff is also a DJ. He is described as a “designer, artist, musician, all-around Midtown neo-Renaissance party man… surprisingly focused, even serious, for a guy who joneses to dance and deejays under the alias “DJ Whores.” (10). His website is http://www.myspace.com/djwhores916

Billie Holiday

You can see Osterhoff’s entire west-side mural in this photo by Russ Andris.

(Thanks to Joe H. and Daniel Osterhoff for helping me identify all of the musicians)

Title: (unknown)
Artist: Shaun Turner and Daniel Osterhoff
Date: 2008
Media: Spray Paint
Location: Dimple Records, 16th & Broadway


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(1) http://www.valcomnews.com/?p=199
(2) http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=644130
(3) http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=1458378
(4) http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=1458378
(5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_Records
(6) http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2006/oct/09/retail.usnews
(7) http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2006/oct/09/retail.usnews
(8) http://tys.mvmt.com/about/
(9) http://www.myspace.com/trustyourstruggle#ixzz0yfs7EgHe
(10) http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=1352985

De Forest Mural ~ 9th & P

This ceramic tile mural on the California Energy Commission building at Ninth & P was created by Roy De Forest (1). The mural is about 60 feet long (2) and is described as a celebration of farming in the Sacramento area (3). I also see elements of Sacramento area history and landscape with the Native American man (top image just above the horse and bottom-left detail image below) and the Sierras in the distance (top-right detail image below).

The contract for this mural was part of the art funding in the Capitol Area Plan (4). De Forest spoke with Lynn Robert Matteson in an oral history interview and described how the tiles were created, given that he hadn’t previously worked with tile:

“I just got a big piece of paper – a big, you know, 10 – 12-foot high paper and got samples of tile by going to Mexico and I got a palette of individual colors of the glazes. So then I mixed up batches of color matches and then the big scenario was in my studio. And then I rolled those up and sent them to Mexico and they had some local artists or peons there or whatever you would call them paint each tile.” (5)

De Forest came to California in the 1950’s to study art and was involved early in the California Funk movement (6). This movement was also called Bay Area Funk or California Myth-Making (7).

[H]is paintings, drawings, and prints evolved into the brilliantly patterned mystical geographies, through which romped his signature dogs, wandering semi-humans and phantasmagoric traveling beasts. These visually compelling canvasses filled larger and more dazzling spaces with gleeful, self-reverent, yet serious and sophisticated images (8)

On a visit to SFMOMA several years ago, we happened to buy a small print of a De Forest painting and it demonstrates the dog-themed works that he is most known for:

“Country Dog Gentlemen” by Roy De Forest, Art © Estate of Roy De Forest/Licensed by VAGA, NY, NY

“De Forest liked dogs, beady-eyed, tongue-lolling dogs,” explains Associate Professor of Art Julia Marshall in a teacher’s guide for a 2007 exhibit of De Forest’s work. “Repeated over and over in his many paintings, they are like a running joke, a crazy nonlinear story that continues from one picture to the next. These pictures are visually striking and fun to look at and De Forest always claimed that they were fun to make. That’s why he did them.” (9)

The mural below is installed in the San Francisco airport and uses an entirely different color palate but some similar imagery as the Ninth & P mural.

Homage to Zane Gray; 1978

More images of De Forest’s works are available on artnet and on the John Natsoulas site.

Title: (unknown)
Artist: Roy De Forest
Date: Unknown
Media: Painted Ceramic Tile
Location: 1516 Ninth Street


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(1) http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-3410659.html
(2) http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/oralhistories/transcripts/defore04.htm
(3) http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-3410659.html
(4) http://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/Legi/Publications/2009LegislativeReports/CapAreaPlanProgress.pdf
(5) http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/oralhistories/transcripts/defore04.htm
(6) http://www.natsoulas.com/html/artists/royDeForest/Roy.html
(7) http://www.sfartscommission.org/pubartcollection/pubart-projects/2008/10/20/public-art-projects-list/
(8) http://www.natsoulas.com/html/artists/royDeForest/Roy.html
(9) http://www.sfsu.edu/~sfsumag/archive/fall_09/final.html