Know Your Street Art: Mojo Man, 1 Clarion Alley

In San Francisco's most acclaimed alley for street art, it's stood out for almost two decades. Mojo Man is transfixing and flat-out strange — a portrait of a man with out-of-proportion limbs and an out-of-place demeanor. Kenneth Huerta put up Mojo Man at 1 Clarion Alley in 1996, at the height of his street-art career, but Huerta has since disappeared from public view. A one-time standout in San Francisco's street-art scene, Huerta hasn't been heard from in years. “It's a beloved piece,” says Aaron Noble, an artist and co-founder of the Clarion Alley Mural Project, under whose auspices Huerta made Mojo Man. “Kenneth was a very bohemian guy who hung out a lot in North Beach. He met [Lawrence] Ferlinghetti and did a mural on the side of City Lights. He did a portrait of Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe. He was very much of a Rimbaudian, hallucinatory kind of bent.” Huerta's work has survived at Clarion Alley because of its artistic value (the Mission District alley's most prominent works are retouched as necessary) and because of its location on the upper floors of a Clarion Alley building, which keeps the piece out of taggers' reach. Huerta, who completed Mojo Man in his early 20s, based the large work on a tiny collage of photos that he'd stitched together. The next year, Huerta returned to Clarion Alley to paint the cosmic, planet-oriented motif that surrounds Mojo Man. It's Huerta's last surviving S.F. street art, and, as long as it's up, it will be imbued with mystery. “He went out of town, and just kind of drifted away,” Noble says of Huerta. “Kenneth deserves to be remembered. He was super talented and super energetic — tagging all over the place. When you were with him, you were in constant fear of getting arrested.”

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