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Re-Writing the Streets
The International Language of Stickers

A traveling exhibition co-curated by Catherine Tedford and Oliver Baudach

re-writing the streets

 

In the last twenty years, street art has evolved dramatically from the aerosol and painted mural graffiti that peppered subway stations, back alleys, and train yards and was typically seen as vandalism.  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 vehicle for self-expression and as 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 commentary and critique.  As one of the most democratic art forms, stickers can be printed on paper or vinyl as silkscreens, stencils, linocuts, Xeroxes, and offset lithographs, and subsequently be distributed quickly, cheaply, and widely.  Some artists create homemade do-it-yourself (DIY) stickers in small numbers, while others mass-produce hundreds at a time.  Measuring around 2x2 to 3x4 inches, stickers 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 every day life.”  Representing a diverse array of voices and perspectives, stickers offer a spirited “ground up” alternative to an often “top down” media-saturated environment.  And although ephemeral by nature, stickers capture the creative, cultural, and political pulse of time and place.

Incorporating the finest examples from two collectors, Oliver Baudach in Germany and Catherine Tedford in the United States, the traveling exhibition includes over 800 original, unused stickers grouped by artists, themes, dates, and geographic locations.  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 25,000 stickers spanning genres from character design to skateboarding, streetwear, and music.  With an extensive network of artist contacts, Oli is a leading expert in the field.  Catherine Tedford, gallery director at St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York, has been collecting stickers since 2003, and her collection numbers over 9,000 stickers from Europe and North America.  She writes about contemporary and historical political 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).  Artists like these often use humanoid figures, robots, zombies, food, animals, insects, eyes, hands, and other imaginative designs to tag the streets.  Artists also play with type fonts and graphic design elements to subvert corporate logos in what’s known as “culture jamming.”  Stickers in the exhibition that serve as social commentary and critique include subjects such as animal rights, civil liberties, the economy, environmental issues, identity, political protest, and sports.

Re-Writing the Streets: The International Language of Stickers is geared toward college and university galleries and museums, as well as alternative art spaces.  The exhibition will introduce street art stickers to new audiences, offering those in academic and art circles an exciting and versatile educational resource, and providing wider recognition for an important contemporary artistic movement.  A multitude of subjects exists in this field for teaching and research in disciplines ranging from art and art history, communication studies, and cultural studies to global studies, government, modern languages, and sociology.

Images from the exhibition can be viewed here. The gallery also oversees a Street Art Graphics digital archive that includes over 2,200 examples of stickers from around the world.

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The traveling exhibition is available as of July 1, 2014.  For information about scheduling and fees, contact Catherine Tedford at 315 229-5174 or ctedford@stlawu.edu.