Figuration and Reconfiguration in the Mission
"Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity. I don't see a different purpose for it now [post 9/11]"--Surrealist painter Dorothea Tanning, 2002
Note: Norm's Market refers to the mural by Sirron Norris located at 20th and Bryant Streets; "Generator" refers to the mural by Andrew Schoultz and Aaron Noble on Lexington Street at 18th Street. Both are located in San Francisco's Mission District.
In these murals one can see reflections of various artistic schools. As in some of the paintings of Surrealists Dorothea Tanning and Remedios Varo, architecture functions as more than setting or detail; it has a presence that is essential to the meaning. These murals also have in common with the Surrealists the presence of hybrid creatures: combinations of humans, animals, buildings and machines. Norm's Market and Generator depict the next stages of the corrupt societies represented in the work of Flemish painters Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Hieronymus Bosch. Norm's Market shows the machinations while Generator shows the resulting despair caused by politics, greed and corruption. Like Bosch, Dr. Suess and the Surrealists, they warp space and species. As in comics, cartoons and the work of Dr. Seuss, black outlines and flat areas of color are the main visual elements. In Generator, Andrew Schoultz shares with Dr. Seuss the use of hatching to model shapes
and a wonderful, precarious feeling of movement in the depiction of buildings, characters and space. Many people mention Dr. Seuss in reference to these murals. All of the aforementioned artists transmute the figurative (straightforward representation) to the "figural", DeLeuze's term for figure painting which is not understood simply by prescribed definition and reading, but felt on many conflicting levels. This is compelling because it touches on,-and sometimes celebrates-the danger lurking just under the orderly facade of human reality.
Like most murals, these are different from paintings because they are created and remain in-situ and are therefore site-specific. The architecture on which they are painted does not frame the images. Instead the images are incorporated into the architecture (Norm's Market) or the architecture is incorporated into the mural (Generator). Unlike paintings, they themselves cannot be transported elsewhere as messengers; they function in their immediate surroundings as a reflection or comment. Each mural's scale and its physical and sociological relationship to its surrounding space is integral to its function and cannot be reproduced elsewhere. The form and content acquire meaning from the social setting in which the mural exists. These murals in particular resonate with the circumstances of the communities they are in.