If you’ve ever been to a national park in the U.S. it’s likely that you’ve seen the brown and white signage. Camping area, rest stop, backpackers, horse trail, no bikes allowed; we view these signs as a means of informing our surroundings and as wayfinding devices. Signs are important and are viewed as something to follow, to obey, which gives them a strong sense of authority. So when artist, Michael Goldman, found inspiration in national park signage as a medium to share observations of San Francisco’s transformations, people noticed.
With a background in architecture and fine art, Goldman transitioned to public art with the belief that “public art is not merely a municipal venue to show off an artist’s work, it is a chance for an artist to speak about the city, culture, history, or even inherent beauty of the location in which it is placed.” Goldman designed his art series with the intention of revealing the current and ever changing environment and culture in San Francisco. His icons are simple and range from people collecting recycled materials in carts to texters at a bus stop to same-sex couples holding hands. They truly capture the diverse people and phenomenons that are alive in the city today.
Michael plans to add more pictograms to the collection and since showing his first exhibit a few years ago, response to his art has been positive. He shared with us that he’s careful to not have his signs be too political, that his art is merely a response to his observations and to bring changes to the forefront of people’s minds.
As for the future of his Urban Pictograms art series? He hopes that it might one day expand to other cities as well. Michael says, “It’d be fun to get a city to install them for real. SF is a large tourist area, so it might be cool to implement them. When tourists are wandering around neighborhoods, they might see things that are different than usual. It would be a way to open people’s eyes to new things.”