Artist Brian Singer: Bringing Social Justice To Unexpected Places

San Francisco is full of public art; sculptures in downtown plazas, Mission murals, and bronzed chairs near transit stops are all part of the landscape.

Standing apart from the crowd, Brian Singer—also known as Someguy—creates typography-based installations in unexpected places that contain thought-provoking messages. 

Most recently, "There's No Place Like" appeared on a fence near 29th and Mission Streets where a fire ravaged Cole Hardware and a residential hotel, among other businesses, last year.

The installation, made with moveable, colored plastic pieces that spin in the wind, is designed to last several years with minimal upkeep.

Singer said he hopes his work will continue the narrative about what constitutes a home and what it means to live without one. 

"In the art world I find myself working in two different spaces, the social cause, social justice space," Singer told Hoodline. Although there are no easy fixes to homelessness, "I want to keep it in the forefront of my work," he said.

When Singer had a studio near 2nd & Folsom, "there was a homeless guy who was there every day when I walked to the office and then one day, he wasn’t there." The man's sudden disappearance was a wake-up call, Singer said. "I realized how homelessness was so common, that they became part of the backdrop."

His first foray into public-space art was the installation of "Home Street Home," a message installed with found pieces of cardboard hand-stitched with thread on Division Street. 

Singer said he decided to work on the piece after Super Bowl 50 festivities displaced many houseless residents.

"Some of the people were moved just one street over," Singer said. "Instead of being on Division Street, they were one street over. 'Home Street Home' was about bringing a message and thought into those neighborhoods." 

Singer's message and installation lasted for about a week before it was removed because he didn't have permission to use the site. He's not sure who took the work down, but said it was most likely a city department. 

"I don’t want to vandalize property, and my art causes no permanent damage and can be removed to minimize any chances of me getting fined," he said. 

Artist Brian Singer.

Later, Singer installed the same message at 1990 Folsom St. at 16th Street in the Mission with "Home Street Home 2," this time with permission from the developer of the adjoining vacant lot that is slated for affordable housing.

"The response to the 'Home Street Home' piece has been pretty positive," he said. "That space is actually going to be used for an art space and low-income housing," he added. 

He recently partnered with Mission Bernal Merchants Association to add more "There's No Place Like" installations in a series of beautification projects along sites affected by the 5-alarm fire that hit the 3300 block of Mission Street last June. 

"We want to bring some beauty in the midst of the fire aftermath and to also continue to bring pride to this neighborhood," Singer said.

"The fire displaced several businesses –some of legacy merit– and approximately 200 residents of the Graywood Hotel. We do know some of the business are coming back but also anticipate it will take up to two years to complete construction for these businesses to reopen."

While Singer, a graphic designer, considers himself a book artist at heart, he's also know for TWIT Spotting, another installation that caught the attention of many safe driving advocates around the country and internationally. 

Photo: Facebook

TWIT Spotting, or "texting while in traffic," is a project that stems from his many hours spent in the passenger seat of a carpool on the 101 freeway.

After noticing how many drivers were using mobile phones, he photographed offenders and posted them them on a website and Facebook page, and eventually, on billboards. 

"Social topics are of interest to me," he said. "I try to find a way to communicate them in an unexpected way." 

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Artist brian singer bringing social justice to unexpected places