RJ Rushmore by artist Elbow-Toe. Photo via Paper Magazine.
RJ Rushmore thinks street art is moving to the Internet.
That’s because Rushmore, the 23-year-old Haverford College student who runs street art blog Vandalog and whom Paper Magazine called “one of street art’s premier chroniclers,” has a new working definition for street art, thanks to Boston-based curator Pedro Alonzo: “The unmediated distribution of art from artists to the public.”
Rushmore said it’s happening on Twitter, Vine, Reddit, even ChatRoulette. He calls it viral art. Wanna know more? Rushmore wrote a book about it, and he’ll be talking about the topic during Philly Tech Week on Thursday, April 10 at Space 1026.
In Center City though, Rushmore says, street art is still alive and well. Technical.ly Philly took a walk with the former Mural Arts intern to learn more about street art in Philadelphia, and how to spot street art hacks on the streets. (Rushmore isn’t the only one who chronicles local street art: check out Conrad Benner‘s well-loved Streets Dept. blog. Benner actually gave a street art tour as part of TEDxPhiladelphia.)
This black-and-white wheatpaste mural, found on Drury Street in Center City, was painted by Portuguese street artist Vhils. Following a similar aesthetic and approach to a piece he did in London a few years back, Vhils plastered historic photographs of Philadelphia onto the side of the building, and covered that with a layer of white paint. He then painted his piece on that, which has been peeling off ever since, slowly revealing parts of an older side of Philly you wouldn’t expect.
This large red mural called “Personal Melody” was painted by two twins, How and Nosm (Rushmore says brotherly pairs are not uncommon in the street art world)—and if you look closely, you’ll see twins in the piece as well. The piece just barely peeks out between apartment buildings, but it pops when you do catch it.
These three pieces were commissioned through the Mural Arts Program, and were all done legally. There’s a tech scene tie, too: Goldman Properties, who owns Center City tech hubs like the Philadelphia Building (Zivtech, Eight Eleven and formerly RJMetrics) and the Stetson Building (Uber, SnipSnap, The Tactile Group), commissioned the How and Nosm and Gaia murals.
However, Rushmore pointed out, there’s a proliferation of small-scale, illegal street art in Philadelphia, where the urban landscape is more favorable to stickers and tagging to large-scale graffiti. We are not endorsing this with our stickers, we swear. (Remember Kid Hazo‘s ode to N3rd Street?)
Young street artists can pick up Priority Mail stickers for free at any post office, draw their pieces on them with markers and easily stick them around the city: on the back of stop signs, on lampposts, on newspaper bins, etc. It’s a relatively low-risk way of getting away with street art in Philly.
Some street artists have “hacked” the system even further, by using materials like destructable vinyl (with rips and chips as soon as you try to remove it) instead of regular adhesive vinyl (which doesn’t). Here, the artist who wrote the sticker that says “Love love, or something equally corny,” drew on the adhesive side of stickers and posted it inside the glass of newspaper bins—making it more difficult to remove. This hack is a simple trick to make sure everyone sees your design, and that no one removes it successfully.