Jason Polan is a New York artist I’ve mentioned before. Recently, during my first visit to San Francisco (lovely city!) I found Polan finishing up a 20-day… um, thing for the newest Levi’s campaign “We Are All Workers.” I hesitate with titling his commission, because talking about art, corporate sponsorship, design, advertising, social engagement is pretty tricky. There has been lots of concern over Levi’s efforts to support art (while promoting their brand) in their home city, San Francisco, but no one can deny that Polan’s stint drawing anyone who walked by wasn’t fun, beautiful, engaging and, well, art. Coincidentally, I was visiting SF with a friend who was checking out the Social Practice MFA program at the California College of Art.
Many see Social Practice as the next genre of art, building on conceptual and performance traditions, but creating an entirely new way to make work. Polan might not identify as an artist working in a social practice, but he’s definitely not in a studio, and definitely not performing on stage for an audience. When I visited, he knew the names of every break-dancer, security guard and homeless person in the area. Tourists and locals alike spoke to him at length while he drew what he saw around him. The structure and typography were designed by Sagmeister Inc. It reads “We Are All Workers.”