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Mission School

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Murals, LACMA parking garage (now torn down) by Barry McGee (Twist).

The Mission School (sometimes called "New Folk"[1] or "Urban Rustic"[2]) is an art movement of the 1990s and 2000s, centered in the Mission District, San Francisco, California.

History and characteristics[edit]

This movement is generally considered to have emerged in the early 1990s around a core group of artists who attended (or were associated with) San Francisco Art Institute. The term "Mission School", however, was not coined until 2002, in a San Francisco Bay Guardian article by Glen Helfand.[3]

The Mission School is closely aligned with the larger lowbrow art movement, and can be considered to be a regional expression of that movement. Artists of the Mission School take their inspiration from the urban, bohemian, "street" culture of the Mission District and are strongly influenced by mural and graffiti art, comic and cartoon art, and folk art forms such as sign painting and hobo art.[3][4] These artists are also noted for use of non-traditional artistic materials, such as house paint, spray paint, correction fluid, ballpoint pens, scrapboard, and found objects.[5] Gallery work by these artists is often displayed using the "cluster method", in which a number of individual works (sometimes by different artists) are clustered closely together on a gallery wall, rather than the traditional gallery display method of widely separating individual works.[6]

Street art has always been an important part of the Mission School aesthetic. Several Mission School artists crossed over into San Francisco's burgeoning graffiti art scene of the 1990s, notably Barry McGee (who wrote under the name "Twist"), Ruby Neri (a.k.a. "Reminisce"), Dan "Plasma" Rauch, and Margaret Kilgallen (a.k.a. "Meta").[7][8]


Artists considered to be part of the Mission School (past or present) have included:[3][4][9][10][11]

The profiles of these artists were raised by the inclusion of the work of Barry McGee in the 2001 Venice Biennale[12] and the works of Chris Johanson and Margaret Kilgallen in the 2002 Whitney Biennial.[3][13]

New Mission School[edit]

In 2003, not long after the term "Mission School" was coined, a panel at the Commonwealth Club of California named several emerging San Francisco artists as constituting a "New Mission School". These artists included Andrew Schoultz, Dave Warnke, Sirron Norris, Neonski, Ricardo, Damon Soule, Misk, and NoMe, though many of these artists do not embrace the "Mission School" label.[5]


Mural, LACMA parking garage (now torn down) by Margaret Kilgallen (Meta)

The term Mission School has been criticized for being too geographically specific (many artists outside of San Francisco share this aesthetic, while others living in the Mission District do not), while at the same time being a vague catch-all, with many artists who are referred to as Mission School having a hard time seeing how they are part of this "school".[9][14]

Galleries and other venues[edit]

Galleries, museums, and sites closely associated with the Mission School include:


  1. ^ Joo, Eungie. 2002. "The New Folk”, Flash Art, May/June 2002, pp 124-126.
  2. ^ Pritikin, Renny. Harvest: Introduction, republished in Shift #69, August 2002.
  3. ^ a b c d Helfand, Glen. "The Mission school", San Francisco Bay Guardian, October 28, 2002.
  4. ^ a b Modigliani, Leah. "Marketing the Mission: Commodifying San Francisco’s Art, the 'Mission School', and the Problem of Regionalism", Stretcher.org, September 17, 2004.
  5. ^ a b "The New 'Mission School'" Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine (panel), Commonwealth Club of California, June 4, 2003. (link to RealAudio file)
  6. ^ Rose, Aaron; Strike, Christian. 2004. Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art and Street Culture. ISBN 1-891024-74-4
  7. ^ Blague, Amor Sans. "Reminisce Remembered" Archived 2008-03-21 at the Wayback Machine, Motility Blog, 30 April 2005.
  8. ^ Wilson, Megan. Clarion Alley Mural Project Archived 2017-10-13 at the Wayback Machine, MeganWilson.com, 2006.
  9. ^ a b Reader responses to "Marketing the Mission", Dan Plasma Stretcher.org, January 17, 2005.
  10. ^ "Ten by Twenty" Archived 2016-03-09 at the Wayback Machine, SFStation.com, November 16, 2004.
  11. ^ Feaster, Felicia. "Bill Daniel: Off the grid", Creative Loafing Atlanta, 26 March 2008.
  12. ^ "Panic Attack: Navigating the Venice Biennale's Sprawling Interzone" by Kim Levin, Village Voice, June 25th, 2001.
  13. ^ "Adobe proved fertile ground for 'Mission School' artist Chris Johanson's work featured in Whitney Biennial" by Jamie Berger, San Francisco Chronicle, April 10, 2003.
  14. ^ Noble, Aaron. "The So Called Mission School" in Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo, Jacoby, Annice, ed. NY: Abrams, 2009.

Further reading[edit]

  • Buchner, Clark. 2006. "Profit-free zone". Art Review 4(5):92–95.
  • Drescher, Timothy W. 1998. "Street subversion: the political geography of murals and graffiti". In: Brook J, Carlsson C, Peters NJ (eds). Reclaiming San Francisco: History, Politics, Culture: A City Lights Anthology. ISBN 0-87286-335-2
  • Rinder, Lawrence. 2005. "Learning at the Mission School". Parkett 74:186–190.
  • Bay Area Now: A Regional Survey of Contemporary Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 1997.

External links[edit]