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Stenciling is the most adult of the vandal arts. It even has a respectable name. Grandparents surely walk by them every day, unaware, having no idea they’re overlooking prime examples of society’s ruination they could share with a bank teller. Stenciling is also democratic: An artist can produce the same piece, time and again, with none being “original.” They barely need talent, unlike your graffiti kid with a long name and a train coming. Warhol would like stencils. Warhol did like stencils. What do you think silkscreening is? Mission District stencil archivist Russell Howze, creator of the vast www.stencilarchive.org, has been championing the form for years. The more than 500 photos in his new book, Stencil Nation: Graffiti, Community, and Art, are in direct contrast to the statement we just made — that you don’t need talent to be a stenciler — because these images are incredibly impressive, spanning 28 countries and 350 artists. Although we still appreciate freehand lettering, this book offers a strong rebuttal: It’s not 1985 anymore.

Today, learn the trade as Howze presents a stencil workshop.
Sat., May 16, 3 p.m., 2009

 
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