Tag Archive: Banksy


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.

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Joker graffiti in Batman 1989

By C.J. Bunce

American Graffiti.  Just two weeks ago the George Lucas classic coming of age film about high school graduates in 1962 came back for the first national release in movie theaters in decades (we discussed it here at borg.com).  In a series of interconnected vignettes Lucas gave us a snapshot of kids and cars and cruising culture, popular then and now.  American Graffiti wasn’t the original title, and, as the story goes, the film’s backers had no idea what the title meant, but it was better than Another Quiet Night in Modesto or other proposals so they just went with it.  No graffiti actually plays into the plot, and the viewer can conceive his or her own meaning to this now classic movie title.

Graffiti as pop art?  Actual graffiti in America, in many ways hasn’t changed a lot, and it doesn’t share the same feelings of nostalgia as the eponymous film.  A form of vandalism, its very nature is something covert, rebellious and illegal.  Spray paint is the medium and the canvas is anything and everything from highway overpasses to train cars to building walls.  The stealth required gives the creator a challenge–maybe even the adrenaline rush that fuels some that are behind it.  Over the years the costs to city governments to wash or sand or scrub off graffiti prompted many cities to work with local graffiti artists–designating projects and mural locations where local creators could show off their creativity.  It’s a constructive bridging of law and order and a radical form of expression.

Iowa State Fair 2013 butter cow

A freshly cleaned up butter cow at the 2013 Iowa State Fair.

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