The Opening Is Over But The Show Has Just Begun!
I just returned from opening Taking From The Tip Jar at the Vincent Michael Gallery this sunday. Things went swimmingly and I installed 16 pieces, one empty phone booth frame, and a short video inside the gallery walls. I would like to personally thank Drew, Armon, and Elizabeth Gault for their incredible hospitality and friendship. I look forward to many upcoming projects with them, including a large scale multimedia mural project in New York that if properly deployed will be one of PublicAdCampaign's most interesting legal collaborations to date. More on this as things develop.
While the exhibition within the Vincent Michael gallery walls did have a street component that took place months before in NYC, it was still an indoor gallery show after all. Although excited to explore alternative ways to engage dialogue about outdoor advertising's preeminent position in public space while producing the fine art objects I so rarely have the time to make, street work is clearly my most tried and true method for engaging outdoor media issues. With a show in Philadelphia, it only seemed right that I hit the streets and remove some outdoor advertising. I set out on my task of finding appropriate spots the first night I came into town.
I started by driving around the gallery area of Northern Liberties. In close proximity were a few bus shelters and some MetroFuel ads sporadically placed along the more heavily trafficked streets. These main thoroughfares sported a few smaller billboards but most of the larger advertising was left to the highways and larger arteries around the city. As I drove towards downtown, the number of ads picked up, but only slightly, and remained in these 3 core venues. What I did notice was the incredible amount of mural work that is the pride of Philadelphia and the largest Mural Arts program in the country. While this was something I was well aware of after my research into Steve Powers' A Love Letter Project, the profundity of the situation was reinforced when I began looking for private media in this city.
I wanted to participate and so decided to make my street actions in Philadelphia would be twofold. First I began a small but ongoing project with 3 public advertising locations in the city. More on this in a subsequent post. The second part of my street action was a first for PublicAdCampaign. Given that Philadelphia is a mural city and one whose history of mural arts production has led to an interesting example of how one might alternately adorn our public spaces, I decided I would make my first public art piece that did not engage commercial media.
Close to the gallery was an underpass with a series of large columns supporting the roadways above. In total there are about 10 columns and on every one painted floral designs reached up about 8 feet. Elizabeth, the gallery director told me that the paintings of flowers which adorned these pillars were done by a local street artist. It just happened that one column had recently been hit with some graffiti and I assume the artist had come by to buff the tag with the intention of returning to repaint another flower. I decided that the artist would most likely not mind sharing some space with me and I quickly buffed the entire column white the night before the gallery opening.
After the buff paint had dried over night, I returned the next day to paint a series of upwards pointing arrows that I thought went along with the floral motif and added a modern design sensibility to the local spot. While I did not gain permission for this location, I felt extremely comfortable painting for a few hours, having only the best intentions at heart. True to form, the police did come check out what I was up to about 30 minutes into the painting. I was asked what I was doing and like a good citizen responded with the truth. I was an artist up from NY who had seen a wall covered in graffiti and decided to buff the wall and add my own artwork. The officer obviously knew that this was not a permissioned painting but clearly saw there was no harm being done and drove off without incident. I hope Philadelphia enjoys this small contribution and that it might still be up when I return.You can see the full gallery exhibition HERE.