The Valencia Street corridor was transformed into an impromptu art gallery Thursday night as Johnny Selman presented 100 days of news as art. Selman has been creating one poster a day, each inspired by a BBC news headline, and chose to exhibit his first installment of what will become 365 days of news-art at some of his favorite Mission hangouts.
“I wanted to bring these posters to the street of Valencia, support the local businesses. Given the public nature of project and the content of the posters, it just seemed fitting,” said Selman as he prepared for the show Thursday afternoon.
The goal of his project, part of his master’s thesis for the Academy of Art, is to raise awareness of global news events in an American audience by presenting the headlines in a visually compelling way.
“There’s so much going on, and the supply of news isn’t keeping up. You see a lot of movement toward soft news.” The project’s website claims that the “domestication” of news outlets has led to a decline in news from overseas.
Selman says the response from neighborhood businesses was overwhelmingly positive, considering the fanciful holiday displays many of them feature this time of year. Of the businesses he contacted along Valencia between 17th and 22nd streets, only a handful turned him down outright.
Selman had a list of nearly 120 businesses willing to hang his posters, a number of which hung four or five in prime glass-paned real estate. “It seemed like a cohesive thought process,” said antique store owner Jonathan Siegel, who says he usually doesn’t allow people to hang posters in his shop windows.
Valencia Street was the ideal setting to Selman, who patronizes many of the businesses in the neighborhood. “It’s right in my backyard, and this is where my wife and I eat a lot, it’s where we shop. And there’s no shortage of storefront windows.”
Selman’s deliberately unorthodox venue required a great deal more logistical planning than he’s used to. “When you’re dealing with a gallery, you have your artwork and you drop it off.” Thursday’s show was the culmination of two months of face-time, e-mailing and old-fashioned shoe-leather elevator pitching.
That’s to say nothing of the time he’s actually spent making the posters. For more than three months, Selman has started his daily hunt for headlines at 6 a.m. “I read all the stories on the front page, trying to figure out what might slip past the radar of my American audience.” After selecting the top story, he sets to work.
His pieces use a color palette of just 14 hues, and as few elements as possible. “These stories are very rich, so there’s plenty of imagery and content that I can draw from. Every day is a task in self-editing.”
Selman typically finishes by 10 a.m. and is ready to start the day. A few times the task stretched to 11 p.m. as he struggled to finish on lunch breaks and between classes. “But it’s only gone awry about a half-dozen times,” he said.
Selman says the reward has been well worth the effort.
“I’m still enjoying it. I’m looking forward to the next 265 days.”