Fillmore: The Beats in the Western Addition

“If all art aspires to the condition of music, then in the postwar coteries that would sometimes be called beat, that music was jazz, and its salient qualities were spontaneity, improvisation, collaboration, subversion, low and outlaw status, hipness/coolness, and an indigenous, hybrid, vernacular Americanism distinct from the Europhilia that had overwhelmed their predecessors. For visual artists jazz would be enormously important in that era, and one source of this cross-pollination was the presence of so many of the visual artists and poets of beat-era San Francisco in the Fillmore District. Though cheap rent was also part of the draw, the ambience was important. The poet Michael McClure told me, ‘North Beach was like a reservation in which there was a free space for bohemians and oddballs of all stripes to meet in between the Italian and the Chinese districts in what was still a remarkably inexpensive part of town with lots of [residential] hotels. A lot of those very constructive people got out of there in ’56 or ’57 when the ‘beatnik’ thing started–because of the tour buses–and the obvious place to go was the Western Addition. We were enjoying the black stores, the black ambience, the black music,’ recalls McClure. ‘We had our faces toward them but our butts towards Pacific Heights.’  … It was a predominantly African-American neighborhood from Haight to California Streets, Van Ness to Masonic, and most of the African-Americans had arrived not long before, during World War II. The imprisonment of the neighborhood’s Japanese-descent population was part of what opened the area to them. Through the 1950s central Fillmore Street was the ‘Harlem of the West,’ with nightclubs, bars, theaters and more fostering a dynamic cultural life. … It was a period of mixing it up, of bringing ideas and epiphanies from one medium to another, a period when not only jazz (and later, rhythm and blues and rock’n’roll), but esoteric and occult traditions, contemporary politics, popular culture, mass media, drugs, sex, and non-European traditions as well as dada and surrealism influenced and appeared in the work. From it emerged the great experimental films of Stan Brakhage, Bruce Conner, Larry Jordan, Kenneth Anger, the paintings of Jay DeFeo, Wally Hedrick, Jess, Artie Richer, Joan Brown, the collages and assemblages of Conner, Jess, Berman, George Herms, Edward Kienholz, and an array of great poetry by Jack Spicer, David Meltzer, Robert Duncan, Michael McClure, tied to the other poets’ circles that included Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Bob Kaufman, and many more. …”
Found SF
The Art Scene Rebels of San Francisco
W – Six Gallery reading, Verdant Press: Six Gallery, Beatitude – Nos. 1-34, J – Jack Spicer, etc.
The Beats, Zen, the Panthers and the Dead
amazon: Fillmore West Final Farewell 4TH July 1971

Bekins Moving & Storage workers remove The Rose from Jay DeFeo’s home and studio at 2322
Fillmore Street, November 9, 1965.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Allen Ginsberg, Bill Graham, Black Power, Grateful Dead, Haight-Ashbury, Happenings, Jack Kerouac, Jazz, Music, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Fillmore: The Beats in the Western Addition

  1. My favorite part of town.


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