This year at Wall Ball, Mural Arts will be honoring their board chair Joe Goldblum and M. Night Shyamalan, but I think the most interesting honoree is Shepard Fairey. He will be receiving Mural Arts’ first annual Tony Goldman Visionary Artist Award, named in honor of the late Tony Goldman. It’s exciting to see Mural Arts selecting Fairey to be the inaugural recipient of this award, a major signal that Mural Arts is continuing to expand the kinds of artists and public art they are interested in.
After seeing photos of his show at Pandemic Gallery last spring and then seeing his solo show at Stupid Easy Gallery in person last summer, I began to realize that stikman was just as interesting of an artist when showing indoors as on the street. But what to do with that knowledge? Just keep in mind that I wanted to see more stikman shows I suppose. And then the Mural Arts Program, a 30-year-old public art program in Philadelphia responsible for about 3000 murals in that time, asked me to curate a show for the gallery space at their offices. Given a short timeline for putting a show together, there was no way I was going to be able to conceptualize and assemble a group show, but then I realized that Mural Arts is the perfect venue for stikman’s work. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t say I curated this show so much as facilitated it. stikman knows his art better than I do, and I was just excited to see what he would do if I didn’t add any constraints beyond those created by the space itself and the short time between the invitation to do a show and the opening night. The result is …in the house… stikman’s second solo show in Philadelphia and third solo show anywhere.
…in the house… is a great introduction to stikman’s world, but it also takes Mural Arts and the space into account. The Mural Arts offices are located in the former home of painter and art professor Thomas Eakins, and at least two of the works in …in the house… reflect that the show is in Eakins House. A series of photographs found on Instagram and flickr showing people interacting with stikman’s work as they document it (generally by including their feet in the photos like this) hang in the hallway, a reminder that both Mural Arts and stikman value community engagement with their art. For me, that was what I most hoped to show with …in the house…, that stikman and Mural Arts have many of the same goals despite their different methods. Mural Arts puts up huge murals throughout Philadelphia, and stikman installs his usually tiny figures anywhere they will fit.
I’m really pleased with how …in the house… turned out. It’s probably been my most satisfying indoor project since The Thousands in 2009. There’s some absolutely fantastic work in …in the house…, and it seems it’s been really well-received by everyone at Mural Arts. It’s a diverse show, with sculptures, photographs, prints and paintings of all sizes and mediums. stikman does a lot with his little character. That said, one of my favorite works is a sort of hanging cairn made of bricks that stikman installed on a gate outside of the building. Many people don’t realize that stikman is also a prolific cairn builder.
With something around 100 works in …in the house…, it’s difficult to show it all here, but I’ll share a sampling. For the rest, you’ll just have to stop by the Mural Arts Program offices at 1727-29 Mt. Vernon Street, Philadelphia, PA 19130. …in the house… will be up through November 13th. If you stop by, be sure to grab a free stikman sticker, and if you love the work as much as I do, this is a great time to pick up a piece. stikman has offered to donate all the proceeds from sales at …in the house… to Mural Arts.
The elusive stikman is showing his artwork indoors right now at the offices of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. …in the house… is open now through November 13th, but there’s an evening reception this Friday evening from 6-8pm. Before that reception, I’ll also be giving a brief talk about the history of street art in Philadelphia and internationally. The reception on the 18th should be a blast, especially since we’ll be releasing a stikman sticker that will be available for free to anyone who stops by (the sticker will also be available if you come see the show after the 18th). This is also a great time to buy a piece of stikman’s original artwork since all of the work for sale at “…in the house…” is being sold to benefit Mural Arts.
Technically, I’m considered the curator of …in the house…, but I would say it’s more accurate to say I helped coordinate the show since I thought it would be more productive to give stikman as much free reign as possible. One of the things that makes …in the house… so interesting to me beyond it being a show by a great artist who doesn’t display his work indoors all that often is that it is being held at the Mural Art Program’s offices, which also happen to be the former home of artist Thomas Eakins. I interned with Mural Arts over the summer, and it’s a fascinating organization. If you’ve ever seen a mural in Philadlephia, chances are they were behind it. For this show, stikman has on drawn the history of the Mural Arts Program and the building in which it is based to create new work dealing with alternative forms of community engagement and the art of Thomas Eakins.
Mural Arts and stikman both want engage communities through public art, but they go about it in very different ways. Mural Arts shakes hands, holds meetings and encourages people to help paint murals, all with spectacular results that change the Philadelphia landscape. stikman goes for walks and installs his artwork where he pleases, each piece a temporary gift to the people who look closely enough, lasting only as long as nature and graffiti removal specialists will allow. Both stikman and Mural Arts are active in place-making. Mural Arts gives Philadelphia communal places, while stikman lets individuals discover small private, even secret, places in the midst of the urban jungle and make them their own. Mural Arts’ large-scale works of public art coexist in Philadelphia alongside stikman’s comparatively miniscule sculptures, stickers, tiles and installations, but if you look closely enough, they aren’t so different.
“…in the house…” is open now at the Mural Arts Program’s headquarters at 1727-29 Mt. Vernon Street in Philadelphia. It runs through November 13th, and while the show is in an office, it is open to the public and anyone can visit during Mural Arts’ normal business hours (9-5, Monday-Friday) or by appointment by emailing events at muralarts . org.
This summer I’ve been interning at The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. The program is a city-run organization that has installed thousands of murals in Philadelphia over the last 30 years. Most of the artists they work with are traditional muralists, but they have also worked with Kenny Scharf, Steve Powers and others from the street art and graffiti scenes. Last week, Vhils came to town and installed a wheatpasted mural similar to the piece he did outside of the Leake Street Tunnel a few years ago in London. Rather than starting with a layer of old advertisements like he usually does, Vhils began the mural with a layer of collaged historic photographs of Philadelphia and covered that with a layer of white paper. The mural is on Drury Street in Center City, around the corner from the murals by Kenny Scharf, Gaia, and How&Nosm on 13th Street.
Photos by RJ Rushmore, Lisa Murch and Steve Weinik
How and Nosm have finished their mural in Philadelphia, titled Personal Melody. The mural, by former graffiti writers and depicting falling bombs, is a bit of a change from what the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program usually commissions, but Tony Goldman’s Goldman Properties was also behind the project. Goldman Projects owns the Bowery and Houston mural site as well as the Wynwood Walls site in Miami.