San Francisco

Event Spotlight: 'Urban Graphic' Art Opening At Madrone

Tomorrow from 6-8pm, Madrone Art Bar will host "Urban Graphic," a reception and art opening featuring works by local artists Amy Ahlstrom and Mark Harris. The exhibit is a collaboration between Madrone owner and artist, Michael Krouse, and ArtSpan, and will be on display until October 14th to kick off ArtSpan’s 41st Open Studios on October 16th. 

Krouse said that he is interested in featuring Ahlstrom’s and Harris’ art at Madrone because there are a lot of similarities in their work, even though they are completely different mediums. “I'm drawn toward both of their imagery and strength of color and their process of using raw materials, whether they have found them in magazines or raw materials on the street. I like that their process is similar but ends up in completely different directions.”

Amy Ahlstrom's "Dandy Jumbo." | Photo: Dana Davis

A pop artist and urban quilter, Ahlstrom's process begins with street photography. She first focuses on a particular urban neighborhood or area, spending several days taking pictures. Then, she uses found images from streets, sidewalks, or sometimes from garbage bins, to create a full-scale sketch of a quilt in Photoshop.

She creates paper patterns, cuts out the images by hand, and then creates quilts from silk and cotton. The quilts are sewn by machine, but she moves the fabric under the needle to “draw” on the fabric with thread. Finally, the finished quilts are stretched over canvas and framed. For the Urban Graphic exhibit, she will be showing one brand new quilt, along with some older ones.

Video: Amy AhlstroM/YouTube

Harris’ works tend to have strong political messages about political dialogue around economics, police brutality, and gun control; he creates mixed media collages from his own street photography. For this exhibit, a new series called "Illusion of the Damned," he continues the use of historical images juxtaposed with contemporary ones, as well as text to challenge the paradigm of identity and social status.

Mark Harris' "I Too Am America." | Photo: Mark Harris

Harris plays with themes from the 1960s by re-appropriating imagery from that time period and combining it with text. He said his intent is to flip what some of those images mean historically—he wants provoke how people think about what we see every day and what we are fed in terms of our media.

"In my opinion, this was the golden age of advertising, a time when photography captivated the mind in the same way video does today, he said. "Advertisers had to 'sell' a product or the ideal behind that product solely with the use of images and text. These ads often subliminally reinforced the social hierarchies of class and race.  In my new series I am seeking to challenge the perception of these hierarchies by re-appropriating  the images used to edify them."

Mark Harris | Via The Artist

Harris said that he's excited to show with Ahlstrom. “I think our work is going to show well together,” he said. “Both of our work is very bold, she uses bold colors, and I am bold in my message. We both are drawn to strong imagery.”

Ahlstrom said that she’s always wanted to show with Harris. “Creating artwork that's personal and political while also being visually on point is so difficult, and he just nails it.” She said that while the content and the look of their artwork is different, they both like a lot of contrast in their work visually.“We are both invested in creating new meaning and a new context for the images we find.”


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