Sunday in the Subway with Posterboy

The more you see it, the more you know it down in your heart that we have turned a corner.

Hype be damned, the result of Posterboy’s plundering of the inescapable advertising messages you pay $2 to see in the subway is a new visual vocabulary that continues to pull surreal visual punches when you least expect it.

These portraits below could be the work of Posterboy, one of his admirers, or it could be the work of a team. From the average viewers perspective, that’s hardly the point.

Dear Mr. Black President (photo Steven P. Harrington)
Dear Mr. Black President (photo Steven P. Harrington)

The fact that new subway station banners are made of this easy-to-manipulate vinyl sticky backed material, coupled with the fact that there are rarely subway personnel or police in the subway stations these days, and you have a primo creative laboratory for everyone from “culture jammers” to collage artists to pop surrealists.

It’s the visual equivalent of the mash-up so popular in the digital DJ age; whole cloth samples snatched from fully realized pieces and re-matched with other genres, categories, styles, and eras. Sometimes the results are genius, sometimes clunky, many times causing nauseous feelings of disorientation.

Feed your eyes, feed the children (photo Steven P. Harrington)
Rockin the new specs (photo Steven P. Harrington)

These modern billboard materials are layered one on top of the another but peel back in a jiffy, easy to slice away and see what might be underneath.  You may not even see Posterboy’s remix on the crowded platform while you lean against a grimy column.  You may be watching a rat skittering along the third rail with a Snickers rapper in it’s mouth. But your train still hasn’t arrived because of (yet more) service cuts, and your phone doesn’t work down here in the tunnel so you glance up at the ad space and see the mangled headline manipulated to say “Get Head” with two floating mouths wide open beneath it.

It’s not graffiti, it’s not really street art, but it’s eye catching even when it’s not completely successful. It feels more like a studio than a gallery, full of experiments, dead ends, and occasional glimpses of brilliance.

You gotta some pretty lips (photo Steven P. Harrington)
You gotta some pretty lips Miss-ter (photo Steven P. Harrington)