Motility Blog by Amor Sans Blague!

Reminisce Remembered

   Sat, April 30, 2005 - 12:10 PM
Horses ashuffle on the walls of San Francisco! This equine image recalled at
sent a number of us on canters down memory lane.

Ruby Rose Neri was fondly remembered in her graf artist guise of Reminisce, and any number of Remalicious-related tags.

REM was amazingly prolific. I had just become bicycle-enabled (to ride in Critical Mass, natch) in '93, and found the wall enhancements that she and Twist, Joop, NME, Mr. Element and so many others were performing around on walls to be a time of ragged and sensual beauty.

That spring I wrote the first of many columns of commentary for the SF Examiner. What inspired me to write? The very writing that I was seeing on the streets.


The other day I was riding my bicycle South of Market Street, headed for the Bay. Although I was traveling through an industrial part of town, I was prepared to enjoy my ride, for I have found there’s much more to SoMa than auto traffic and ugly buildings. Besides, it was a fine spring day, perfect for falling in love, or for enjoying the many wonderful sights this fecund, creative place has to offer. I was, you might say, blissed out by the beauty, when I noticed something alarming had happened to the walls of San Francisco.
Vandals armed with paint are evidently on the loose…''''''''and they’re slopping it in messy, random, decidedly un?sthetic gushes all over the graffiti that I have come to know and expect to see around town. My favorite characters—the wild horses painted by Reminisce, the dizzy, homuncular Mr. Element, the bearded Bluto-like faces of the Bastard Sons, the cake slices proffered by Miss Jupe One, the screw heads with plastic pocket protectors and $-sign haloes done by Twist—have in many instances been defaced, much like the heads or other body parts have all-too often been knocked off of classic sculpture.
The offending paint has been applied hurriedly, as though by stealth, splashed over sections of their work. It rarely covers the entire figure, and is usually a poor match for the surrounding shade of the wall. Presumably the intention is to deter the artists by not giving them a new palimpsest on which to draw; it is enough simply to mess up their work up and show that their spray daubing is not appreciated by the civic-minded, who can fight paint with paint.
Judging by the number of such alterations and the vector of this censor’s brush, what we are seeing is not fastidious repainting done by business owners wishing to prevent graffiti writers from getting a foot- (or, should I say, spraycan-) hold on private property; it is instead the work of either hired guns, retained by The City, or vigilante anti-graffiti artists.
Newspapers columnists and editorial writers have been fulminating for so long over the “plague” of graffiti that has taken hold in these parts, and added particular color to The City this spring. They’re not the only ones registering their horror and milking it for what it’s worth. City Supervisor Annemarie Conroy has been seeking to shore up her flimsy political capital with predictable bluster on the blight of urban graffiti, just as her godfather the Mayor Frank Jordan did during his campaign to unseat Art Agnos.
When real issues elude easy solution, demagogues go for the symbolic. Whether it’s the plight of the bleating foghorns facing extinction by the Golden Gate, or “the civic scrofula that is graffiti” (in the vivid phraseology of a Chronicle editorial), this rhetorical sleight of hand serves to distract public attention from the scything of essential services with an issue that is arguably aesthetic. While graffiti may make headlines, what people forget is graffiti are the headlines of a certain vital strata in this urban ecosystem.
By opposing the “war on graffiti,” I realize my comments here are going to be read as a ringing endorsement of what is commonly viewed as anti-social behavior. Graffitiists write in the margins because that is where they live; their message may be as minimal as a “tag” (the writer’s nickname or monogram, often written in a stylized script), or a quickly executed “throw-up,” which may be a trademark character, like the horses of Reminisce, the iconic bicycles of Juice, or the cartoon characters of the artist who signs himself Donald Duck.
Not all graffiti is art, certainly. But the writing is on the wall, and has been for thousands of years. From the prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux and Altamira, to the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, even in the ancient churches of Kiev, people have always used walls to express themselves; the simplest, most basic messages can be interpreted universally as I exist (often in the face of depressing marginalization), This is what I saw, to the more radical, Down with__! and evangelical Trust Jesus. Why should advertisers and the State have the monopoly on public message space, anyway?
These scrawlings and drawings may be viewed by patrician property owners as symptomatic of social ills, but really they are part of the civic dialogue, where the writers of night leave their messages to the above-ground dwellers of day, inviting them to come out and play.
Hired guns and vigilantes may continue to strike back against these outlaw inscriptions, unable or unwilling to read them as signs of our times. While graffiti may be among the most ephemeral forms of expression, there is no doubt that San Francisco is at the moment seeing something between a scourge and a renaissance on its walls—and we should recognize it for what it is.


add a comment
Mon, May 2, 2005 - 10:21 AM
funny ...
... i was just asking megan wilson

who reminisce was and she told me

ruby neri.
Tue, September 26, 2006 - 11:14 PM
Her Remiliciousness
Slightly loaded, reminiscing (ha ha) about the epitome of female perfection that was Ruby Rose Neri. Broke my heart, spoiled me for all other women, and disappeared. Not even many of the grafitti-horses left anymore.
Fri, October 6, 2006 - 6:39 PM
From lowbrow to highbrow, and yet....
From what I've seen of her work on the net, Ruby seems to have abandoned "lowbrow" and "Mission School" for more highbrow art, particularly sculpture. However, there's still the obsession with horses:
Thu, November 22, 2007 - 1:43 PM
Ruby is a good shoplifter
Girl could shoplift! We used to snag things from thrift stores in Marin. She was thin, and when she wore a big coat she could really clean up. Those were fun times. I liked her drawings a lot, but the graffiti rubbed me the wrong way from the get go. The repetition drives me up a wall. Bar napkins are to blame (the lack of). If bars would bring back the bar napkin the graffiti would improve ten fold. Going to a private art school (SFAI) and graffiti is pure wannabe pop artist. Like a naive artist with a MFA. Its a paradox and a fad. Might make some folks a lot of scratch, but its piss in wine after all is said and done. I am glad she got away from it. I live in Berlin, a graffiti time warp. For every two that's good, 2000 are sheit. Leave the graffiti in the can people.
Tue, November 27, 2007 - 8:14 PM
Ah yes, Marin....
Ruby was Queen of Caffe Nuvo.
Wed, January 30, 2008 - 7:37 AM
Ah yes, Ruby Neri....Caffe Nuvo, "Ricky Puke" and "The Pukes", Wally Hedrick and six credits from C.o.M..
God only knows what I'd do for a peek at Ruby's panties! That would be the closest I'll ever get to art fame! Ruby was the hottest girl in Wally Hedrick's class....too bad George Foehr and I were so intimidated and felt like losers...she was totally sweet back then, I bet she still is. She was the class pet of Wally Hedrick, who may have saved my life by allowing me to paint whatever I wanted...and when I came to him with my naive,self conscious, big art questions, he just smiled and laughed..I didn't get it then, but I get it now!...I'll never forget his face, his tone of voice, or the experiences I had in his what if I only got 6 credits from the College of Marin.and I think the art world is a bunch of bullshit...I got to hang out with Ricky Puke,Eric Meade,George,Ruby,Crash,Wally and Max Hedrick...those were fun times! And remember kids, TAGS are for FAGS!
Fri, February 22, 2008 - 9:28 PM
And now she's Wiki famous!:
Sun, August 3, 2008 - 5:56 PM
NME was bad ass too
i remember nme she was so down. so driven. so sincere. so sweet.

ah, those were the days.
Mon, November 23, 2009 - 11:26 AM
Great article, you called it back then, and nowadays all the hype calls it the "Golden Age" of S.F. graff.
Ya'll don't even know who took this woman out for her first time and taught her how to throw down in the streets with a can and what tools to use! Glad that Mr. Element is at least gettin' props in the article, thank you. And yes Ruby was very adept at making off with tons of free product, on the regular.
We had fun in this era and anybody that is now livin' in Berlin with the hater attitude needs to step off because we were original and making moves like nobodies business, you sound mad that we got props while you were sitting on your hands fool!
As far as the crew is concerned, anybody know what is up with Max Hendricks? I have been wanting to connect with that guy for a while now.