Monday, January 28, 2013

Unsticking the art between the pages: "Label 228: A Street Art Project"

It was only a matter of time before Andre the Giant really did have a posse.

The black-and-white image of wrestler Andre the Giant on stickers affixed to stop-signs and telephone poles was an "experiment in phenomenology" begun in 1988 by design student Shepard Fairey, who in 2008 designed the now-famous Obama "Hope" image. Twenty years later, Fairey's original experiment has become an art form that appears virtually everywhere an artist can stick a label.

Artists that once sought gallery wall space find new media for expression, and new places to display their work; today, pop culture is the medium itself, and artists find tools in the everyday material of the marketplace. Spray can, markers, pen and ink -- these seem new and logical tools as art swings wildly from gallery to print to digital, pixel to page, and back again.

Others bypass this process all together and simply go from pole to post, creating stickable art that affixes to any surface. Label 228 (Soft Skull Press) began as camden noir's call for artists to submit their art on USPS Priority Mail stickers -- those ubiquitous rectangles with their inviting white space. Six months later, 500 items had arrived from around the world.

From the Soft Skull website: "These labels are free, portable, and quick and easy to exhibit, offering artists the chance to spend more time creating their work than if they were to paint and write directly on walls, vehicles, and public objects.”

One man's stickable art, of course, is another's graffiti; it's a toss-up if these labels by Mecro, Zoso, Kegr, Robots Will Kill! and others are permanent treasures. The disposable nature of a label suggests they're not meant to be -- the viewer's appreciation here depends on the images' inclusion in book format, away from the ephemeral encounter at street level. If the irony of this is lost on the artist, to the viewer looking through Label 228 its an irony that assumes its own art form.

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