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Mission murals get museum treatment

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“The Mission has largest concentration of murals in the world,” says writer Annice Jacoby.

Since the 1970s, artists in the San Francisco neighborhood have been painting assertions of their thoughts, politics and identities on walls and in alleys. Whether it’s Sirron Norris’ mutant Victorian-houses-turned-bloodthirsty animatrons or a loving tribute to Cesar Chavez, the Mission’s street art is too big, too public and too anti-commercial to be contained on gallery walls.

Recently, though, the creative force of the neighborhood’s murals has gained too much momentum to stay contained in the neighborhood.

The de Young Museum and mural arts organization Precita Eyes are presenting a series of free, Friday-night events at the deYoung to showcase and illuminate the Mission mural arts movement, which Jacoby coined “Mission Muralismo.”

Series highlights include talks about the murals in Balmy Alley (where artists have addressed Central American civil rights and political issues); conversations with taggers and graffiti artists who claim the Mission’s walls as their canvases without permission; and a film series about low riders.

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At the Mission Muralismo series debut in April, artists Norris and Spain Rodriguez — who use pop-cartoon imagery to address a host of hard-hitting subjects, from racial stereotypes to gentrification — hosted a hands-on painting session. That night’s soiree attracted many visitors.

On Friday, Jacoby and several artists will give talks about their work in a program called “Directional Signals: Pranksters and Preachers, Paste and Stencil.”

The idea behind the “Misison Muralismo” concept, says Jacoby, “is framing the outpouring of art that is both public-based and community-based. It’s not unified in the classical ways by a single ideology, like other movements are. It’s unified by working in public.”

Jacoby is also the editor of the book “Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo,” effectively an exhibition catalog of the Mission’s murals, part and present.

She describes the neighborhood as “a laboratory of cultural innovation.”

“All of the artists are cultural instigators,” she says. They’re all instigating conventions that we accept tacitly, blindly. They all work with twisting perception, unraveling the clichés.”

Projects from officially commissioned murals to unsanctioned alterations of corporate messages by the Billboard Liberation Front will be projected in the deYoung’s central atrium and in the Koret Auditorium.

“The deYoung is treating the Mission as a wing of the museum, framing it,” Jacoby says. “In that way it elevates and pays attention to that art in the street.”

Directional Signals: Pranksters and Preachers, Paste and Stencil

Where: de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 7
Tickets: Free
Contact: (415) 750-7694; www.deyoungmuseum.org

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