In a couple of years, the former Hollywood Billiards site on Market Street will be torn down and replaced with a 13-story building of high-priced apartments. So when the developers' temporary commercial occupants asked the artist-musician named Romanowski to paint a work that covers the outside wall during this transition, he faced a tough choice: Should he really make work that helps transition the building into yet another symbol of gentrifying San Francisco — and a symbol of how hard it is for artists like him to survive here? Romanowski's decision led to the vibrant art that's now at 1030 Market, where two bears straddle five giant bands of green fan-like blades.
“I became an artist and musician so I don't do bad things in the world. I could never work for corporations, and I could never be a drug-dealer. I would never do advertising for tobacco or alcohol — even though I've been approached for that, and it would have been great money. But this, I get to work on a big scale,” Romanowski tells SF Weekly. “It's something for the community overall. And you can go like, 'Gentrification!' But it's going to happen with or without me. So I thought, 'Why don't I add something nice and have people hopefully appreciate it?'”
Romanowski painted the intricate green blades that front the food market called The Hall (read our cover story about market halls on page 15). The artist Monty Guy painted the bears, one of whom is painting a red star. The animals and the symbol, which are on the California flag, represent the state. The star's paint deliberately drips onto Romanowski's shapes, which represent nature. The work is the latest notable street art on the mid-Market corridor that is experiencing rapid commercial growth. The area can still be dicey, though, and as Romanowski was painting there, he faced some challenging moments.
“I was there for 50 hours, and 99.5 percent of the people were great and lovely and appreciated it,” says Romanowski, 45, a longtime San Francisco resident who was born and raised in Switzerland and has been an exhibiting artist for almost 20 years. “But the other people who were shitty, I thought, 'I'm never coming back down here.' One guy told me, 'I'm going to piss on your mural every night.' I said, 'Okay, do what you need to do.' “
So far, though, the work is holding up nicely.