The influences that Jason Jägel brings to his artwork include a who’s-who of eclecticism, among them painter Philip Guston, artist Bruce Conner, cartoonist Chris Ware, singer Dudley Perkins, writer Haruki Murakami, director-animator Hayao Miyazaki, and a long list of others who, if you look closely at Mr. Foggy’s Neighborhood, might be apparent.
But Jägel is his own person, and Mr. Foggy’s Neighborhood has the artistic and stylistic touches that have made Jägel an in-demand muralist around San Francisco. A pastiche of connected characters and scenes anchor the mural, but they form an elliptical story that prompts passers-by to guess at the connections.
“Ambiguity is important to me — for its ability to harness imagination,” Jägel, a Mission District resident, tells SF Weekly. “I don’t name my characters, and they largely aren’t reoccurring, so they exist in their own universe of beingness. Part of my impulse for this mural was to have all the characters interrelated in a way — either gesturally or behaviorally, or just touching in proximity.”
So the mural has two people reading above a cloud — a scene based on Jägel and one of his two daughters — while a much bigger figure hovers overhead. Near them, a woman rests her hand on the shoulder of a capped man. As the figures are looking in opposite directions, their hands (and the hands of others) play a central role in Mr. Foggy’s Neighborhood.
Jägel’s other San Francisco murals include one at UN Plaza near Seventh and Market streets, one on the outside of a homeless shelter on Golden Gate Avenue, a temporary one inside SFO Terminal (When Pink Elephants Fly), and one at Balboa Pool (All My Friends at Once).
Jägel has artistic family roots. His father, John Jägel, was a painter and a student of the celebrated abstract painter and colorist Josef Albers. Like his dad, who died in 2006, Jason Jägel has done album covers. (John Jägel’s best-known work is the cool cover of jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s 1962 release Ornette!) But while his dad stayed on the East Coast, where he taught in colleges, Jason Jägel moved to the Bay Area, where he has also taught in colleges after getting a bachelor’s degree from California College of the Arts and an MFA from Stanford University. Another thing the Jägels have in common is their emphasis on color. The blues and yellows of Ornette! are fantastical, as is the palette of reddish-orange hues that appear throughout Mr. Foggy’s Neighborhood.
“My dad was red-green color-blind, so in his studio as a kid, my brother and I would watch him looking at tubes of paint to read the labels,” says Jägel, who painted Mr. Foggy’s Neighborhood in 2016, when it was sponsored by the Clement Street Merchants Association and then-district supervisor Eric Mar. “I spent countless hours mixing paint. And mixing paint for me is the core of the craft that I do. There’s this labor involved that is very meditative. It’s a state that’s really rich with ideas and possibilities. I enjoy pushing colors around to places where they feel non-obvious. I find a color that can hold the possibility of imagination rather than advertise its nature. I do that in my public art a lot. The DNA of my public art are arrangements of nuanced shape and color.”