A New Mission District Art Exhibit Challenges SF’s ‘Doom Loop’ Narrative

The adage that San Francisco is in a state of perpetual freefall has become clickbait as of late — but a new exhibit reminds us that SF is as resilient as it is beguiling.

San Francisco exists as a bastion for so many who left their homes to find a semblance of community; of kinship; to be in a community that celebrates themselves and what it means to live a good life on this entropic space rock. The Covid-19 pandemic forever changed our ideas of not only home but how we move about our daily lives.

The past three years have seen the media fixated on SF’s “mass exodus” and decline of its downtown; the “doom loop,” if you will. But like we’ve waxed (in countless tones and textures) before: San Francisco’s problems aren’t unique — they exist in every large American metro to some degree.

But what is uniquely San Francisco is the city’s indefensible amounts of beauty. How it carries itself through seasons (read: fog densities). The way SF elicits you to walk everywhere, bike everywhere else, and ditch your car keys for a Clipper card.

All of these peculiarities are on full display at the intersection of 17th and Harrison streets inside the 2121 Art Space.

For the month of August, the aforenoted culture hun has joined forces with the Thomas Reynolds Gallery to present San Francisco: Still Beautiful, an exhibition of cityscape paintings by San Francisco by artist Veerakeat Tongpaiboon. Included in the exhibition are two dozen recent paintings, featuring scenes of San Francisco — each piece of art founded on Tongpaiboon’s three-plus decades in San Francisco.

Tongpaiboon’s style exists in a canon of creativity all to itself. He manages to create mesmeric dreamscapes that blur into the background, yet invite exceptional detail and investigations into the precision of each brush struck.

Tongpaiboon’s proclivity for urban living is apparent — “I like speed, I like buildings, I like cars,” he once told Southwest Magazine. “The energy of the streets of San Francisco continues to inspire me.”

“Incoming Fog,” by Veerakeat Tongpaiboon.

A native of Thailand, Tongpaiboon began painting at the young age of 10 years old. In 1992 he came to San Francisco to further his education and would later receive his M.F.A. degree at the Academy of Art Institute. Just two years after securing that degree, Tongpaiboon grew his savvy with canvas and paint into a full-time career; Tongpaiboon’s collections have shown through the world, and his current display in San Francisco’s Mission District is a celebration of his life in San Francisco. (A visual love letter to his years spent watching time pass in SF, perhaps.)

“Twilight,” by Veerakeat Tongpaiboon.

Among the on-display pieces, some of which are still for sale, are moments seen in crowded bike lanes, imagined stills of San Francisco come twilight, and how tall palms cast consuming shadows along Market Street. 

Slowly strolling through San Francisco: Still Beautiful is an exercise in stillness, gratitude, and wonder. You’d be hard-pressed to not fawn and fall even deeper in love with SF by the time you exit.

San Francisco: Still Beautiful will be on exhibit Friday and Saturday between August 5th through August 26th, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; for more information on the exhibit, visit 2121artspace.com.

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