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Brooklyn Street Art

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The Power of Pun : Steve “ESPO” Powers’ Signs in Brooklyn

Posted on January 17, 2012

Philadephia born New York Street Artist Stephen Powers AKA ESPO has been covering walls in Brooklyn since last summer with puns, phrases, and messages that hide in plain sight. Borrowing from a visual vocabulary of mid 20th century commercial signage and injecting his low-brow sarcasm and a knack for wordplay, the former graffiti writer perfected this kind of lettering more than a decade ago doing non-commissioned street art work in broad daylight on storefront grates in dilapidated New York neighborhoods.

Steve ESPO Powers (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Like his barking carney signage for famous Coney Island, the work has all the subtlety of a cannonball. But you may be bamboozled. The sharply sweet uptown fonts and punchy retro palette could look like he’s giving you the straight dope, but a second glance reveals the winking eye of a court jester.  With an advertisers  sensibility, his recent expansive public art installations  – “Love Letters” to Philadelphia, Syracuse, and now Brooklyn – have a tough-as-nails enamel gloss while the soft center swirls a sentiment more gooey, even maudlin.

Steve ESPO Powers (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Using phrases snatched directly from Brooklyn folks conversations on the street as well as his penchant for the parlance of snake oil salesmen, Powers yells boldly these non-sequitur and illusory missives across a parking garage, regularly looking back to see if “yah heard?”.  It’s what emotional signage this size demands and gets, if only for a second.

Steve ESPO Powers (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Steve ESPO Powers (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Steve ESPO Powers (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Steve ESPO Powers (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Steve ESPO Powers (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Steve ESPO Powers (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Steve ESPO Powers (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Steve ESPO Powers (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Steve ESPO Powers (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Steve ESPO Powers (photo © Jaime Rojo)