Issue 517October 2012

Urban Field Notes: Patched

A photographer observes that after the graffiti’s gone, new works of art emerge.

Urbanist Article October 10, 2012

As a photographer, I am fascinated by the everevolving mosaic of colors and textures that are characteristic of urban environments like San Francisco. I am always looking for ways to capture these changes both large-scale and in detail.  Graffiti culture and vandalism often result in paint jobs to patch up unwanted blight. It’s a phenomenon that continuously alters our environment. These patches on buildings and surfaces vary in colors and textures, adding to an ever-changing mosaic. In my photographs, my goal is to depict the diverse colors, textures and (sometimes subtle) patterns that result.  Without getting into the politics of graffiti or street art, these photographs serve as a visual description of the process.

Each image reveals the choices that were made and what methods were used to mask unwanted tagging or graffiti. I imagine that a building or business owner may use whatever color paint is available to them, resulting in patches that vary in hue or are an entirely different color than the original surface. The painter (or patcher), can then choose to paint an entire wall, a specific elevation of the wall, a neat rectangle, or a blob covering just the tagged area. The surface itself often changes the resulting look, whether it is coarse or smooth, solid or permeable. In some cases, it seems that the patcher got creative in the process. How else to explain the irregular mix of colors and patterns?
[A] Yellow Paneling Octavia Boulevard at Haight Street
[B] Gunk Divisadero Street between Hayes and Fell Streets
[C] Two Storefronts Broadway between 17th and 19th Streets, Oakland
[D] Billboard Hayes between Divisadero and Scott Streets
[E] Liquor Store 21st and Valencia Streets
[F] Pastels on Brick Hyde between Geary and Post
[G] Ritual Octavia and Hayes Street
About the Authors: 

Author & Photographer: Sergio Ruiz is a transportation planner for the California Department of Transportation and is SPUR’s photography intern.

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