For now Galactic Girl, a work by professional aerosol artist Caleb Aero, resides where she has for the past several years — among 15 to 20 other 6´x 4´ paintings decorating the wall above the refrigerated section at Jaycee’s Market on C and 25th streets in Golden Hill.
Many customers have offered to buy the piece, but Galactic Girl is not for for sale. Due to financial hardship, current market owner Jihaan Barbat has applied for transfer of ownership for his grocery business. Soon Barbat will have to find a new home for Galactic Girl, Method Man, De La Soul, and the other portraits that have added color to Jaycee’s for the past eight years.
“'Graffiti' is the wrong word,” Jihaan explains. “It comes from the Italian word ‘graffiare,’ to scratch. But this is not a scratch.”
He gestures to a photo of Aero’s new mural at Pokez downtown and the collection of works by various artists over the refrigerator. The pieces Barbat displays at Jaycee’s are the result of a unique, local, live collaboration between the painters and the performers portrayed.
For example, Aero sets up his canvas and cans onstage during concerts, painting a portrait of the performer while the show goes on. After the show, the performers chat with the painter and sign their pictures. The collection includes Snoop Dogg’s, Yasiin Bey’s, Rakim’s, Public Enemy’s, and Eek-a-Mouse’s signed portraits, from shows at 4th&B, Cane’s, and House of Blues. Wu-Tang Clan liked their Bee Mic so much they took it with them.
Jihaan, an American-born Chaldean, grew up working in his parents’ grocery store on 30th and Oceanview in Logan Heights. There he was introduced to what he calls “aerosol arts.” He’s been promoting and collecting the art form for almost a decade. Displaying original artwork at his market and commissioning murals on the inside walls, Jihaan hoped to make Jaycee’s a “cultural centerpiece” of Golden Hill.
While we chat, two San Diego aerosol artists, Severe and Quasar, stop by the market to say hello.
Jihaan also works with the Aerosol Arts Association to “preserve the culture and give the young generation a positive way to practice their art.”
Caleb Aero, who went to University City High School and now creates aerosol art around the world, heads the association. He and Jihaan have been friends since their teens.
When he bought Jaycee’s Market in 2004, Barbat envisioned a $250,000 remodel and an expansion of the store’s offerings, on par with the growing neighborhood and clientele of Golden Hill. Losing money when he purchased it, Jihaan and his family brought the business into the positive, but not enough to pay off previous family debts. Barbat thinks “the neighborhood deserves a good market,” and he says he spent five years searching for a buyer who would “make it happen for the community.”
Orlando Brothers, a company made up of two families and which owns Krisp on Seventh and Broadway, will convert Jaycee’s into another Krisp location. The new owners will make much-needed upgrades to the store, which occupies the 1940 Piggly Wiggly building. They also plan to bring in more local foods, natural choices, and microbrews. They say they will retain Jaycee’s current employees.
As for the art, Jihaan plans to continue collecting. He hopes to display the works in galleries or museums and eventually create an Aerosol Arts traveling show. He says that people come into the store looking for the art they’ve heard about from friends, and customers are sad to see it go.