The “Free Poster Boy” group on Facebook

Poster Boy, more accurately Henry Matyjewicz who is one of the artists involved with the Poster Boy movement, was recently sentenced to 11-months in prison for a just few hundred dollars worth of “damages” (depending on your point of view) to ads on the New York subway system. Mark Batty Publisher, the publisher of Poster Boy’s upcoming book (can’t wait to get this in my hands), has started a Facebook group in support of Poster Boy. There are just a few hundred members of the group so far, but I’ve joined and I hope you will too.

This whole thing is absurd. Henry should not be in prison for making the world a less ad-filled cesspool, and even if he did damage a few ads and the advertisers think he needs to pay for that, 11-months is a vindictive and cruel sentence.

What really upsets me is that Poster Boy has clearly been targeted and is being made an example of solely because he modifies advertising. Poster Boy has done a great job of trying to stay anonymous, but the police crashed an art opening last year just to find him. And yet, much more public street artists like Mr. Brainwash and Swoon seem to avoid arrest without much difficulty. I’m not saying that they should be arrested, just that it’s clear that police specifically targeted Poster Boy. Maybe this is a stupid argument to be making. I dunno. At the very least, I think it’s fair to say that disbanding NYPD’s Vandal Squad and reassigning those police to investigating drug dealers would be a better use of taxpayer dollars. Anyway, that’s my rant about a crappy justice system.

Here’s a good quote from Poster Boy’s flickr:

“I don’t care if I fall as long as someone else picks up my gun and keeps on shooting.”
-Che Guevara

Free Henry!
-Poster Boy

Once again, please join this Facebook group in support of Poster Boy and Henry.

Poster Boy in Jail

Seth and I were really sad to hear this morning that our good friend Poster Boy has been sentenced to 11 months in jail. Things weren’t looking good for him, but it’s just awful to hear that they have come to have this.

Animal New York reported the news here and also commented on the fact that PB missed his court date on May 6th. It seems that if he had been present that day, all of this could have been avoided. I couldn’t think why he wouldn’t have gone so I talked to a mutual friend and the truth is that Poster Boy simply got the date wrong; he thought he was supposed to come in the next day. Unfortunately, now he’s really paying for his simple mistake. As Animal goes on to note, he came in on May 7th to apologize, but it was too late:

Although PB did miss his May 6th court date, he did come in the following day around 2PM on May 7th to apologize, however the court wasn’t hearing any of that and he was taken into custody. He spent the weekend at Rikers and it was this morning that he was sentenced to the 11 months. “It was unwarranted,” says Gotlib, who promised to absolutely appeal the “shocking decision.” He was expected to get 3 years probation, not jail time.

On April 30th, sensing the urgency of his case,  PB sent an email out asking for support from the greater art community.

Here’s an extract:

“A graduate of NYU, Henry is a working artist and activist based in Brooklyn. His most recent participation with the Poster Boy street art movement resulted in legal trouble. Initially, Henry was hit with misdemeanor charges and community service as a result of these activities. However, the district attorney has since tried to pursue Felony Class charges based partially on the false testimony of a transit officer. It is important to note that this is Mr. Matyjewicz’s first offense. Despite these facts, the District Attorney is unwilling to view this case reasonably.

At one point during these proceedings the DA asked for bail to be set at an unprecedented $20,000. This extremely high amount is more in line with bail requests for violent felons accused of dealing drugs or for cases involving weapons.

Perhaps more telling, the DA is attempting to send Mr. Matyjewicz to prison for a year. All of this for the alleged defacement of a few ad posters, a victimless crime, and clearly not a felony.

Fortunately we have recently gained the support of prominent Civil Rights Activist and Best Selling author, David Mixner. David is best known for his important work in anti-war activities and gay rights advocacy. In light of these recent developments, Mr. Matyjewicz has decided to take his case to court and fight these outlandish charges.

Regardless of whether you agree with the views of Mr. Matyjewicz or the Poster Boy movement, we should all be able to agree that this is an assault on the art & culture community.

We respectfully ask for your signature to show your support of Henry and to help keep New York City safe for artists and independent thinkers. Many thanks for your support.”

When I last saw Poster Boy, which was when I was last in New York barely a month ago, he was really excited about the release of his upcoming book and was talking about some of the fun ideas he had to promote it when it came out. The book is mostly composed of work that has never been made public, so if you’re a fan, you’re in for a nice surprise.

The fact that he is in now jail for his art just disgusts me. Think of all the people out there who commit real crimes, yet live their lives unpunished, and compare them to the actions of an artist who was only making the streets and subways look a bit more interesting. This world is really messed up.

We need to do something about this and help get Poster Boy out of here.

–      Elisa

Image via Poster Boy’s flickr.

The Poster Boy book

According to, Poster Boy has a book coming out next month. Poster Boy: The War of Art should be released on March 2nd.

Here’s Amazon’s description of the book:

His cut and slash mash-ups of subway platform billboards only exist in New York City, but Poster Boy’s artful and funny appropriations of advertising have gotten him attention the world over. The New York Times dubbed him an “anti-consumerist Zorro with a razor blade, a sense of humor and a talent for collage”; the Guardian UK said of his work, it “is witty, web-savvy and economical . . . and the only materials it requires are chutzpah, imagination and a 50 cent blade.”

Poster Boy tweaks corporate copy, replacing it with incisive and playful puns and turns of phrase rich with innuendo and political punch. Beautiful models turn ghastly and iconic spokespeople become the mouthpieces for Poster Boy’s ideas. Poster Boy: The War of Art collects his best work yet.

This could be a really great book, also, it could be complete crap. Has Poster Boy really done enough work to fill a book? Especially if it only contains his “best work?” Maybe he has, but then again, his forays into anything other than subway ad disruptions have been met with a lukewarm response at best. I’m hopefully, but cautious. What I would love to see is something like half the pages filled with disruptions that he has made at home with magazines or something. That might be interesting.

Poster Boy tribute to Howard Zinn

Poster Boy recently put up this memorial to Howard Zinn (August 24, 1922 – January 27, 2010).

It may have seemed that PB hasn’t been doing much on the streets recently, but he has in fact been working very hard on a big project that is soon to be unveiled. I won’t say any more, but if you’re a fan of Poster Boy’s courageous activism art, you’ll be very excited when more is announced.

In the meantime, check out past Poster Boy work here.

– Elisa

PosterBoy sentenced to 210 hours community service

The New York Post reports that PosterBoy (or, if you like to believe the confusing history of this whole arrest story, one follower of the PosterBoy movement because there is not single PosterBoy) has been sentenced to 210 hours of community service after pleading guilty to two counts of criminal mischief. Seems like a bit much for messing up some advertisements. I’ve got to agree with Animal New York when they say, “Hopefully the city puts Poster Boy to work doing something productive, like cutting down the illegal NPA advertising clogging the city.”

UK Street Art interviews Poster Boy

Binge Poster boy

UK Street Art has a pretty lengthy interview with Poster Boy. Good to know since I was worried the guy had just disappeared and stopped the Poster Boy project.

Here’s an excerpt:

How did Poster Boy come about? Why did you start cutting-up posters and did you ever think it would turn into the phenomenon it is?

I’m constantly torn between wanting to be an activist and an artist. I’m not the greatest artist nor am I the greatest activist, but I’m a pretty good Poster Boy and that requires being little of both.

New York is inundated with advertisements. So why spend money on materials when posters and billboards are ripe for the picking? Stealing and vandalising ads is illegal, but littering the public’s visual space with images and messages that are motivated by profit is wrong. There’s a lot of potential in working with your environment, especially if the motives are well place. Besides, the traditional mediums have never satisfied my ambitions.

I always hoped this would catch on. I couldn’t have been the only one with these sentiments floating around.

What are your views on advertising?

Advertising is bizarro art. Both are cut from the same cloth, but what sets them apart is intent. Art is driven, at least in theory, by the desire to express oneself. Advertising is driven by the desire to promote a product or service. Often times the two overlap making it hard to tell the difference. As long as there’s money to be made there’ll be advertising. I can’t deny that. With development of technology and the market comes increasingly elaborate ad campaigns. Sometimes the campaigns are funny. Sometimes they’re artful. But one thing I’ll never accept is public advertising no matter how clever the campaign is.

Read the rest of the interview at UK Street Art

Photo from Poster Boy’s flickr

Vandalog Visits New York

Last week I had the chance to spend 2 days in New York City. New York is where modern graffiti and street art originated (yes I am aware that Cornbread was from Philadelphia), so it was a trip I had been looking forward to for a while. I crammed as much art into my visit as a possibly could.

First, before getting to New York, I was in Baltimore for a day. While there, I had lunch with Gaia. One of the topics we spoke about, the perception of street art as a democratic process, turned into a post on his blog, and soon (probably after finals are over) I think I’ll be doing a similar post.

My first day in New York, I made sure to see a number of galleries. I’m sure I’ll forget to mention somewhere I visited, but here’s a summary.

First I went to the Jonathan LeVine Gallery for their Phil Frost show. I’m not the biggest fan of Phil Frost. I own one small piece by him, and I really like it, but for the most part, I just don’t get his work. I had never seen more than 2 or 3 pieces together at a time though, so I thought that maybe seeing an entire show would convert me to a fan. It did not. I’m still pretty indifferent to his work.

Next, I made a quick stop at the Doma Café and Gallery for a show by Erik Otto. I’d never heard of Otto, but it was recommended by Hooked. I was in a rush, so I only browsed the show quickly, but it was pretty impressive for artwork in a café, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for Otto in the future.

Naturally, Deitch Projects was a place I had to stop, and though I originally had little interest in Ryan McGinness’ show there, a few pieces definitely caught my eye.

After popping in at Glowlab and then seeing the amazing wall where the above video took place, I was headed to Williamsburg, the heart of NYC’s street art scene… Continue reading “Vandalog Visits New York”

Neo Con Collective Show This Week

Okay, one last press release post today.

Expect another PosterBoy arrest this weekend, because the Neo-Con collective (Aakash Nihalani, Ellis G, and PosterBoy) have their first proper show opening on Saturday evening. Neo Con New York is at 17 Frost Gallery (can you guess the address?) in New York City and will have multiple installations by the collective.

Neo Con New York

PosterBoy’s First Ever Solo Show

Just saw this announcement on Eastern District’s website. Details are starting to emerge about PosterBoy‘s first ever solo show. If you don’t know PosterBoy, check our archives or his flickr.

In short, the show is called “AdBooster” and opens April 3rd at Eastern District in New York City. Be there or be square (unless of course, like me, you’ll be in a different country for the opening night. That’s forgivable).

From Eastern District:

PosterBoy “AdBooster” presented by PublicAdCampaign
April 3rd – May 3rd. Opening Reception 7-10pm Friday April 3rd 2009
43 Bogart Street, Brooklyn, NY

Street art and and vandalism have never been paired so eloquently as they are when PosterBoy gets out his razor. Through a simple act of civil disobedience, this work challenges our intense relationship with outdoor advertising in the city. It proposes new ways of interacting with your public environment and challenges notions of public and private space. Out of the work comes a dialogue which is sometimes political, sometimes humorous, and always a mind altering moment of communication between two people.

Over the past year PosterBoy has brought his intense critique of advertising and public space usage to the streets of New York City with prolific force. Eastern-District is proud to bring you his first solo exhibition, including a large scale installation by the artist as well as prints of his now famous subway installations.