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San Mateo’s Hillsdale Shopping Center Adds Murals

The Daily Journal

November 4, 2022

New temporary murals are now on display inside the Hillsdale Shopping Center, offering visitors a view of abstract art while shopping.

The art at the south end of the shopping center was created during live shows in early October by David Polka, a visual artist and graphic designer who is currently based in Oakland and originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Charlo, a designer, visual artist and muralist who immigrated to the United States from Mexico and who lives in Denver, Colorado.

Polka’s art focuses on the intersections and contrast between the natural and human environments and various geometric shapes, with the Bay Area an inspiration for the mural. The contrast reflects life’s conscious and unconscious aspects, showing the similarities between reality and dreams.

“A lot of my abstract mural work is inspired by the landscape,” Polka said. “You will see this contrast between curving organic forms and real hard-edged geometric forms. For me, that contrast reflects the natural environment and how humans have altered the geography of the Bay over the years.”

His mural took four days of around 10 to 11 hours of work using house paint, although he typically works with acrylic paint. The shopping center is currently in the process of renovation on the area’s south side, promoting the search for murals to put up over the temporary construction walls blocking many of the spaces under construction. Rather than have the wall be an eyesore to people, the mural will be an art alternative for a year or two while construction continues. The shopping center collaborated with San Francisco-based gallery Themes and Projects and Texas-founded Artist Uprising, a global network of artists, to get Polka and Charlo to complete the murals.

“It breaks up the space of the mall because so much is just commercial imagery, advertisements and signage for stores,” Polka said. “It contrasts with that, and I hope people stop for a moment and think about the interplay of shapes and colors and think about what the painting itself might represent.”

Polka moved to the East Bay in 2011 to immerse himself in the area’s mural scene, getting into mural painting. He started painting murals with his friends, and his practice includes illustration, interior and exterior murals, and installation. He graduated from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and has been exhibiting work professionally since 2006 in group and solo exhibitions across the United States, in Oakland, San Francisco, New York, Boulder, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Anchorage and Honolulu.

Polka’s work is typically more detailed, but he kept with more simple themes while following the creative guidelines from the shopping center, which he found interesting in the art process. He is open to doing more abstract work for the shopping center as construction continues.

“I think the cool thing about abstract art is you can ascribe a meaning to it, or it can be about the shapes and the colors, and that has value itself,” Polka said.

Charlo’s artistic style focuses on symbols, letters and abstract linear movement and is on garage doors, walls and office buildings throughout the country.