by Jim Winters
In the spring and summer of 1993 I was making screen printed vinyl stickers and putting them up around San Francisco with Gregory Nelson, my partner at the time – an enthusiastic slap tagger and my favorite art cohort. There were 4 initial images: Sparkling Clean, Super Feature, Gourmet Homestyle and Heavy Duty.
That June I went to a recently-opened (tiny), storefront space called The Kiki Gallery in the Mission and introduced myself to Rick Jacobsen, the gallery director, by giving him stickers of nurses. The first show he had mounted was called Caca at Kiki, (it was about feces). Rick had a great sense of humor and a love for the disturbing; he and Gregory and I bonded quickly.
Rick asked to see my other work and I invited him over for a studio visit. I was appropriating a lot of medical imagery from old textbooks and re-creating vintage illustrations of little boys faces. (Now I can see how clearly all these pieces stemmed from my own fear of AIDS at that time). Rick honed in right away – seeing humor within the horror – and offered me a solo exhibition. My first-ever solo show was to be Kiki’s second exhibition. The pieces in the show were a combination of vinyl stickers and screen prints on wood. The name Super Feature comes from a Walgreen’s advertising slogan that appeared on store placards (specifically the Walgreen’s in San Francisco’s Castro district at 18th and Castro).
During the short period I knew Rick we became good friends and I helped out at Kiki by screen printing signage, booklet covers and even the image on the Kikibox – a collection of small works by Kiki artists.
The Kiki Gallery lived a fast and furious 18 months and my work was subsequently included in two group shows: Bong! and Fanta. Many artists came out of this small gallery in San Francisco’s Mission district to become quite notable in larger art contexts. Some of my favorites are Chris Johanson, Rex Ray, Jerome Caja, D-L Alvarez, and Catherine Opie.
Rick ended up moving back home to Wisconsin to live after he became too ill to stay in San Francisco. He had closed the gallery in 1995. I was so unnerved by his getting sick that I didn’t go to say goodbye to him when he left (unnerved = young, stupid and afraid). At the time I hadn’t had many close friends become this ill (or die) and regret to this day not making the effort to connect one last time. He passed away in February 1997.
I miss you, Rick. You gave me the first opportunity to show my work in San Francisco and were one of my biggest champions. I thank you for that. I can’t help but wonder how things would have worked out (for all of us) had you been able to stick around longer.
In 2008, a show honoring Rick’s legacy entitled Kiki: The Proof Is In The Pudding was held at San Francisco’s Ratio 3 gallery.
You can read about it here.