SFJAZZ Center Murals

SFJAZZ Center Murals by Sandow Birk & Elyse Pignolet

"Jazz and The Nation", "Jazz and The City",
& "Jazz and The Afterlife"

The SFJAZZ Center’s second floor features three commissioned tiled murals, created by the team of Sandow Birk, a Los Angeles-based artist is whose past work has embraced social themes across a wide spectrum — inner-city violence, graffiti, prisons, skateboarding, and a consideration of the Qur’an as relevant to contemporary life in America; and Elyse Pignolet, an American of Filipino descent who grew up in Oakland, California, who works primarily in ceramics and who often addresses the “permanence and traditions of ceramics with the fleeting and transitory nature of the contemporary world.”

Two of the murals, in public view in the upstairs lobby, combine to form one overall composition - a fictionalized cityscape made up of influential and important jazz venues from across the United States and San Francisco. One, titled “Jazz and the City,” depicts storied San Francisco clubs, including Jimbo’s Bop City, home to all-night jam sessions during the music’s heyday, and the Keystone Korner, last of the city’s iconic jazz rooms. The second, "Jazz and the Nation," blends historical images and references of jazz from its roots in African music and the early days of New Orleans' second line traditions to the jazz styles of St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, New York, the West Coast, and Europe.

As Sandow Birk said, "Since the history and scope of jazz is enormous and couldn't be contained in one mural, we have tried to depict places where jazz happened, to be located in the Center where jazz will be happening now."

The third and final mural, "Jazz and the Afterlife,” rests in the Center's second floor green room. It is a parody of religious "Judgment Day" murals with club goers going up to a "heaven" of harps and bagpipes or down to a swinging party in a jazz "hell," where horns blast and jazz fans celebrate.

Created in Pignolet's studio in San Pedro, CA, the ceramic tile murals draw on the extensive global traditions and history of blue and white "azulejo" murals made popular in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. The murals are hand-painted by the artists on handmade ceramic tiles using underglazes. The tiles were then glazed and fired for a permanent, glossy finish resistant to wear and spills.

About The Artists

Sandow Birk

Los Angeles artist Sandow Birk is a well-traveled graduate of the Otis/Parson's Art Institute. With an emphasis on social issues, frequent themes of his past work have included inner city violence, graffiti, political issues, travel, war, and prisons, as well as surfing and skateboarding.

Elyse Pignolet

Born in Oakland, CA, Elyse Pignolet is an American with Filipino heritage, who lives and works in Los Angeles. She lived and studied in Madrid and Barcelona, and took an intensive ceramics tour through Mainland China and Korea in 2007. Pignolet works primarily in ceramics and her work has dealt with numerous social and urban topics.