Monday, May 05, 2014

Street art

A small crowd was watching them work but they were so wrapped up in their music they didn’t seem to notice. There were two of them so when they came down from the scaffolding we asked one of them (“no need to know my name”) how they got into the hand-painted sign business. Did they go to art school for instance? “No, it’s just one of those jobs that you just start doing it and then you're doing it,” he told us as he studied the image they were scaling up on the wall. Apparently these painters come from a range of backgrounds from old-school sign writers to reformed graffiti artists. “It’s a job,” the other one says getting back to work. “I do my own painting, my own art at home. This stuff is commercial you know, the everyday stuff.”

This kind of hand-painted wall signage is making a comeback in New York City, particularly in newly gentrified areas where it's probably part of a turn to the handmade and crafted that is running through high and popular culture at the moment. Most of the work you see on the streets of New York is by one company, Colossal Media and paintings can come in at between $5,000 and $110,000 depending on scale. Of course the American art world already has one sign-painting hero in James Rosenquist who started off high up on the walls of New York painting billboards in the late fifties. Had they heard of him we asked the two painters. “That guy in the museum? Yeah, it’s an inspiration isn’t it.