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Scott Williams - 1956-2024

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Scott Wiliams sig
Detail of a Scott Williams mural in the Lower Haight, SF. Photos dated Feb. 1999, and the mural was painted over around 2012.

In the amazing book "Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo", Aaron Noble was tasked with writing a feature about "The Stencil Godfather of the Mission" Scott Williams. In Noble's words, two parts stand out: Scott's art employs "optically disorienting patterns and color combinations while maintaining an ambiguous authorial tone poised somewhere between pop and paranoia... and the world is not as it seems." (pp. 250-51). Ever since I saw Scott's work on Valencia St. in 1997, I have never seen the world the same way since. Many times, there is too much space and not enough negative space in the world. During Scott's long career, he made sure that the emptiness was as full as possible, and sometimes so much so that it was overwhelming.

Once I finally met Scott, I was all in for trying to take as many photographs as possible of his work, in hopes that putting them here on Stencil Archive would replace all the banalities that the world wide web had to offer. It also helped Scott get his art on the internet, because he never had much use or patience for computers. It was a long trip full of "pop and paranoia", with visits to Scott's apartment to go through his cut out piles, his art books, his sketch books, and even his apartment walls and surfaces.

Scott's health was never good, and as he got older, his health continued to fail. Though sad to hear from his friends that he had died this week, I am OK with the fact that his physical sufferings are at an end. What is hard to reconcile is that his mind, visions, and creations are now in the past tense of this world. There will be no more art from Scott in the future, which is difficult to accept. 

I have spent hours of my life looking at his work and enjoying it, and I knew better not to really ask him deep questions about it. As Aaron Noble wrote in "Mission Muralismo", Scott "deflects questions... with the most mundane comments imaginable." It always made me laugh, which may have been the point for much of his work. I won't put adjectives to his work either, because Scott would've also deflected them. 

Either way, he knew I was a fan. I showed up to the photo shoot visits with big eyes and eager cravings to see everything he had made. In a way it was a stencil master class of lectures with one of the greatest stencil artists alive.

And it is a different world now that Scott is gone. But his art is still here on the site and out in the world, which will always be a pleasure to experience over and over. May Scott's work run forever!

I haven't updated Scott's Stencil Archive yet, and have spent the weekend rescanning my 1990s film photographs of his work. This has become the next project for this 2024 website upgrade, so keep eyes out for a few new photos, some new old photos, and then a cleaned up archive. I also updated a few blog posts from years ago. Here is one that now reprints a 1994 article about Scott Williams. Here is another announcing Scott's 2005 Adaline Kent Award.

25 May Artist Uploads

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Jeremy Novy dropped some photos of New Orleans work from the late Michael Roman.

Had no idea Michael Roman painted stencils in New Orleans, but Jeremy Novy did. We have updated Roman's Stencil Archive for the new wave here in 2024.

Amanda Mando Marie has an exhibit that got noticed at Brooklyn Street Art.

Legend Jef Aerosol dropped pics from his current exhibit on social streams.

Here's a JPS stencil snagged fm social zones.

And Amanda snapped a new one from Cartoonneros in Argentina.

Ahoi, Hamburg!

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Good question! (ph TXMX)

The Hamburg Stencil Archive upgrade is complete, with a batch of new images from TXMX.

Hamburg's archive has around 850 photos, mostly thanks to the obsessive photography of TXMX. After spending the week with this city's amazing work, dating back to 2002, we also decided to update TXMX's personal archive as well. Yes, he has spent time making stencils, spraying them on walls and stickers, and getting up in the streets. One Stencil Archive sometimes uses the "we" pronoun is because of amazing contributors like TXMX. 

Back during a freezing January 2009, I went to Hamburg as part of the Stencil Nation book tour. It was a visit full of amazing people, fun times, and great memories thanks to TXMX. He set up all the connections, the exhibit and presentation space, and even let me stay in his studio. I managed to snap many photos and not freeze my fingers off (cafe breaks were key to survival). That stay helped me learn that we are indeed all connected in one big Stencil Nation. 

Now, every January or February, I get an email from TXMX with photos of stencils he has snapped. He doesn't get around as much as he used to, but I always look forward to hearing from him. And I am always hoping that some day I'll be able to head back to St. Pauli and the amazing covered walls of Hamburg. My heart always tells me "soon!"

Sunday 19 May Uploads

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Once again, any tips on who is cranking out these stickers are appreciated.

Before diving into another big archive upgrade, here is a quick tour of some fresh images from here and there:

California, a prophet on the burning shore

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Found in Hollywood (2004), the Eye of Providence looks over those who commute in Los Angeles.

The California Stencil Archive has been updated in addition to a batch of new uploaded images.

Clocking in at over 1,000 photographs, this state archive includes the sub-archives for Northern California, The San Francisco East Bay, and Los Angeles County/City. We have always tried to figure out a way to not confuse California (CA postal initial) with Canada (CA country code) and Los Angeles (LA abbreviation) with Louisiana (LA postal initial), so you will now see "CA East Bay" for the SF East Bay (there are other East Bays in the USA!), and "CA LA" for Los Angeles. CA will have to do for the state is large enough be a country and the country north of the US border. 

It took all week to update these folders, and some subfolders are gone with their images now added to the larger ones (a few North Cal. high schools are two). This is one of the largest updates so far, with a few large ones still looming (looking at you, Hamburg and Italy). Though tedious, it was a true pleasure to revisit these fun and amazing works.

Here is one more, from the East Bay (2020)

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Haight Street, SF Archive Upated

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A valentine on Divisadero Street.

The Stencil Archive for Haight and Divisadero Streets is updated. With around 800 images, spanning as far back as the late 1990s, this archive also includes Cole Valley and Duboce Park. Though many know about the Haight Ashbury name, locals break up Haight Street at Divis, which is where the hill to Upper Haight (Haight Ashbury), Ashbury Heights, and Cole Valley really begins. Below Divis is Lower Haight, where the bicycle Wiggle cuts through and goes past Duboce Park into the Upper Market, Castro, and Mission Districts. 

The Stencil Archive project began in earnest in 1997 after seeing covered sidewalks on Haight Street. Out of all the locations in San Francisco, only Valencia Street and the Mission District top Haight Street as the most concentrated and consistently painted parts of the City.

Along with this large update, SF's Other Locales archive also got a few new ones from North Beach today.

Xavi's Archive is Updated

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Xavi's set of tools on-site at a wall in the Mission District.

Decided to update Xavi's Stencil Archive this morning after seeing his "Tetris House" in the media streams yesterday. Not sure if he and his crew used stencils and cut paper to paint this house, but it is always possible. Open to sharing knowledge and tools, Xavi has been an inspiration for what can be done with negative space. Not only does he work with obvious patterns, Xavi also works with angles, lines, and simple shapes to make wild backgrounds behind repeated applications that create even wilder front matter on his walls. It is fascinating to watch him at work. Stencil Archive has stopped by his walls whenever able, because Xavi always has interesting stories, great tips, and general good cheer for talking about dreams, art (including graffiti), stencils, murals, and the biz.

More San Francisco Archive Updates

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This IBM stencil ad, sprayed all over the Financial District in 2001, is an early example of corporations getting legally dinged for tagging sidewalks and walls.

Had a bit of fun strolling down through history with the South of Market (SoMa) and Financial District archive while it was being updated. With banks, government buildings, the Israeli consulate, and other spots that demand to be spoken to, the streets have something to say in SF's "downtown". This archive also includes Union Square, Jackson Square, Market Street, and the Embarcadero, tony locations where tourists visit and consumerism rules. Sure, things are down around this part of SF, but it hasn't been down for the first time. And it may not make a difference with illegal works. Advertisements pop up along with protest stencils. Some artists roll through to get up in this part of town. And stickers tend to run on signs here, making it a decent, and somewhat surprising spot, to stare at some street art.

Tenderloin Stencil Archive Updated

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Making a statement (ph Lynn Ray)

Believe what you want about the Tenderloin, and its surrounding neighborhoods, but know that this neighborhood is one of the most affordable parts of San Francisco. And it has many protected buildings that house all sorts of interesting people. Murals are on the walls now, but it was mostly graffiti, stencils, and posters up until galleries and organizations went large on the walls. 

The Tenderloin - Civic Center Stencil Archive is updated, and includes new images. Just so you all know, this archive also keeps images from Union Square, Polk Street, Van Ness Ave., and Mid-Market. I have walked through the TL many times (and gave tours through it for about five years), and though grim and sad at times, I have found stencils and interesting walls to look at.