Walk down this dead-end street, and the first thing that hits you is the smell of urine. Barbed wire guards the parking lot to the left. Few pedestrians would willingly venture into such a scene. But those who do are treated to one of San Francisco's best works of street art: Ruby, a collaboration between Hawaii artist Kamea Hadar and the Bay Area artist named Poesia. Both representational and abstract, Ruby takes up a building's entire outside wall, and features a dark-haired, lipsticked beauty (Hadar's contribution), surrounded by a grid of lines and colored triangles (Poesia's contribution).
“A lot of times, people expect artists with similar styles to work together, but in my case, I like to go the other way and have contrasting works and contrasting styles,” says Hadar, who began collaborating with Poesia after inviting him a few years ago to POW! WOW! HAWAII, an annual arts event that he co-directs in Honolulu.
Poesia's girlfriend, whose first name is Ruby, posed for the work, which went up last year. Ruby originated spontaneously during Hadar's August 2013 visit to the Bay Area for an exhibit of his work at San Jose's Cukui Gallery. That gallery is overseen by Orly Locquiao, a good friend of Hadar's who tattooed 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. “I stayed with Poesia,” says Hadar, “and we wanted to paint a mural, and we got connected with a friend who had connections to some walls in San Francisco, and I just decided to extend my flight and paint a big mural while I was there.”
“Usually,” Hadar says, “when I do a collaboration, I have someone do the background first and then I lay a portrait over it. But Poesia likes to pull lines off the figure. So he did some of the background, I laid the portrait, and then he took some lines that go off her shoulder and the corner of her chin for the lines in his piece.”
The lines make the work seamless as it transitions from Hadar's art to Poesia's. The best vantage point to see Ruby may be the intersection of Colton Street and Colusa Place, which has to be approached from a block south of Stevenson. With its odd mix of apartments, a residential hotel, businesses, parking lots, and dead-end streets, the small area between Market and Otis streets and Gough and 12th streets is a curious corridor, with few pedestrians. Ruby and other nearby street art stand out in this transitional neighborhood. JC