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Forty - Niner Hunting
Written by The Eastsider   
Wednesday, 03 May 2006 06:13
The Eastsider ventures into Richmond's Iron Triangle in search of some found treasures with Mike Simpson and Derek Weisberg of Oakland's own Boontling Gallery.

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Words and photos by Theo Konrad Auer with additional photos by Mike Simpson

A short while back I had the opportunity to go on a combo bombing run and junk finding expedition with my friends Mike Simpson and Derek Weisberg who run the excellent Boontling Gallery in Oakland. They dub these hunts, "Forty - Niner Runs," as they are modern treasure hunters in the rough urban environs. These runs have been a early morning weekend tradition for the pair for the last few years, having begun the ritual early on in their friendship. Mike sprays his iconocastic stencils, sometimes with friends like Adam 5100 and the Press Pause collective. Derek throws up sculptures, a rarity in street art. It's something I'd like see more. His sculptures reflect the tough skin folks learn to grow in such places as these. They have a sad and beautiful quality and are works of both deeply permeating subtlety and originality. The spot we hit is located deep in Richmond's "Iron Triangle" neighborhood, a area known to be one of the Bay Area's most violent places. They are many stories for the neighborhood's monitker, but the one I've heard the most that it is called so due to its bordering on three sides by commercial rail lines. Some of them are well used, and others are rusted - creating a creepy and oddly beautiful ambiance to the place. In the particular spot we went to, there is pretty much none of the painting over of graffiti pieces that you encounter commonly in the Bay Area. Some pieces aren't in perfect condition, but here this is due to weather aging and likely vandals. There is wonderful quality in that. Many pieces in the Bay Area don't last. Sometimes due to being painted over. Sometimes due to toys painting over other, better pieces. Sometimes gentrification plays a role. Spots such as this are unlikely to painted over anytime soon due to their location. I made a photo journal of our trip and interviewed Mike Simpson and Derek Weisberg about this abandoned place called "Helter Skelter"

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Above and below, Mike Simpson's stencils in progress and the end result, as seen next to one of Derek Weisberg's sculpted heads.

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The Eastsider: How did you find this spot? Mike Simpson:We found Helter Skelter while walking the train tracks from D's(Derek Weisberg's) studio. We came upon a hill with an imposing view of the abandoned complex of brick buildings, and died in awe. A palace of abandoned industrial factories. A place where one could walk around, hit-up, steal treasure to make our art from without being disturbed by the cops.

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The Eastsider: What makes this spot special or different from others you've hit up? Derek Weisberg: I think this is a pretty normal type of spot we hit;. Of course we hit the streets when we go to the city and such, but we seem to be naturally drawn to areas of decay, industrialization, abandonment, etc. The train tracks are like a forgotten world, or a world that once was. I seem to find these places more interesting.

Mike Simpson: This spot is different because it is by far the largest. Most places are cramped spots under bridges, smaller abandoned buildings, one cool one was a half-burnt-down auto parts factory. At Helter Skelter,we could paint on the roof, inside, on cars wherever. It was pretty much a big lawless playground. With that said, it is also a dangerous spot. Of course you were there when Derek almost got assaulted. We have run into migrant workers who squat there, and various bums, one time we met a whore who offered her services. I probably would have died form 10 different STD's.

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Above: A collapsed roof we carefully trekked across to see more burners and pieces thrown up. Near by this, there 's a crumbling sliver of decaying brick, on which longtime East Bay graf arist AMEND must have balanced on to throw up. It was just one of many piece's we saw, and not the best one - that said, it was impressive to see it in such a precarious place. Below: The Union Pacific rail roars by, carrying consumer goods south.

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The Eastsider:You and Derek utilize a lot of found objects in your work. The effect this creates is interesting. You appropriate junk and remix it into art that is raw and quite interesting. What kind of stuff do you guys look for? Describe some ways you've used such things as ingredients for your work?

Mike Simpson: We look for alot of objects with former uses that we can give new meaning to in our artwork. Such as wooden drawers, ornamental woodwork from furniture, metal handlles, gaskets, un-nameable metal industrial objects. Derek uses alot of this for pedestals for his pieces and ornementation for his figures- ej. colanders and dresser pulls combined to make a helmet, or old bottles and picture frames for backround objects.

Derek Weisberg: I use a lot of old boxes, crates, drawers, barrels etc, as pedestals for my figures. I also like to look for old rusted metal pieces which I use sometimes as part of the figures decor, or outfit, i.e. helmets, hats, crowns, armour. Also sometimes as elements that reference a setting or an environment; or objects inside that environment that the figure may or may not interact with. These objects often reference iconic and symbolic images such as the sun, for example.

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The Eastsider:What are some of the craziest things you've come across here? Mike Simpson: Derek found this dope hundred year old piano leg that he used for a pedestal, and some cool victorian grills. That big wooden 4 that Derek found for me goes up for one of my favorites. I also found some dope rubber stamps of the alphabet that I use all the time for "boontling style" flier designs. Derek Weisberg: Crazy homeless dudes, pools of some kind of liquid left over from the asphalt days, creepy old airjet winnebago things, that looked like there were going to have dead bodies in it, The whole place is totally crazy, the list goes on and on.

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Above: Helter Skelter must have had some sort of metal working equipment in it at one time. We imagined that the workers got bored and creative, making this tic tac toe game a monument to their lives of labor. Well...that...or this was the work of a very original street artist...though I suspect it is the former. Below: The Iron Triangle railroad tracks is the kind of place one could imagine bodies getting dropped and not being discovered for a long time. We found this dead dog there. He had been there so long he was practically mummified. Poor guy. He must of gotten run over by one of the trains passin by, probably Amtrak as they are the fastest...

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The Eastsider: What are some the wierdest things that have happened here while you and Derek were throwing up? I know some crackheads chased us today, but this place holds even better stories than that I imagine. It really looks like something out of a George Romero zombie movie... Mike Simpson: I can't really think of anything really really wierd that happened to us. The crackhead was up there on the scale. The train-track people that we see generally keep to themselves. They live in abandoned structures, or in little shacks built out of the same materials we make our art out of, and they dress in whatever they find. The traintracks are kindof a lonely place. We like it because of the deserted ambience- as opposed to the chaotic city that surrounds the tracks. Its a lonely strip that runs through the city that has its own post-apocalyptic character. We say to ourselves that this is the way the urban landscape will look and feel if a giant collapse does occur.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Photo Journal: On our walk through desolate landscapes that make up the Iron Triangle, we passed the BART(Bay Area Rapid Transit) depot on the way to Helter Skelter:

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Here are some of the cooler pieces and burners I saw at Helter Skelter. This is not by any means a comprehensive photo journal of the pieces seen there, but the end results of my best shots I took on this particular trip:

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This graffiti reads, "Doomed to be a killer since I came out the nutsack - Ice Cube 1995".

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Mike Simpson gets his paste and stencil on, with his own stencils and with some objects he found on our trip! Nice find:

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Derek Weisberg glues up his sculptures to walls, precarious ledges, and other worthy surfaces:

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Post Forty - Niner Hunt, we reconvened at Derek's nearby studio in Richmond to chill and shoot the dootie. I took some shots of Derek Weisberg's studio while there. Check out his work adorned with some of the many found treasures from his Forty - Niner Hunts, the kiln they were heated in, photo studies and last my favorite current piece of his(which is in - progress):

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Mike Simpson sent me over these photos that were taken at Helter Skelter on a run a month previous to our visit,undertaken with Canadian art cooperative Press Pause. Mike collaborates with fellow artist THESIS, with the results seen after - then a group shot. They make for a good "bookend" to this photo journal:

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Alison Blickle @NYC's Kravets Wehby Gallery

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 17:39


Headlands Center Fundraiser -6/4/14
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SAN FRANCISCO --- The Headlands Center for the Arts is preparing for their largest fundraiser of the year set to go down on June 4th at SOMArts here in the city. Art auction, food, drinks, live music, etc and all for helping to support a great institution up in the Marin Headlands. ~details

ABOUT HEADLANDS
Headlands Center for the Arts provides an unparalleled environment for the creative process and the development of new work and ideas. Through a range of programs for artists and the public, we offer opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and exchange that build understanding and appreciation for the role of art in society.

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//////// INSTAGRAM ----- FECAL_FACE

 

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The Albatross and the Shipping Container

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The Marsh Barge - Traveling the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to quit my job, move out of my house, leave everything and travel again. So on August 21, 2013 I pushed a canoe packed full of gear into the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, along with four of my best friends. Exactly 100 days later, I arrived at a marina near the Gulf of Mexico in a sailboat.


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