Holy smokes, could it be... the biggest SF mural ever?

Brian Barneclo's "Food Chain" mural is a third the size of his proposed "Systems"
Photo by Caitlin Donohue

The answer is yes, yes it will be. And how did the madness begin? “I was in the neighborhood and I saw this wall. And me being me, I got really excited and wanted to paint it.” And so it started, Brian Barneclo’s latest SOMA mural project, whose launch will be celebrated alongside "Systematics," his solo (indoor art) show at fabric8 on Sat/10.

See a wall, paint it; It’s a common enough story in SF -- until you look at one small variable; Barneclo’s wall is 600 feet long and 40 feet tall. And he intends to cover the whole thing. That’s 24,000 square feet, making Barneclo's "Systems" the largest mural yet in a town filled with them. "That was recently pointed out to me," he told me in a recent interview. "It's an interesting thing because, yeah, its going to be helpful [for fundraising], people like to hear that stuff, 'it’s the loudest, it’s the biggest.' But it really has no… [the size] is such a byproduct."

Barneclo's known for his ambitious projects. The artist -- in whose aesthetic fabric8 gallery owner and long time associate, Olivia Ongpin, detects traces of both the Mission school and the Bay area figurative movement from the '50s and '60s -- has installed large scale pieces all over town, from Nopa, to the inner Mission, even on the side of our humble Guardian building. His most well known works are urban cultural/architectural jumbles, representational maps of the iconic streetlamps, restaurants, and skylines that we call our city. "Systems" will be a reflection of Barneclo's recent meditations on interconnectivity; in our society, our city, and in our own bodies.

A mock up of "Systems," slated to be completed by June

It's easy to see why this particular wall caught the muralist's eye. The 7th St. and Townsend building, owned by Crescent Cove Apartments, plays a visible role in the neighborhood. Barncelo's wall can be seen from both I-80 commuters and Caltrain passengers, the train tracks passing at the wall's base. Barneclo thinks it's high time such a prominent canvass was utilized for art. "I think when we’re done, people will be like, 'I can’t imagine that without a mural."

But the mural's not done yet. There's the matter of funding, though Barneclo has already secured a $10,000 grant from Adobe and thinks "people are inclined to get behind the project once they see some action happening." Barneclo has already put in nearly two years of permission getting and permit securing into the project, along with partner Christi Azevedo. And of course, there's still a whole lot of wall to be painted. 

But that will be the easy part. Barneclo completed "Food Chain," his 200 by 25 foot mural on Shotwell between 14th and 15th Street in ten days, with only one helper. His goal is to maintain that same pace for "Systems," completing the mega mural in one month with a team of three helpers. Barneclo doesn't sound too stressed about the task ahead. "I’ll sleep when I’m dead. If I have a chance to take a month and paint one big mural, what more can I ask for? I mean, my girlfriend probably won’t like it, it’s probably going to be all I’m talking about and thinking about.”

Will he make it? Ongpin thinks so. "This might seem like a daunting prospect," she said. "But if you look at the scope, and amount of murals he's done around the city for the past six or seven years, I’m sure he can do it and do it well."

So get ready, San Francisco, because "Systems" is set to be one of the first things some commuters see when they hit SOMA. "It’s almost a welcome to SF to people who are riding the train," Barneclo imagines. "Or a farewell. Its like a port. Treat it like a “Boom! Welcome to San Francisco.”


Brian Barneclo‘s “Systems” Mural launch party/ "Systemics" exhibition

Sat/10 5-9 p.m., free

Fabric8 Gallery

3318 22nd St., SF

(415) 647-5888