Review by C.J. Bunce
Stickers as art? Why not? You’ve seen stickers for decades and used them for all kinds of purposes. And they are all around you–on telephone poles, on city benches, on subways, on bus seats, on the walls of bathrooms in bars and pubs, even 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, as Miles sticks his artwork all over his Brooklyn neighborhood–places not quite intended for communicating via a form of art. Are they art, or just stuck-up pieces of crap? This is the question posed by DB Burkeman, skateboarder and punk rocker turned DJ who bounced between London and New York collecting these images over the past 40 years. He tells the story of stickers as street art in a book that updates his first book on the subject from 2010. The new collection is Stickers 2: More Stuck-Up Crap, From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art, coming in June from Rizzoli New York Publishing. The out-of-print first volume, Stickers: Stuck-Up Piece of Crap, documented the subgenre as its own art scene, sought after by sticker enthusiasts, and the new volume reproduces more than 3,000 more sticker images.
Burkeman’s sticker art is contemporary art in the Banksy sense. Often irreverent, sometimes humorous and even political, they are quick, cheap ways to convey messages and meaning between the artist and the pedestrian. A fair analogy is our world of DIY culture where people can self-publish or do anything else because of technological advances–how can more artists become street artists any cheaper than making their own stickers and leaving them anywhere they can be seen? Some artists even print their own stamps (also stickers) and send them to each other around the world. The stickers Burkeman examines also include the nostalgic: Remember scratch-and-sniff stickers from the 1970s? They’re still being produced, and a few are pictured in this volume (sorry, no scent). From stickers on your fruits at the grocery store to billboards mocking corporate brands or politicians, and art pranks from artist-activists (and simple power socket stickers stuck on the walls at every other major airport these days), Burkeman connects it all together.
Stickers 2: More Stuck-Up Crap includes commentary from a variety of collectors, DJs, artists, and others influenced or inspired by the medium, from Nathalie Richter, 1988 German half-pipe champion (and vintage sticker collector), to BMX legend Mike Humphrey (he put ’em on bikes), to Mark Mothersbaugh from the band DEVO (and one of filmdom’s great composers), to famous mosaic street artist INVADER, to indie film director Aaron Rose, to graffiti writers and DJs who leave there mark behind in sticker form. The “OBEY” signs from John Carpenter’s sci-fi classic film They Live–they have a particular influence on artists, who have reinterpreted the signage in several ways, many pictured in the book.
Surf culture, travel stickers, mash-ups, subversion, as streetwear, to prompt action, to publicize events, to make a statement. Stickers 2: More Stuck-Up Crap is also a source for checking out thousands of ways to design a message, with differing fonts, colors, and subject choices.
Is it okay to take stickers “from the wild” and collect them yourself? Burkeman addresses that, too, as he is acting to preserve the images before they go the way of yesterday’s sand castles by getting donations from the artists directly, or simply photographing them where they are stuck.
The 256-page paperback volume is an immensely interesting journey into a strange and surprising area of contemporary art. DB Burkeman’s Stickers 2: More Stuck-Up Crap reproduces images of more than 3,000 stickers, and it includes 12 pages of actual, removable stickers. Pre-order Stickers 2: More Stuck-Up Crap now here at Amazon, an art book coming from Rizzoli New York, shipping June 4, 2019.