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The city’s ‘doom loop’ inspires Bay Area Banksy’s new art installation

A Zoltron poster pays tribute to late Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia. | Courtesy Zoltron

Death spiral.” “Doom loop.” “Doomy.” These are a few of the descriptors San Franciscans have invoked lately to describe the city’s economic inequalities, which have been laid bare by Downtown vacancies and widespread homelessness.

Whether or not we’re living in the actual end times, any good social crisis deserves its own satire artist. Zoltron, San Francisco’s enigmatic self-described “art-bomber,” is here for it. He kicks off a three-week rock-and-roll art pop-up called “Apocalypse When?” on Saturday, April 15.

The pop-up will supply everything San Franciscans need to brave the looming Armageddon—safety kits, death metal hoodies and faux Molotov cocktail ingredients—along with Zoltron’s growing catalog of rock poster prints and stylized acid blotters. 

The Marin County-born artist has been documenting the counterculture for years—collaborating with artists like British album art designer Roger Dean and gifting prints to Iggy Pop and Blondie’s Debbie Harry. He has also contributed rock posters to the collections at the de Young Museum, as well as the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Library of Congress. 

“It’s a blue-collar collector market […] a line around the block,” Zoltron told Mutual Art Magazine in February 2022, describing his creative output. “On so many levels it’s our collective 'fuck you' to the art world. We make accessible art for regular, hard-working people.” 

This top hat-clad skeleton is one of Zoltron's recurring street art characters. | Courtesy Zoltron

In his own way, Zoltron is a sort of Bay Area Banksy, having built a reputation in the early 2000s for using the plywood and crumbling walls of blighted Downtown buildings as his canvas. Zoltron told The Standard that one of his recurring characters, a gold-toothed skeleton in a top hat, has appeared on city walls and at the merch table at rock shows. 

It seems only fitting that an anti-establishment exhibition will take place at Gallery 1506 inside the Doolan-Larson building, a Summer of Love landmark at Haight and Ashbury streets where Janis Joplin’s partner, Peggy Caserta, popularized bell-bottom jeans at her boutique Mnasidika.

This Saturday, Zoltron will unveil new works with a doomsday downbeat. The exhibition will include a Foo Fighters-inspired bronze sculpture. Years ago, he developed a character named Sue Nami—a sort of avatar for the has-been hippie generation. The pop-up will also include a life-sized resin cast of Sue Nami installed on a toxic waste container—another dystopian object lesson, no doubt.

Apocalypse When?

🗓️ Saturday, April 15-Sunday, May 7 | noon-6 p.m.
📍 1506 Haight St., SF