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Cash For Your Warhol (CFYW) Says “No Questions Asked” in Philadelphia

Posted on April 9, 2015

“No Questions Asked” says Hargo of this slyly-named collection of Cash For Your Warhol pieces opening this week at a small gallery in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. But you may want to ask a few questions of your own.

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The large CFYW billboard outside Penn Station in Philadelphia is more than an appeal, and less. Cash For Your Warhol. Philadelphia, PA. April, 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

That’s the typical response that most viewers have when they see his printed plastic signs on telephone poles in desperate parts of town from Boston to New York to Miami to Los Angeles and many points in between. For six years the foxy Street Artist has been happily perplexing inquisitive and inquiring minds with evolving iterations of the sign he first placed on the lawn of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachussets at the height of the financial crisis.

“So it was in March of 2009, it was the bottom. It was also the time when the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis was having tremendous financial difficulty and they had announced that they were going to be selling their art collection.”

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He says these are the sorts of signs that appear in the more desperate parts of town. Cash For Your Warhol. Philadelphia, PA. April, 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“It is one of the best university art collections in the country, and people went nuts,” Hargo explains in a lumberjacked-cuffed-denim-bearded-flannel-plaid-drip-coffee shop a couple of blocks away from the newly installed show.

“So the first sign that I installed was actually on their lawn,” he says with a certain glint in his eye. “That sign got taken down and it is currently in the Rose Museum in the employee lunchroom I’m told. ”

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Image © Hargo

He knows his signs are collected directly off the street by all types of people – including a board member of the Warhol Foundation. Once the message catches the eye, certain people also feel compelled to call the number, which he eventually changed and connected to an answering machine. Listen to the messages on the phone installed at “No Questions Asked” and you’ll hear a randomized collection of the hundreds he’s collected so far. Sometimes they are simply confused, other times irate, or self aggrandizing. They warn him about vandalism or insult him for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes they inquire about selling art.

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Cash For Your Warhol. Philadelphia, PA. April, 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I think the Cash For Your Warhol thing is funny, and I think it’s okay for art to be funny. Sometimes people think that it has to be all serious and intellectual,” he says as he discusses the more surface emotional aspects of turning the low cost sales medium on its head – a continuous source of entertainment and education for the artist and those who follow his work. He doesn’t mind if people don’t get it or if they literally take the signs for themselves. He has amassed a collection of similar signs himself, and some of their designs are mashed together in a handful of one-of-a-kind pieces in the show as well.

BSA: What kind of signs do you collect and how many do you have?
Hargo: I have a couple hundred – I only want the ones that are plastic signs that are printed – and only those that have a phone number.

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Cash For Your Warhol. Philadelphia, PA. April, 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: So even with those narrow parameters, it comes out to be 200 signs. That’s crazy.
Hargo: So wherever I travel – like I was in Florida and I collected a dozen of them. Before I go home I go to a UPS store and I mail them to myself. So I have “Cash for Your House’, “Cash for Your Junk Car”, um, but also “Tattoo Removal” is prominent. I have “Divorce $299”, “Insurance For Diabetics”, signs for Karate lessons, sports camps, dancing lessons.

BSA: Do the dancing lessons signs have a silhouette of a couple in a romantic embrace?
Hargo: Yeah, they’re like doing the tango or something.

BSA: So it is good that you are using these different signs to mash together in your own work.
Hargo: Yeah I think the last thing the people who made these signs expected was that someone would take this sign deliberately and blend it into one of these works.

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Cash For Your Warhol. Philadelphia, PA. April, 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Part conceptual, part culture jamming, sociology and anthropology, many iterations of his signage is on display in this brief but tightly packed overview of the entire short career of CFYW – including the special new one in Spanish that features green and red ink  referencing the Mexican flag.

“It’s sort of the full collection,” he says, “and I made the new Spanish sign, which is larger format than previously but two sided. Each side is slightly different because when you pull the screens the ink is slightly different.”

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Cash For Your Warhol. Philadelphia, PA. April, 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I think a lot of people in Philly are not familiar with his work but they are getting excited about this show,” says LMNL Gallery curator RJ Rushmore, who tells about a further irony where a deli in Fishtown saw one his signs on the street and sent out a tweet about it. Hargo saw the tweet and sent them a sign as a gift – which they promptly put in the front window.

“I just find it so surreal,” says Rushmore, “that an actual store is displaying it in their window display – an artwork that is an advertisement for an art show about a guy looking to buy art.”

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Cash For Your Warhol. Philadelphia, PA. April, 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The longer he continues with the CFYW project, the greater the layers of irony and commentary, and the more fulsome is the tribute to the projects namesake Warhol, who became famous by appropriating and elevating the mundane for consideration as art.

“There are numerous ways in which the viewer could relate to CFYW,” he explains, “and I don’t want my views to narrow or shift that experience. It’s part prank, yes, but also part outsider art, part art as commodity, part commentary on the 1%, part performance, part interaction with the viewer, part parody, and, as you pointed out, part Warhol homage. It can be light and funny, or complex and serious – take your pick. I want the viewer’s experience to be open-ended.

“It’s a street art project in the literal sense, because it often goes on the street, but I deliberately don’t abide by traditional street art ‘rules’ because some of those are kinda silly, and I don’t feel I need to follow them in order for the project to succeed. Ideas around permission, fabrication, acceptable media, a gallery presence, hanging off a building with a roller – I feel that sorta stuff doesn’t apply to me because I’m not actually trying to be a street artist.”

Okay, if you say so. No questions asked.

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Cash For Your Warhol. Philadelphia, PA. April, 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

Cash For Your Warhol AKA CFYW “No Questions Asked” will open on April 10 at the LMNL Gallery in Philadelphia. Click HERE for further details.

 

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