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Mission statement: Artist’s new exhibition tackles gentrification

Mission statement: Artist’s new exhibition tackles gentrification

Mission artist and muralist Josué Rojas exudes an eclectic mix of old-school cool and contemporary creativity through his artwork, which encompasses an array of styles ranging from graffiti to traditional oil painting.

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Rojas proudly refuses to be confined artistically.    

“I wouldn’t know how to classify what I do,” he said. “Part of it is definitely street art. Part of it is definitely mural. And part of it is certainly kind of outsider. So I kind of do take part, and am inspired by all of these kinds of traditions within the ‘Modern Mission experience.’”

Born in El Salvador, Rojas was still an infant when he and his family fled the country’s civil war in the early 1980s. Like many others, they eventually found haven and place to call home within the thriving Latino community in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Through the years, Rojas’ community and neighborhood have been a source of inspiration in his work.

“The Mission in the ‘80s and ‘90s was really different from what it is now,” said Rojas. “It was overwhelmingly Latino, and it wasn’t without problems. So a lot of violence, a lot of community in gang warfare, and also a lot of beauty. It was like unpretentious beauty. So a lot of the things that we see now—the murals and the music and the food—people coming together, that was very natural. And it was very unassuming. It was just a very safe space at the same time. Think of that duality of it being kind of a place that did have some violence but also a place that was very safe for us because it was a place where Latinos could really be themselves.”

As a product of his environment, Rojas has had to endure the growing pains of a community that has increasingly been impacted by displacement—homelessness, economic disparity, evictions and forced migrations—of its long-term residents.

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Rojas tackles these and more issues head on in “Géntromancer!” an exhibition that takes its name from William Gibson’s cult-classic 1984 cyberpunk novel “Neuromancer.” One of the prominent themes of the exhibit is gentrification. Rojas is also expanding his show beyond his own work, to feature voices of those in the community who have been directly affected. Through submissions of poetry and prose, he has compiled a broadsheet spread that will accompany his art, which will be featured in the next issue of El Tecolote, which will be published on Sept. 8.

“I think it’s important to be able to talk about these things,” said Rojas. “I felt like I never really had the chance to articulate how I feel. And I think a lot of people have that. I think this exhibition is really an opportunity to talk about something and also to open it up to other people.”

“Géntromancer!” will hold it’s opening reception on Saturday, Sept., 10, 2016 in Acción Latina’s Juan R. Fuentes Gallery, 2958 24th Street, San Francisco. The exhibition will run through Oct. 14, 2016. Gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Story by: Fern Echevarria

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