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Re-Writing the Streets:
The International Language of Stickers

March 10 - April 18, 2017

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Street art in the last twenty-five years has evolved dramatically from the aerosol and painted mural graffiti that typically peppered subway stations, back alleys, and train yards.  Today, new forms of visual communication are created in public spaces, often attracting viewers in more contemplative and/or interactive ways.  Street art stickers have emerged as a provocative vehicle for self-expression and an effective way to engage passersby.  Stickers may be used to “tag” a space and make it temporarily one’s own, to sell products or services, to publicize social media sites, or to offer social and political commentary and critique.  As one of the most democratic art forms, stickers can be hand-drawn or printed on paper or vinyl as silkscreens, stencils, linocuts, Xeroxes, and offset lithographs.  Some artists create fanciful homemade DIY (do-it-yourself) stickers in small numbers, while others mass-produce hundreds at a time through online printing services for quick and easy distribution.  Unlike bumper stickers, street art stickers measure from 2x2 to 3x4 inches and are “hidden in plain sight” on street signs, telephone poles, dumpsters, and windows.  In urban sites dominated by commercial advertising and corporate logos, publicly placed stickers, by their very presence, re-write the streets and produce what curator Nato Thompson calls elsewhere “creative disruptions of everyday life.”  Representing a diverse array of voices and perspectives, stickers offer a spirited “ground up” alternative to an often “top down” media-saturated environment.  Ephemeral by nature, stickers capture the creative, cultural, and political pulse of time and place.

Featuring examples from two collectors, Oliver Baudach in Germany and Catherine Tedford in the United States, the exhibition includes over 800 original, unused stickers grouped by artist, theme, date, and geographic location.  Based in Berlin, Oliver Baudach is the founder and director of Hatch Kingdom, the world’s first museum devoted to sticker art.  Representing three decades of work, his international collection numbers over 30,000 stickers spanning genres from character design to skateboarding, streetwear, and music.  Catherine Tedford, gallery director at St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York, has been collecting stickers since 2003, and her collection numbers over 11,000 stickers from around the world.  She writes about stickers on her research blog Stickerkitty.

Individual artists and artists’ collabs in the exhibition include Cupco (Australia); Hoplouie (Denmark); Flying Fortress, Haevi, Ping Pong, Prost, Tower, 24/7 Crew (Germany); Bust, Sol Crew (Netherlands); Evoker, Obey Giant, RobotsWillKill, Zoltron, and 14Bolt (United States).  Many such artists use humanoid figures, robots, zombies, food, animals, insects, eyes, hands, and other imaginative designs to tag the streets.  Others play with type fonts and graphic design elements to subvert corporate logos as a form of “culture jamming.”  Political stickers in the exhibition examine issues such as animal rights, civil liberties, the environment, identity, urban development, national and global economies, and protest movements.

In conjunction with the Re-Writing the Streets exhibition, the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery also presents three concurrent exhibitions related to street art:

The gallery has been digitizing street art stickers for teaching and research since 2004.  In 2015, as one of 42 institutions across the country, the gallery received a four-year grant from the U.S. Council of Independent Colleges to create a Street Art Graphics digital archive in Shared Shelf Commons, an international image library of arts and sciences.

 

 

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