You Need to Chill, North Beach

I thought this was behind us. Another North Beach art gallery, open just four months, was vandalized recently. The historical home of San Francisco poets, artists, bohemians, City Lights bookstore, of Ginsberg’s Howl that they tried to suppress in the ’50s – can do better than this.

Remember 2004? The Iraq war polarized the country and North Beach wasn’t immune. Right after Abu Ghraib Capobianco Gallery on Powell near Filbert hung a painting of Iraqi prisoners tortured by American troops. The gallery was vandalized, eggs splattered the window, trash dumped high in the doorway. The owner got hundreds of emails and voicemails threatening her life and the lives of her two small children. She was spat upon. A man came to the door and when she opened it he punched her in the face and broke her nose. Dozens of North Beach residents protested the violence and supported free expression. But the painting was removed and the gallery closed.

Here we go again. Gallery 454 on Columbus hung a painting in the window last month and this gallery too was attacked. Saturday I blogged about the Abrams tank in the gallery that stopped me in my tracks. But it wasn’t the tank that was the target.

Oh are you offended?

Soon after the current exhibit, {Control} “Sex, Money, Power”, opened, Nick Flatt, the gallery curator and artist-in-residence, saw a crowd staring at his window as he approached to open the gallery that morning. He thought something was up with the tank but it was a painting of a sexy threesome hung inside that was vandal’s target. “As the father of a daughter I find that painting offensive,” was scrawled in lipstick on the display window.

I caught up with Nick today. He said the tank caused some furor but nothing like the painting. Pressure from neighbors forced him to move the painting to the back wall of the gallery behind the tank. He said, “We had to tone it down.”  Free expression chilled once again.

“We were going to post a sign in the window but didn’t.” The message – “Thank you for using vandalism to show us proper etiquette.”

Lucky for us Nick is unbowed. He’s currently working on a new piece that hangs as a work-in-progress. Stand up for freedom of expression. Stand up for the artists in the Village. Stop by to see the exhibit and check out Nick’s work on the painting near the front window. He thinks it will be done in a few weeks. I saw his sketch. I can’t wait!

 

 

 

16 Replies to “You Need to Chill, North Beach”

  1. i hate that my neighborhood is called out in this way. Are you certain that it was a NB resident who vandalized the window? I love this gallery and am so happy to have it my hood – the tank was insane and that painting did stop me in my tracks. (loved the both btw). It’s the gallery next door that is questionable. I mean statues of fairies with wings coming out their asses? KItchy and hideous, but hey – it’s a free country. ;-D
    But I’d rather see either of this stuff than see the obnoxious revelers that take over Broadway on Friday and Saturday nights – urinating in doorways, vomiting on the sidewalks, even pulling knives and guns. Now THAT is repulsive.

  2. what is offensive the art work inside or the graffiti outside ? The critique is ironic as both are acts of self expression and freedom of information. Chill NB indeed.

  3. The word that come up in my mind is intelligence. The presence and lack of it. The painting I made is simply showing what people do. I feel very neutral about it because I don’t have issues with sex and see no good reason for anyone else having it either. I come from a humanitarian society that teaches harmonious integration. Sweden hasn’t been in war for over 200 years. There is no death-row. Low crime. People tend to be clean, well dressed, well-educated, have tidy and nice homes and care about one another and the world. It’s a very valuable paradigm of what is available-how that philosophy affects the quality of life and how we can assist our own with it.

    The interesting thing we have observed at the gallery is how Nick’s tank, my sex painting and other pieces are showing humans to themselves. This is how we serve with our art ultimately. There is no censoring, neither seeking to shock at 454. We are bringing attention to things of natural interest. Nick was reflecting on how we have to interact with sex money and power to find balance and satisfaction in life.

    So, we made pieces about that and that’s what the show is about. As we see in postings above, people have differing subjective perceptions and ideas. It says in one my painting is bad, but I argue that it is very good, it causes the exact effect I intended.

    People are instinctively driven to bring their kids in to play with the tank, demonstrating a societal leaning on people’s minds to have a positive association to a killing machine.

    Our show is showing the reality in many people that war is fun and sex is bad. This is what is interesting and why our gallery have value, whether in North Beach or anywhere else. I say this because coming from Sweden, it stands out in American ethics and affects the whole life experience very strongly. There is so much explosive violent energy here, loaded feelings and strange views of intimacy and sex and I see how it is perpetuated.

    We have heard a few complaints about the painting, but also received an ocean of positive responses and interestingly they have been mostly from women. They feel the painting shows the woman in power and celebrates joy and ecstasy. A woman wrote a poem about it, seeing it from Cafe Greco. The most annoying thing we have experienced with the gallery is how people feel entitled to come in and shower us with their opinions, bang on the artwork, and in the end very rarely buy any of the art. In short not acknowledge and respect us for what we are and treat us accordingly.

    I have no illusion about any perfect quality of North Beach that should be beyond progressive change. There are some very cool things about it, but a lot is very cheesy and cliche and living on past victories, and there is a strong force of rude and violent kids running around drunk on the streets making people uncomfortable. Both us and our local police officer friend have enough experience with that.

    What we hear from the locally intelligent and culturally savvy people, is that North Beach has not had anything like Gallery 454 in 60 years.

  4. “Remember 2004? The Iraq war polarized the country and North Beach wasn’t immune. Right after Abu Ghraib Capobianco Gallery on Powell near Filbert hung a painting of Iraqi prisoners tortured by American troops. The gallery was vandalized, eggs splattered the window, trash dumped high in the doorway. The owner got hundreds of emails and voicemails threatening her life and the lives of her two small children. She was spat upon. A man came to the door and when she opened it he punched her in the face and broke her nose. Dozens of North Beach residents protested the violence and supported free expression. But the painting was removed and the gallery closed.”

    Rumor was that face punch was faked so she could get out of her lease. At least Jeffery’s took over the spot before he died. Mmm hmm. That girl didn’t even sell half of those shows she put on. Anyway, North Beach has been home to many an adult vandal. Who keeps putting tagging “Italian Power” on all those non Italian businesses hmm? If you are local, you know what I am talking about. Look at Jeffery’s window and that shoe store on Stockton to name a few.

    Anywho, North Beach has an in flux of families now and so keep the t&a to Broadway. Keep it tasteful.

  5. I think using lipstick was a friendly way of saying, “Please put semi-pornographic materials towards the back of the gallery out of respect for young children and people who choose not to see it.” They’re lucky it wasn’t anything permanent. Though I didn’t feel one way or another about the painting in question, I did feel it should be placed somewhere other than the front of the shop. Keep up the art, but just use better judgment in the future with things that may make other feel uncomfortable when walking by. You can put anything you want up in your own space, but you can’t make others look at it.

    1. So, you didn’t feel one way or the other, except that you feel the need to tell us where to place the art that you particularly don’t care about. That is an interesting point of view. Hopefully in three weeks you can tell me where to put my next painting that you don’t care about.

  6. I don’t it’s the people of North Beach that are vandalizing, so your headline should be revised to not call them out. North Beach residents would not vandalize their own neighbors, even if they didn’t like a bad painting (which is was. It was bad.)

    1. Nick, thank you for bringing gallery454 to North Beach. It is a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. You continue a long tradition of the arts in our little Village.

      1. The painting’s tittle is “Understanding Sex” (2011) and the artist who made it is Christopher Jernberg

        1. Thanks Christopher. I think your piece is an important part of the show. I’ve walked behind the tank several times to see it.

Comments are closed.