Street art is a fascinating and beautiful expression, often blurring the line between overt works of beauty, and overt acts of vandalism. The work of street artists spans a broad creativity spectrum. With pieces that challenge social norms and the concept of private property, convey political statements, bring art to an otherwise industrial environment, express activism, or generally raise awareness, this form of expression is a fascinating slice of modern culture.
As street art has blossomed, many establishments and organizations have embraced its creativity and its ever-more-popular creators. Whether the art is commissioned or covertly placed, when it comes presenting a canvas fit to bear expressions of street art ranging from the obscure artist to the most well-known, San Diego’s landscape is no exception.
Os Gemeos: “Don’t Believe the Hype”, Horton Plaza mall, Downtown, G St at 2nd Ave
Graffiti artists and identical twin brothers, Os Gemeos placed their claim on the San Diego scene via the south side of the Horton Plaza. Unlike many street artists, this duo was sponsored in their efforts by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. This striking piece features ten individuals standing on each other’s shoulders with the tagline “Don’t Believe the Hype” written above.
Invader: Downtown, The Art Center, Park Blvd and G St.
The French street artist Invader is well-known for his pixelated pieces of 8-bit video game caricatures. And fortunately for us, he has planted the biggest Invader in North America right here in San Diego. But look closely your downtown surroundings for a fun Invader treasure hunt, as there are quite a few smaller versions placed throughout the area.
Chicano Park Murals
The Chicano park murals are not to be missed if you’re a fan of outdoor art. Mural restoration in this park has run from 1984 until 2013, and it may well be the largest outdoor collection of murals in the country, totaling over 70 separate pieces throughout. This park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its unique history in conjunction with the Chicano civil rights movement.
Madsteez: Giant Dinosaur, University Ave. and Ray St., North Park
A 50-foot cartoon dinosaur is painted proudly on the west wall of the former Wang’s North Park Restaurant. The artist Mark Paul Deren (Madsteez) has a strong history in street art, even being commissioned by names as big as Nike. Commissioned by Pacific Magazine, this mural fits well into the artsy and diverse North Park neighborhood. While it now resides on the wall of an empty building, San Diego Eater reports that the Venture Commercial is looking for a new restaurant/bar with a unique entertainment theme to inhabit this highly sought-after space.
Cat Cult: Ohio St. between Lincoln St. and University Ave., North Park
The Cat Cult mural can be found on the former Undisputed Martial Arts building in North Park. This lively piece is a combined effort by artists with an affinity for felines, who include: Surge, Rios Toro, Rick Ordonez, Mike Alvarez, Leeroy, Thomas Stavnes, Nic Nak, and Bunny Kitty.
JR: Everything $5 Clothing Store, Downtown Corner of 5th Ave and C St.
Blended expertly into its surroundings, you might miss this one if you’re not paying attention. Starting out on the streets of Paris, JR went on to become a well-known name in the world of street art. He even won the coveted TED Prize for his efforts to bring individuals together to create a global participatory art project called the Inside Out project.
Shepard Fairey: South Park, 30th Ave and Ivy St.
Shepard Fairey is one of the best-know street artists, most well-known for his Obey/Andre the Giant graphics and stickers that seem to be ubiquitous throughout San Diego, and his Obama “Hope” poster, which the 2008 Obama campaign openly embraced. A collection of Shepard’s work can now even be found at the Smithsonian.
Street art is part of what makes San Diego such a vibrant city. With something hiding around every corner, it’s hard not to get caught up in the movement. The urban art landscape is ever-evolving, and each new piece helps to shake the status-quo, inspire us, provoke us, excite us, and engage us in the world around us. With murals to be found in almost every neighborhood, it’s a great reason to get out there and explore all of the thought-provoking showcases that San Diego’s street art has to offer.