Chronological listing of selected Bay Area Public Art (1933-1967).
1931, Russian Hill, "The Making of a Fresco"
800 Chestnut St., San Francisco.
Don't miss the Diego Rivera mural [at the San Francisco Art Institute] (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 71). This fresco painted by Diego Rivera in nineteen hundred and thirty one is the gift of William Lewis Gerstle during his term as president of the San Francisco art association for the years nineteen hundred and thirty and nineteen hundred and thirtyone
The San Francisco Art Institute gratefully acknowledges the generosity of donors currently funding conservation of the Diego Rivera mural: The Getty Grant Program and Banana Republic (Wall Inscription).
Walk west on Filbert to Columbus and turn right, then left on Chestnut. Walk west on Chestnut to Jones. The San Francisco Art Institute (28) is on the right. In 1926, City Hall architects Bakewell and Brown were moving beyond the neoclassical to a more stripped-down concrete building in the Mediterranean style. The 1970 addition by Paffard Keatinge Clay on the north side of the block was influenced by Le Corbusier. Diego Rivera painted his second mural in the city in an interior gallery here in 1931. In "Making a Fresco, Showing the Building of the City," Rivera not only memorialized architecture and construction, but also the process of mural painting itself. That's his backside perched on the scaffolding. The mural includes portraits of architects Arthur Brown Jr., Michael Goodman, and Timothy Pflueger and artists Will Gerstle, Matthew Barnes, Ralph Stackpole, and Clifford Wight (Wiley 2000: 248).
The Making of a Fresco [Making a Fresco] Showing the Building of a City (1931) is the second of four murals in the Bay Area painted by Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957). It includes portraits of many of the individuals who worked directly on the fresco or indirectly as advisors and patrons: English sculptor Clifford Wight, sculptor Ralph Stackpole, Rivera himself, plasterer Matthew Barnes, architect Timothy Pfleuger, president of the San Francisco Art Association William Gerstle, architect Arthur Brown, Jr., architect and painter Michael Goodman, architect and designer Marion Simpson, also identified as Geraldine Colby, or Mrs. Fricke, and engineer Albert Barrows (SFAI).
1933, North Beach, Monument to Volunteer Fire Department
Columbus to Stockton to Union to Filbert Sts., San Francisco.
Blighted by unkempt cemeteries in its first decade, this early rectangular plot was leveled in the 1860s and became a favorite place to promenade after Montgomery Avenue, renamed Columbus in 1909, was cut across one corner of it in the 1870s. Lillie Coit's monument to the Volunteer Fire Department, sculpted by Haig Patigian and installed in 1933, and the 1879 statue of Ben Franklin are in the Square. In 1958 Lawrence Halprin and Associates and Douglas Baylis designed the present landscape, which is so sympathetic to its surroundings and to the activities of the square that it seems as though it had always existed (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 49).
In 1924, Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who as a child had been adopted as mascot of Volunteer Engine Company Number Five, left $100,000 to the city for general beautification, and $50,000 for a memorial to her beloved firemen. Part of her donation was spent for a large bronze statue, which stands today in Washington Square. The rest went into the erection of Coit Tower, designed by Arthur Brown, Jr., leading architect of the magnificent Civic Center (Alexander and Heig 2002: 95).
The story of San Francisco's early-day fire companies would be incomplete without mention of the legendary Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who as a child was adopted as a mascot by the brave members of Knickerbocker Engine #5. The boys first encountered little Lillie when she was a schoolgirl. Straining to pull their engine up the perilously steep slopes of Telegraph Hill, they were beginning to flag when Lillie threw down her schoolbooks and grabbed one of the pulling ropes, urging the boys to pull harder and faster. Whenever the Knickerbocker Company was called upon, there, more often than not, would be little Lillie, cheering them on. Her mother, the wife of an Army surgeon, who considered herself an arbiter of San Francisco society, was horrified at the child's hoydenish behavior. But somehow Lillie managed to slip away from her parents whenever the fire bell rang. Once she raced after the engine while wearing a bridesmaid's gown. When a firefighting gang of competitors jeered the boys from Number Five for having a girl mascot, her own boys turned the hose on her to show that she was no sissy.
In later years, at a masked ball at Napoleon III's Tuilleries in Paris, Lillie arrived wearing the helmet of a San Francisco fireman. As long as she lived she had the insignia of Number Five embroidered on her handkerchiefs, shirtwaists and fans. After an absence of some forty years she returned to spend her last days in San Francisco. When she died in 1927 she left money for a statue in Washington Square, dedicated to San Francisco's firefighters, as well as a considerable sum to be used for a memorial to be erected on Telegraph Hill. This last bequest was used to build Coit Tower (Alexander and Heig 2002: 71)
1934, Union Square, Bohemian Club plaques
625 Taylor St., San Francisco.
Carlo Taliabua, Haig Patigian, Jo Moro.
Two distinguished club buildings [Bohemian Club and Olympic Club]. Although the latter is firmly in the Ecole des Beaux Arts academic Classical tradition, the former conveys the same exclusiveness with a touch of the Moderne. The bronze and terra-cotta plaques are by Carlo Taliabua, Haig Patigian, and Jo Moro, prominent local artist-members of this colorful institution (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 13).
1934, Telegraph Hill, Columbus Statue
End of Telegraph Hill Blvd., San Francisco.
1939-40, Financial District, WPA murals
99 Mission St., San Francisco.
Often called PWA Moderne, the minimalist Classicism employed by the Public Works Department is well represented here in symmetrical massing and a colonnade reduced to barely projecting piers capped by a narrow lintel. The WPA murals inside are notable. In 1989 the post office building became the frontispiece for a mixed use development that features a large, mid block atrium with a fountain that rains from the ceiling. The residential towers that front on Howard Street are handsome additions to the dull assortment of towers in SOMA (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 36).
Rincon Center HistoryThe word "rincon" means "inside corner" in Spanish. Before the 1860's the site around Rincon Center was a cove that extended to First Street, which now lies four blocks to the west. Rincon was the name given to the hill at the inside corner of the cove. The hill still exists, but is now hidden beneath the entrance to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
In 1939, ground was broken for the Rincon Annex Post Office. Gilbert S. Underwood was its architect. His most famous building is the Ahwanee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. The design is "art-deco moderne" and shows inspiration from classic Greece and Moorish Spain.
In 1941, the W.P.A. held a competition for murals. The contest was won by Anton Refregier, a Russian born artist, who became famous for his work at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. He was paid a large sum of $26,000 for his work. The murals, which depict the history of Northern California, were begun but quickly suspended due to the onset [of] World War II. Between 1941 and 1945, Rincon Annex was an extremely busy environment. Work was resumed in 1946 and over the next two years some 92 changes were made to satisfy special interest groups. The work was finished in 1948 and covers 400 feet of wall space. The work is not a "fresco", but rather a "case-in-tempera" on white gesso over plaster wall. It remains the largest single commission by the Painting and Sculpture Division for the W.P.A.
The greatest challenge came during the "McCarthy era" (1953), when a resolution was introduced to the United States Congress to destroy the murals (they were thought to be "Communistic" in tone). This objection to the work of art was soundly defeated. However, in 1978 the Rincon Annex closed its Post Office. To avoid destruction of the murals, the building was placed under the protection of the National Registry of Historic Places in 1979. Ironically, the artist Anton Refregier died that same year while painting a mural for the Moscow Medical Clinic.
By 1986 work was well under way to incorporate the old Rincon Annex to a new development called the Rincon Center. During excavation, a number of artifacts from long forgotten saloons, boarding houses and laundries, destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake and Fire began to emerge. The most interesting items found were placed on displayed (sic) in the Historic Lobby.
Completed in 1988, Rincon Center, designed by Fain and Johnson of [the] William Pereira firm of Los Angeles, features restaurants, a new Post Office, a full service market, a dentist, an optometrist, a beauty salon, gift shop, and commercial office spaces all crowned by 320 luxury apartments.
Rincon Center's focal point is the Atrium, which features murals by artist Richard Haas that depict San Francisco's culture, science, technology and transportation. Doug Hollis' water sculpture "Rain Column" features 55 gallons of water falling 85 feet every minute. Its total cost was $300,000.
Anton Refregier's restored masterpiece once again graces the Historic Lobby to the [delight of] scores of awe struck visitors that pass through the doors daily. Today, Rincon is truly a "center of attention" (Lobby handout, nd).
1942?, Nob Hill, Dancing Sprites
1000 California St., San Francisco.
Greber, Henri Leon.
Fountain of three nude children dancing in a ring (Civic Art Collection).
1959, Financial District, Fountain
1 Bush St., San Francisco.
The first of the city's glass-curtain-walled towers in the first and best of the tower-plaza settings. Expensive walls like those of the tower, where the air-conditioning console is set in to permit the glass to extend unbroken from the floor to above the ceiling, will never be done again. The same goes for the elegant but extravagant placement of the elevators and stairs in their own mosaic-clad tower outside the office block. The playful round building, originally a bank, is an integral part of the gently sinking plaza with a fountain by David Tolerton (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 31).
1965, Financial District, "In honor of the United Nations Charter"
1 Maritime Plaza, San Francisco.
"In honor of the aniversary of the signing of the United Nations charter in San Francisco twenty years ago. This sculpture symbolizes the institution's struggle for unanimity and world peace dispite divergent social structures, political conflicts and all the tensions of our times." (Plaque in situ).
1967, Financial District, "Bronze Horse"
1 Maritime Plaza, San Francisco.
The major office tower [Alcoa Building] in the Golden Gateway Redevelopment Project...was the first design to use the seismic X-bracing as part of its structural aesthetic. The idea was used again in Chicago's Hancock Building, designed in the firm's Chicago office. The formal plan for the garden squares on top of the garages was intended to create the effect of an outdoor sculpture museum. Major pieces are by Marino Marini, Henry Moore, Charles Perry, and Jan Peter Stern; the fountain is by Robert Woodward. Although the rooftop plazas are convincing pedestrian precincts in the sky, the street level is a grim reminder of what happens when an area is abandoned to auto traffic (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 34).
1967, Financial District, "Standing Figure Knife Edged"
1 Maritime Plaza, San Francisco.
Marino Marini, Henry Moore, Charles Perry, Jan Peter Stern, Jacques Overhoff.
The major office tower [Alcoa Building] in the Golden Gateway Redevelopment Project...was the first design to use the seismic X-bracing as part of its structural aesthetic. The idea was used again in Chicago's Hancock Building, designed in the firm's Chicago office. The formal plan for the garden squares on top of the garages was intended to create the effect of an outdoor sculpture museum. Major pieces are by Marino Marini, Henry Moore, Charles Perry, and Jan Peter Stern; the fountain is by Robert Woodward. Although the rooftop plazas are convincing pedestrian precints in the sky, the street level is a grim reminder of what happens when an area is abandoned to auto traffic (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 34).
Abbreviationsadd = Additions; nm = No Mention; rem = Remodelled; rest = Restoration