John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
This week, Bay Area art lovers were treated to paintings made from real animal poo "carefully hand-picked from local farms."
Once in a blue moon, there comes an art show so fearless and conceptually earth-shattering that it rearranges a city's cultural landscape, forever.
"I Poop You" was not one of those shows.
It was, as the title implies, an exhibit dedicated to, and made from, poop. Animal feces, in fact, that were "carefully hand-picked from local farms" in the San Francisco Bay Area and plopped onto canvases. My best guess is that it's goat poop, but in the broad scheme of things that doesn't really matter – whether pig, horse, or cow, what matters is that a well-established gallery in a major city took the time to troll the public with a Roy Lichtenstein painting executed in barnyard spoor.
"I Poop You" showed for one night only, this Wednesday, at the Public Works art house in the Mission. In addition to the Lichtenstein tribute, there was a feculent portrait of Che Guevara, a manure-based map of the world, and a line of T-shirts and women's underwear emblazoned with poo piles. Nameplates below each work were toilet-paper rolls. Beer and wine was served in the back, and the joint was absolutely packed.
In terms of the history of modern art they're a little late for that, but it's all right: The guys obviously put their heart and soul into this project, and that's all that matters. Not that it translated into sales, mind you. "Last night was their very first show – the first time they showed their poop art to the world," says Betty Bigas, who runs the gallery. "Many people showed much interest on some pieces, but they did not close any deals [Wednesday] night."
Here's the scene from that magical evening. The fecal material in the paintings had been wadded up into little balls to create a visual style not unlike pointillism. I'd really love to talk with the show's chief wadder to unravel what an amazing job that had been:
The smell of the paintings was not bad, for what it's worth (though I didn't get close enough to really stick my schnoz into one):
People seemed to like this golden plunger:
The poop pellets in this riff on "Oh, Jeff... I Love You, Too... But..." were painted pink, giving it a cutesy vibe:
These artworks were not cheap. Here's a sampling from the price list: Poop Revolution: $1,600. Poop Without Borders (map): $3,500. Poop is Our Religion (rosary): $666.
This is an ingenious tool for secretly covering a city with poo-themed graffiti. A person puts the paper bag on the ground, and then sprays paint onto the stencil at the bottom while looking to be tying a shoe:
There was a series of manipulated photographs (I am not posting what they did to the cover of The Diary of Anne Frank):
Ladies, would this make a good anniversary gift? Please let me know ASAP because I'm about to finalize this online order:
All photos by John Metcalfe.