Very Nearly Almost
Stuck Up in NYC
I’ve been lucky enough to spend a week in New York City recently, a place I’ve loved since my first visit back in 2000. It’s fascinating to see the city evolve along with its street art/graffiti – much like the East End of London some classic spots have gone, making way for coffee shops and inexplicably crap yet expensive bars.
One thing that always struck me about the city was the proliferation of sticker art. As a form they’ve been dear to me – whether it was the little characters you’d get in bubble gum packs from the corner shop after school through to grabbing old Powell Peralta designs for Caballero and Welinder and putting them on my school folders.
In terms of street art, there’s no real defined ‘start’ to when US artists began using them. It seems to have been one of those things that bubbled under from a hardcore of dedicated writers, to now pretty much every man and his dog (or as I found out the Street Crews from various PR agencies raising the profile of a new PS3 game).
I’ve definitely seen more sticker art happening in London but it’s just not on the same scale as NYC. Perhaps it’s the tradition of the “Hello, My Name Is” stickers and badges. Or the fact that many artists started using them when they realised you could get thousands of these blank canvases for very little, courtesy of USPS. And let’s face it, that blue Eagle logo looks a hell of a lot better than the crappy red of Royal Mail.
Some of the biggest names in US contemporary art began using them as a medium. I think most people are aware of how Shepard Fairey started with his “Andre has a Posse” stickers. In more recent times both Neck Face and Barry McGee have stickered up various surfaces.
There’s also more of an opportunity to place them – with so much street furniture including electricity boxes and the thousands of newspaper boxes dotted throughout the city, it’s a rapid way to get your name and style out there.
In London you basically have the back of road signs and they’ve been hit pretty hard the last few years. But even then they tend to be factory produced designs of artwork rather than the beautiful hand drawn pieces seen throughout New York.
As for right now SURE/Surer (RIP) and FAUST are the kings of NYC sticker art, having plastered up boxes and newspaper stands all over Manhattan. The fact that SURE’s stickers are still all over the place is testament to the respect he garnered when alive – I saw no obvious attempts at people trying to steal them. And his running partner FAUST will ensure his memory and elegant hand style lives on. RIP SURE. Gone but definitely not forgotten.
It’s a fascinating sub culture within street art/graffiti that I hope continues for many years. If you want to know more it’s worth getting your hands on the “Stickers” aka Stuck-Up Piece of Crap book that Rizzoli published last year.
Words: Geoff Whitehouse