Even if you're not looking for it, chances are you've seen the art of Chor Boogie and Jet Martinez around. The two friends, active street artists, have work along Market Street, on storefronts in Oakland and the Haight, and in Clarion Alley in the Mission—to name just a few.
But this weekend, the duo aim their brushes and aerosol cans toward canvas instead of concrete in a gallery show at 111 Minna titled Balance. The title refers to a balance between street painting and gallery work as much as it hints to new directions for both artists.
“People do know me for using mass amounts of color on murals,” says Chor, 35, on the phone last week. But after painting on the street for 25 years, “with these canvas works, there's color, but there's a lot of white, light space within all these pieces.”
Across 15 portrait-based pieces, including some based on photographs of his wife in Virgin Mary-like poses, Chor's new style incorporates far more negative space and light than his followers might be used to. It's a new direction that he credits to an experience earlier this year with Iboga, in Costa Rica, which made him “more tuned in with the love aspect” of life.
“These works are a more simplistic approach,” Chor says, “and I plan on incorporating this in other works as well. I've tried the other approach for years, and it's time for a change.”
As for Martinez, his 20 new works in Balance contain “ a lot of closed-in feeling, a lot of filled-in space,” he tells me. Drawing inspiration from lacquered plates in Michocán and other folk art of Mexico, where he was born, his paintings appear like smaller swatches of a larger textile, replete with tight, colorful flowers and vibrant backgrounds.
“It used to be that I pushed new themes with murals, and then I'd catch up in the paintings,” Martinez says of the relationship between working on sidewalks and laboring in the studio. That started to change when he began accepting commissions from people and companies who specifically wanted his signature style on their buildings and storefronts. “Now, it's studio work where I'm pushing new things,” the 41 year-old Oakland resident adds. “I can be more experimental.”
After seven years of knowing each other and working around the Bay Area, this is Chor and Martinez's first show together; the opening night at 111 Minna on Nov. 7 features a burlesque show from Leila Bizzani and Lady Eternal Love, as BAST, in collaboration with Chor.
Naturally, the burlesque performance itself is “experimental,” too. Says Chor, “Everything is experimental. That's not gonna stop.”