SF artist turns white walls into modern mural
February 24, 2009 2:56 AM
Jeremy Fish is in on a ladder, covered by an over-sized jumpsuit, wearing his paint-smeared signature Nikes. The walls that surround him are small; Fish, a well-known illustrator and artist, is finishing what he calls an experiment. The venture, which includes shank-clenching gnomes fighting flying grenades, is part of his upcoming exhibition aptly titled "The Ambush."
The experiment is a mural that is being constructed on the modest walls of the Fecal Face Dot Gallery in downtown San Francisco.
"All these creatures are trying to coexist in the same place and one guy just got a little too full of himself," Fish said of "Ambush." "So everybody else that lives there came around to tell him to take it down a notch."
The recent U.S. presidential election helped inspire the artwork, the artist admitted. The concept -- a 30-foot-long painted mural with three-dimensional characters -- is a new form of expression for him. Fish has created album covers, signature shoe designs, skateboard decks and even beaver-shaped vibrators, but has never used a two and three dimension combination in this fashion.
Fish's style is an example of a crossover in contemporary art using traditional design and illustration techniques in order to redefine fine art, Annie Conde, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art book buyer, said.
Two of Fish's books are for sale in the museum's bookstore, but nowhere in the art museum will you find his work on display. The body of work created for this week's opening exhibition is, however, practice for his upcoming museum debut in November. Fish said he is planning to create similar work for an exhibition at the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, Calif., 30 miles south of Long Beach.
"It's (only) a matter of time that of this generation of artists find their way into museum collections," Conde said of Fish and his contemporaries. "It's inevitable."
The New York native moved to California in the early nineties to attend art school, but said that the City's steep hills were part of the draw as well. Fish grew up skateboarding and has been actively involved in San Francisco's four-wheeled scene since his arrival. San Francisco hills are thought by many skaters to be the best in the country to ride down.
The thirty-four-year-old bearded artist has slowed in his skateboarding progress though, citing two major injuries.
"I still skateboard, but really frequently and generally go home feeling pretty depressed about it," he said. "I'm suffering from Old Man Skateboard Syndrome."
Fish has created skateboard graphics for brands such as Real, Think and Creature and did monthly illustrations for SLAP skateboard magazine from 2001-2004. He was the art director at Think skateboards for two years before that.
"I went to school for art but really came out here for skateboarding and somehow I grouped both of those things," Fish said. "They melded together into something that paid me a living and when you're 25-years-old just out of school, that's magical."
But just because Think Skateboards' distribution company doesn't have immediate plans to print Fish's artwork on its skateboards doesn't mean that skateboarding is done with him.
"I'm still a friend of Jeremy and would love to do something again in the future," Tony Vitello, StreetCorner distribution owner and former SF State student said. Fish enjoys doing the occasional skateboard graphic and said his recently completed projects were "more precious" than those of the past.
The mural-in-progress, which covers two of the Fecal Face Dot Gallery's four walls at Gough and Market streets, depicts a wooded scene of half-finished cartoon animals and trees. Fish carefully draws the perky lips belonging to one of the trees that overlooks what seems to be a future battle scene.
The artist has been crafting the mural for 25 hours, but states he only has a few hours left of touching up the details. World-famous skateboard filmer and photographer Dan Wolfe is in the room shooting time-lapse photographs of the process while old-school East Coast hip hop bumps from small speakers in the corner.
The mural will be finished tonight, Fish states with exhaustion in his eyes.
The finished mural is to accompany large prints depicting a similar scene at Fecalface.com's bedroom-sized gallery.
"There once was a gladiator, who once was a hero and became a real tyrant; drunk on greed and power," Fish was quoted as saying of his new body of work on art and culture Web site fecalface.com. "His path of destruction became so vast that eventually his prey began to organize an uprising."
The uprising is "The Ambush."
And while Fish explained his inspiration, there are probably just as many meanings of the piece as there are observers. SF State college students should make time to see the new artwork, the San Francisco transplant said from his North Beach home and studio.
"If you are going to live here and go through all the trouble it takes to pull that off, you need to take advantage of what's around you -- a really interesting and unusual art scene that is worth your time," he said. "It's almost a part of your education and a part of your responsibility to investigate that kind of stuff."
"That's the benefit of living here."
"The Ambush" gallery opening is Thurs., Feb. 26, at 6 p.m. at Fecal Face Dot Gallery - 66 Gough St. (@ Market St.), San Francisco. The mural will be on display for several weeks during regular gallery hours (Thurs.-Fri. 4-8 p.m. and Sat.-Sun. 12-6 p.m.). More information at the Fecal Face Web site.
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