All posts tagged: Billboard Liberation Front

Ron English and the “American Temper Tot” Pop Out In New York City

Ron English and the “American Temper Tot” Pop Out In New York City

All American Temper Tot is the name of the new installation by Street Artist Ron English on the Houston Bowery Wall in Manhattan, and the US flag-based design may be comforting to the average patriotic New Yorker until you realize he is offering a not-so-subtle critique of mindless consumerism that indicts probably everyone who passes it. Part of his Popaganda series, a sort of retrospective of it actually, the famous subverter of billboards has just delivered a one-two punch to the culture of comfortable consumerism that reduces all life experiences to a commodity.


Ron English (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The enormous nose-tweak is more ironic perhaps on this island that has raised its rents so high that most artists have had to abandon it and little genuine Street Art actually is on its walls anymore. This particular high-profile spot has become revered not only because of its lineage of Street Artists (Haring, Scharf, Faile, Fairey, HowNosm, Swoon among others) but because greed and gentrification has effectively wiped out the sort of organic scene that gave it birth.


Ron English (photo © Jaime Rojo)

While some passersby will see references to Jasper Johns here we are reminded of another more grassroots politically satirical flag. As early as the 1990s we began to see anti-corporate protesters carrying flags with the stars replaced by corporate logos and those may be a closer analogue to the stripes on display here.

In the last decade and a half as media was consolidated into a fewer hands and tabloid TV began serving up absurdity as normality, everything from pesticides to wars to gas fracking became slickly commercialized products to brand and sell and artists like Ron English has been drawing attention and alerting the public to the mindless consumers that we are becoming via his postering and illegal billboard “takeovers”. With playful parody on fast food purveyors, sugary cereal sellers, and right wing news channels, these were more comedic satire like those you may find in MAD magazine than the pointed approach of early 1970s takeover artists like “The Billboard Liberation Front” or the full frontal lobe subvertising of folks like the Adbusters.


Ron English (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In one more twist to this new wall story, a few will undoubtedly argue that this installation is also a billboard advertisement itself since a print of the piece went on sale this week on the artists website, and it’s central figure, the Temper Tot, is also a 3-dimensional vinyl toy that is highly collectible. But not everyone is scandalized by this — the print already sold out.  This is the soup we are all swimming in – even while the little green hulking monster baby flexes his muscles and trembles with fury at what has been happening to that flag behind him.

Like his site says in the sales copy for the toy “The only thing worse than a toddler with a tantrum is a very STRONG one!”  Terrifyingly strong and terrifically immature, don’t get in the way of this well armed boy nearly popping off the wall and running across Houston Street to punch someone’s lights out. English has poked his finger in the chest of popaganda and we all will see how it responds.


Ron English (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Ron English (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Ron English (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Ron English (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Ron English (photo © Jaime Rojo)



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This article is also published on The Huffington Post.



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Carlo McCormick at Nuart 2012

One of the best parts about a celebration of Street Art culture like Nuart in Norway is that there sometimes is an opportunity to speak with and listen to people who make it their mission to put it into context. New York art critic, curator, editor, and writer Carlo McCormick has an exhaustive knowledge and enthusiasm for the scene that evolved on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1970s and 80s concurrently with the evolution of graffiti into a celebrated art form.  As Street Art continues apace, having perspective on some of its precursors is imperative and McCormick knows how to bring it alive.

An moment of elation with Carlo McCormick while he addresses the Nuart audience in his keynote presentation Re:mark. (image still © Nuart 2012)

To hang out with Carlo on the street is a joy because he can ground your current observations with his knowledge of their antecedents and yet become as equally appreciative of the new artists on todays’ scene whom he hasn’t heard of.  During this talk he gave this year at Nuart in a very conversational somewhat meandering unscripted way, Carlo reveals the mindset that is necessary to keep your eyes open and appreciative of the new stuff without feeling territorial or enslaved to the past. We appreciate him because he recognizes that the march of graffiti, street art, public art, and it’s ever splintering subsets is part of a greater evolutionary tale that began before us and will continue after us.

Carlo speaks about New York artist Haze and the distinct parallels between corporate branding with the practice of developing and distilling one’s tag for repetition on the street.  (image still © Nuart 2012)

Carlo at ease, conversing with you. (image still © Nuart 2012)

During his presentation McCormick dedicates a significant portion of his remarks to the historical practice of subverting advertising and official forms of messaging – referring to the Situationists, “détournement” and similar methods of playing with perception and turning it on it’s head. Here is an uncredited image from his presentation of a Times Square scene where artist Yoko Ono’s billboard toyed with the perceptions that the Vietnam war was inevitably unending while also alerting a compliant citizenry to it’s role in the matter. (image still © Nuart 2012)

“As I do my best as a really bad scholar to investigate this history of graffiti and mark-making – kind of prior to the official history – the greatest evidence that I find of stuff is in the real canon of fine art photography. Just about every famous photographer turned – I mean it’s not incidental – turned their attention to this illicit anonymous practice., ” Carlo McCormick at Nuart.


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Your Billboard Has Been Adjusted: Desire Obtain Cherish

Billboard Hijack in Hollywood


With projections and QR codes capturing the fancy of the out of door advertising world, it’s kind of retro to see subtle repurposing of messaging via good old wheatpaste and paint. In the tradition of Billboard Liberation Front, (a collective old enough to be their parents probably), LA Street Art collective Desire Obtain Cherish did a bit of message adjusting recently that actually ran for weeks in Los Angeles.  Rather than culture jamming or anti-corporate messaging in an activist vein however, the billboard features their name – in effect making one ad into another.


Relative Street Art startups, the DOC have been outdoor wallpapering with blocked bold lettered black and white wheat pastes a la Revs/COST, a Marilyn wigged gas-masked militia officer, and staged public “installations” roped off on the street with branded police tape.  This custom color-matched billboard takeover is just the kind of work that makes advertisers nervous because of it’s subtlety. As street art and advertising techniques continue to go mainstream and become arrows in the quivers of a generation of artists, it’s going to be even more confounding to know what the message really is, and who it’s from.


Desire Obtain Cherish


Desire Obtain Cherish

All images copyright Desire Obtain Cherish

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Fun Friday 10.01.10


“Bring To Light” Saturday in the Street

Brooklyn Street Art will be part of Bring To Light this Saturday Oct 2. Stop to say hello we’ll be at the entrance of the festival on Franklin and Noble streets in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Bring to Light is New York City’s first-ever Nuit Blanche festival. A Nuit Blanche is an all night arts festival of installations and performances celebrating the magic and luminance of light.

BRING TO LIGHT NYC will be held in Greenpoint, Brooklyn primarily on Oak Street between Franklin St. and the East River waterfront beginning at sundown this Saturday Oct. 2. The event is free and open to the public. This unique block will play host to local and international artists, performers, galleries, and musicians as they Bring to Light the street itself as well as its unique assets including metal, set design and textile workshops, residential facades, an indoor gymnastics park, and much more.

Jacob Abramson will perform his Digital Graffiti at “Bring To Light”

The experience will be thrilling, original, mesmerizing, ceremonial, contemplative and illuminating. This is a one-night event to remember, but also the start of something intended to grow into an annual, world-class event. Artists will create works that inhabit street corners, galleries, shops, rooftops, vacant lots and buildings. These spaces will act as sites for light, sound and unexpected installations, performances, projections, works of art with natural and artificial LIGHT.


Please click on the animation here to visit the event’s site for a full list of artists as well as all pertinent information regarding time, location and transportation to the event.


BLF in New York

Long before Street Artists like Fauxreel or PosterBoy started messing with them, the BLF ( began altering outdoor advertising in 1977. They like to say they are helping improve the billboards. As they say in their press release, “prior campaigns have included work for Exxon, R.J. Reynolds, and Apple Computers.”  Thoughtful, no?


A new short film featuring Specter, Signtologist, the Public Art Campaign and Jayshells

Don John

Friendly Wild Wolves in Copenhagen’s Westend

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