Fast Pass Nostalgia
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The Fast Pass/heading

View the complete set of fast passes - 1974 - 2011
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I'm missing some passes!?

The Fast Pass art project was a unique collaboration between artist (me) and San Francisco commuters. The project could never have been done without their help in locating the materials that would shape a project that would become well-known throughout the Bay Area as Fast Pass. The story of this project is well detailed on the original Fast Pass website which you can see here

Originally I found a stack of old colorful fast passes and decided to do a small collage which was selected for an exhibit in Pro Arts gallery in Oakland. Later I decided to do a larger panel of 5'x7'.

A craigslist ad asking for old fast passes got me enough to do the first big panel before that avenue dried up. As I intuitively developed the panel with its grid of colorful CD's I knew that something was missing. I then put the CD's on 1.5" acrylic posts and the dimensionality made all the difference, bringing the piece to life and giving it visual depth. Given that most of my art is centered around my favorite concept of the reality behind the facade, the essence of the fast pass panel soon became clear to me. I now had strong visual with deep and profound content related to the human experience.

The first Fast Pass art panel
displayed at SOMA Art Gallery

That first panel was a big hit at an exhibition at SOMA arts gallery where a woman was introduced to me and asked to buy it. I hesitated and then declined. There was more to this and I had to find out what it was. The idea came soon. It was a vision of a large installation of four 5x7 panels which would incorporate two thousand eight hundred and eighty passes along with 288 CDs. A massive and really gruelling job lay ahead. But first I had to find the passes.

Since the Craigslist ad wasn't getting results, I started posting simple flyers at bus stops and anywhere else I could think of - requesting old passes for an art project. It wasn't easy. flyer on poleFor three years I was constantly driving around The City with piles of flyers in the car, pasting them everywhere. Some neighborhoods were rough! I'd put them up - and someone would take them down. Some areas were a battle, and I lost a few of them and gave up. My "keep our neighborhood neat" opponent was more determined than I was. So I concentrated on the "sweet spots" where the most commuters lined up to get on the bus. Soon the passes came pouring in. The response was overwhelming and each day I received envelopes full of old passes.

Photo of John lying in a sea of mail

I made numerous trips to meet commuters who had large batches of passes and sat on their porches or in their kitchen talking about their experiences on Muni. These meetings were the most meaningful to me. It was the people and their stories that enriched the project. Fast Pass could never have been done without the help of the San Francisco community and my fine friends at Muni.

Building one of the four 5x7' frames

The CD's were the hard part. I had to go to flea markets and sort through many thousands of CD's to find very graphic and colorful ones. I spent a ton of money in the process and still have around a thousand of them left over.

Articles about the project were written in the SF Weekly and the Datebook front-page section of the Chronicle.

With my attention on one simple task The Chronicle news paper article in the Bay
Area sectionat a time and without knowing where I might be able to exhibit this 28x5 installation, I just focused on building one panel at a time and glued one fast pass at a time ( each individual pass was carefully glued using archival glue and varnished using archival UV varnish - AND avoided varnishing the holographic stripes since it reduced their effect ) and - in time - and after four years of working and feeling like a monk, the last panel was completed. I approached two galleries who had the right wall space, but they (fortunately) just didn't pick up on it and I soon found the right home for the project; the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park in a huge, spaceous gallery overlooking the bandshell grove and the new aquarium complex.

The deYoungThe show and the exhibit of the Fast Pass panels - displayed in a glorious interconnected installation of 28' long - was a smash hit. I had the time of my life in that gallery. In addition to a comprehensive exhibit of my mixed media art, I also developed a five part workshop which was based on the collections of the deYoung, and including one that had its origins in King Tut and ancient Egypt. My assistants and I worked with gallery visitors and art-making participants from all over the world. From little children to young adults to art teachers, everyone did amazing projects which they took home with them. I photographed all the work. See the workshop photos [ here ] The image below shows the installation with just the track lights on it, which we did in the gallery from time to time to give the exhibition a mysterious and dazzling quality. You can see the photos of the exhibition [ here ]

The Fast Pass installation in the Kimball Gallery

The Fast Pass installation in the Kimball Gallery It was nice to often see the poster for my exhibit and workshop, displayed near the poster for the Tutankhamun exhibition which was taking place at the deYoung at the same time. Today the panels are waiting for a home. I haven't exhibited them again - mainly due to their size and the need to rent a truck to deliver them. Perhaps some big corporate lobby? I really wish they could be in a public space where crowds of "everyday" people could experience them - in passing. They never fail to entertain - with the same personal pull that the fast pass had on so many commuters.

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