Know Your Street Art: Ellipses in the Key of Blue

Walking down Fourth Street toward Folsom, you see the yellow construction trucks and the hard-hatted workers toiling away to build the Yerba Buena/Moscone Station for Muni's new Central Subway. Once you turn the southwest corner of Fourth and Folsom, you see Randy Colosky's Ellipses in the Key of Blue — a monumental artwork that fronts the white wall separating the work site from the sidewalk. At 140 feet long and 8 feet high, Ellipses in the Key of Blue is an intricate pattern of geometric circles and bands that snake along in unpredictable directions.

Colosky used a drafting template to create the blue-themed pattern that has stood out from the corner for a year — and will be up for at least two more months. Each new wave in Ellipses in the Key of Blue is a slightly different version of another wave in the artwork. Like patterns in marbleized paper, semi-repetition is a thing of beauty in Colosky's work, which was commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Exhibiting Ellipses in the Key of Blue in the street brings Colosky's work full circle from his days as a street artist. From 1999 to 2002, Colosky put up “Randyland” posters throughout the Mission District. Those works included frenetic scenes of cities with leaning freeways and towers — “twisted cityscapes,” he calls them. Building and architecture have always interested Colosky, who has constructed movie sets in the film industry, built custom office furniture for startup companies, and designed drawings for his creations. In many ways, Colosky was the ideal artist for the Central Subway site.

Speaking of the architectural drafting template that he used for Ellipses in the Key of Blue, Colosky says he's been experimenting with them since 2004. The templates have ready-made shapes to use. “I was drawing in the template and flipping it over, and the different sizes would create a shape within the pattern,” says Colosky, an Oakland artist who regularly exhibits in Bay Area galleries. “In 2009, I was working on a show and resurrected it — and that's when I came up with a process to move it along to create this sort of accumulated progression. It's a little bit of a tortuous process, but I really love that accumulation.”

Colosky's work has a kinetic energy that is noticeable even to those who are rushing past Fourth and Folsom — or stuck in traffic there, as Colosky was many times before getting the commission. “I've sat at that traffic light at Fourth and Folsom so many times,” he says, “and I wanted to make something that people could look at over and over and over again, and still find something engaging with it.”

View Comments