This November 17th. – general fundraiser at Pro Arts. Open to the public. Tickets available at: Eventbright tix to fundraiser.
Limited Curated experience. 10 people max – Tour of artist studio and limited edition of 10 signed prints of Golden Gate Bridge 50th Anniversary : Tickets here: Eventbright tix to curated experience.
Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland is presenting a retrospective sampling of 42 years of pranks, neon art, “theater” performance art, stories, writings, and conversations with key collaborators of mine culled from me entire time here in Oakland, San Francisco and the outside world.
Natalia Mount, Executive Director of this landmark gallery in the very heart of Oakland, is curating the show and has been working with me to burrow and wade through my massive pile of poorly organized photos, video/film, documents, neon pieces and all sorts of material produce during my four decades of trouble making, experience design, artifact making, collaborative work and explorations.
We need to raise a substantial amount of money in order to print huge photos, produce several finished videos out of mountains of raw footage, restore some neon sculptures and make some new, finance travel and accommodations for five (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 as of now, maybe more) of my collaborators (unindicted co-conspirators as they say) from over the years and to cover any number of other expenses. As usual, I am broke and in a hurry. I don’t drink, drug, gamble, womanize or waste money; it is just tough financially these days. Pro-Arts is experiencing the typical travails of most smaller cultural institutions and is underfunded as well. Moneys raised will all go directly to producing this show and to support this wonderful community based, yet influential gallery.
Please pass this link along and spread the word. If you have worked with me or enjoyed any of the products of the collaborations and (occasionally incognito) creative projects I have driven or contributed to or any of the transgressive cabals (my neon piece is at 1:44 & 2:00) or ridiculous pranks that may have benefited from my efforts, I really need the help and feedback now. I am not done yet; this show is just a retrospective of my first four decades here. With luck, we’ll have another one when I am 100 in 2058……
Oh, almost forgot, this is also my 60th B-day party.
Ace Auto Dismantlers was one of THOSE places. You could walk through the barbwired chain link gate on a desolate and dire looking stretch of McKinnon St. in SF’s dodgy Bayview right into the midst of precarious piles of junk cars, appliances, scrap metal and the like; the cast off detritus of a spoiled society – not the kind of place that most any banker, bureaucrat or corporate lawyer could EVER conceive of anything of value ever transpiring. That’s how we fooled them for so long…..twenty-five years to be exact. Ace proprietor Billy the Junkman was assisted by a pataphysically gifted crew of rounders, scroungers, hackers (the old school kind using sawzalls, fork lifts and cutting torches), slackers, grease monkeys and philosophers: Pervert, Jarico, Rat Girl, Mongoloid, Number 3, Numbers 2 & 1 too, Bee Keeper, Sue, Einstein, Julian the MD from China and more.
Billy Kennedy is from an old school Irish Catholic Frisco junkyard and moving company family. Rough, tough & mean, the Kennedy clan owned several junkyards in the Bayview. The sons each had their own yard. Billy’s was the only one on leased land and, after 25 years the lease was not renewed.
During those 25 years, William Kennedy became one of the most unique and generous patrons of the low arts in town. Starting with the mad genius welders and machine builders of Survival Research Labs in the 80’s and continuing on through artists and makers of all stripes, Ace Auto and Billy the Junkman provided material for a thousand projects for pennies, sometimes for free, to poverty stricken Cacophony, Burning Man or punk rock artists.
All types of events were staged at the yard, the bands and makers usually keeping the $$ (as long as they keep Billy and crew stocked up with cheap beer). Concurrent with Billy’s growing awareness of the odd artists starting to flock to his junkyard for materials and inspiration, was a transformation in the Junkman himself. Billy, always the black sheep in an old school and sometimes callous neighborhood culture, blossomed as a person and as he says: “found his people.” This process included colorful finger nail polish, tiger print summer blouses and blood red pumps. Needless to say, his family didn’t necessarily get the new Billy. Fortunately, he could give as good as he got duking it out with his tough guy brothers.
Ace is gone now, one of the early casualties of the ever increasing property values and short sided greed combined with poor city planning that has incessantly driven artists out of this once artist and weirdo friendly town.
Yasi Mak, artist and builder (Flaming Lotus Girls) has been working on a feature documentary about Ace for several years now. She has a amassed a lot of priceless video of audacious and precarious performances, daily work scenarios, crazed encounters, candid interviews and embarrassing interludes, all taking place at this place – a place that is hard to imagine now. A place the likes of which you will never see in San Francisco again.
She has a kickstarter to help fund the movie: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/385694025/ace-in-the-hole-death-of-a-junkyard?ref=nav_search
It is so important to save, archive and display works that memorialize places like Ace and people like Billy Kennedy. They are the unsung heroes of our culture. In the case of Ace, it was one of the very first places where blue collar, hard ass working folks with attitude and young impressionable artists (and some older cynical ones too!) came together to blow things up and make noise, giving early grounding for what would become the Maker Movement and the best of the Burning Man builders ethos. Those who come later often get the lion’s share of credit, but great things often start with a hand full of regular folks just deciding to work together to F*** S*** UP and have fun!++
There are two other events taking place that will support Yasi’s film and explain a little more about it’s importance to the genesis of populist art that has exploded out of the Bay Area over the last 20 years.
Yasi Mak, Karen Cusalito (American Steel Studios) and I will be speaking about the film and kickstarter as well as Karen’s salvaged Bay Bridge steel for art project at East Bay Mini-Maker Faire on Sunday the 19th at Noon
Please spread the word and come to both or either event if you can.
cheers – JL