Comic art exhibit salutes SF district’s Fil-Am movers and shakers
SAN FRANCISCO – A graphic storytelling project Isugid Pinoy! led by visual artists Don Ellis Aguillo and Rafael “Raf” Salazar is on exhibit at the San Francisco Main Library until Jan. 23, 2020.
Isugid Pinoy! (ee-soo-ghid) or “Tell It, Filipino,” in Visayan language is presented by Kularts, in partnership with members of the SOMA Pilipinas community.
“As the nation’s premiere presenter of contemporary and tribal Pilipino art, Kularts’ curatorial approach is geared not only to uplift artists and their work but also towards a deep and meaningful engagement with our community,” said a press statement.
Isugid Pinoy! Mythic Warriors of SOMA Pilipinas is Aguillo and Salazar’s first major exhibition of their comic book art. It is on the third floor of the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library.
Featuring large-scale renditions and especially laid out panels and displays of comic book art, the exhibition is free and open to the public during library hours.
Filipinos have a long history in San Francisco. In the 1920s and 1930s, San Francisco had the highest density of Filipinos in the country. Waves of urban renewal and redevelopment pushed the Filipino community out of Manilatown on Kearny Street, the Fillmore and the Yerba Buena neighborhoods. Many Filipinos settled in the South of Market (SoMa), and by the 1970s were the dominant population there. To this day, SoMa continues to be the cultural center of the community.
On April 12, 2016, San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the establishment of SOMA Pilipinas, Filipino Cultural Heritage District, which is bounded by 2nd Street to the east, 11th Street to the west, Market Street to the north, and Brannan Street to the south.
Aguillo and Salazar pursued multiple stories driven by the ideas and narratives of SOMA Pilipinas-based organizations: Arkipelago Books, Bayanihan Equity Center; West Bay Multi-Service Center; and Bindlestiff Studio.
For the first six months of the project, Aguillo and Salazar focused on creating the 10-20 page community-driven comic book by conducting surveys and interviews with people from SOMA Pilipinas anchor organizations.
In addition, Aguillo and Salazar created large posters that each organization can exhibit on storefront windows. Piecing together these various stories into a narrative whole, they have rendered a mythic version of these notable organizations and members of the Pilipino community who were instrumental in the establishment of SOMA Pilipinas.
“When shaping the stories of Isugid Pinoy!, I interviewed people deeply rooted in the SOMA. I wanted to highlight everyday heroes as my superheroes,” says Salazar.
Both from the East Coast, the two artists began to seriously explore their Filipino roots and heritage when they moved to San Francisco. Their entry point was through Philippine folkloric dance by joining Parangal Dance Company.
They eventually worked on projects as commissioned artists of Kularts that led to the creation of the comic books Clan of Saints Bay and Isugid Pinoy! They co-founded In Hiatus Studios, a print and publishing house in San Francisco. One of their goals with their business is “to continue to create comics.”
“By creating our own SOMA Pilipinas heroes and mythology through the medium of comics, we evoke pride and inspiration and empower our community in the present as well as the future,” says Salazar.
“Isugid Pinoy! is an alternative lens, and for those it spotlights, a mirror, on the forces that make the SOMA Pilipinas, Filipino Cultural Heritage District relevant and formidable,” says Aguillo.
Isugid Pinoy! Mythic Warriors of SOMA Pilipinas Exhibition; Until Thursday, January 23, 2020 San Francisco Public Library 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102-4733. For more information: www.kularts-sf.org