San Francisco has a rich history of graffiti art, but over the last decade or so, due to gentrification, new tech businesses setting up shop in the city, and anti-graffiti enforcement by the city, nearly every thing has been buffed (cleaned up) save for the few legal murals. Places like Psycho City (Van Ness and 12th Street), Silver Terrace park, Crocker Amazon park, West Portal Muni tunnels are all long gone, only surviving in photos in private collections or online. Most of the graffiti artists from the 80’s and 90’s have grown up and moved on from the streets, some to more mainstream art and design work, others started families, picking up 9-5’s. Only a small few dedicated, hardcore, lone wolfs, and out of town graffiti artists are still hitting up the walls of San Francisco.
One such individual who I had the pleasure of meeting was a guy who went by the tag name CUBA (featured in Piece by Piece and the KQED documentary). It was the summer of 2005, an old high school friend was back in town from college, staying with his folks in North Beach, and on one of our hangouts we happen to catch CUBA working on the North Beach mural above on Columbus and Powell street. We got to exchange stories of our adolescent vandalistic adventures with CUBA over the course of a few weekly meetings (finding out his longtime history with the San Francisco Bay Area graffiti art scene), coming to find out we all were DJs as well. CUBA had a Sunday night gig at the Fuse lounge on Broadway, and invited us to swing by for a drink, he played reggae and dancehall vinyl. One day CUBA asked me and my friend to fill in for him on a Sunday at Fuse, we jumped at the chance to play out and agreed. Vinyl crates in hand, we showed up to Fuse one Sunday night. There was a small Sunday crowd, we proceeded to play some Hip-Hop, Reggae, and Dancehall tunes. CUBA showed up towards the end of the night, we thanked him for the opportunity (one of my early bar/club gigs). CUBA and others like him (KR, SABER, OBEY, Banksy and etc) though not native San Franciscans (CUBA is originally from Baltimore) they have added to the styles of San Francisco graffiti art, the New Wave styles. Above are some memorable San Francisco graffiti art of local and non local artists.
Watch two documentaries on the history of San Francisco Bay Area graffiti art below.
Bay Area Graffiti: The Early Years – KQED Arts
Piece by Piece – SF Bay Area Graffiti Documentary