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A work by Poster Boy
A work by Poster Boy in “Street Alchemy 2.0,” image courtesy of Real Art Ways


Oct. 14, 2011

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The New York-based Poster Boy collective, celebrated (particularly on Gawker)  for “remixing” those large, MTA subway advertisements by slicing them up and re-arranging their contents to humorous and often political effect, has moved its act aboveground -- to city billboards. Ostensibly worth thousands of dollars, these large eyesores (once the target of Lady Bird Johnson's famous beautification campaign) can apparently be removed from their frameworks with a few slices of a blade. The liberated ads are now serving as canvases for Poster Boy's most recent body of work.

The “altered billboards” were originally scheduled to go on view at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., but the show was “put on hold” last month when school officials realized that parts of the works “may have been obtained illegally,” in the words of Michelle Jacklin, the college’s director of media relations.

In an interview with the BBC, a rep for Poster Boy explained that after Trinity’s hesitation, he had asked for the show to be cancelled. “They don't know where the billboards come from, and I'm not going to incriminate myself,” he said. Now, despite their questionable legal status and provenance, another Hartford art space, Real Art Ways, has stepped forward to show the series, titled “Street Alchemy 2.0” and slated to open on Oct. 20, 2011. “We don’t ask where any of our artists get their materials,” Real Art Ways’ Sarah Brozna told Artnet. “We certainly are not asking Poster Boy.”

In keeping with its reputation as a critic of corporate and celebrity culture, Poster Boy has chosen as the show’s two centerpieces a bright red State Farm billboard, now decorated with Rich Uncle Pennybags, the little man from Monopoly, dressed as a leprechaun and a dripping rainbow, and an advertisement for the National Guard, which he has transformed into a heroic image of Captain America.

This is not the first time Poster Boy has tangoed with the law. Though never successfully prosecuted, it has been slammed with numerous charges of vandalism, most notoriously by the Museum of Modern Art in fall of 2009, a blow-out that was covered by Artnet Magazine correspondent Charlie Finch. Nonetheless, Poster Boy seems committed to the less-than-legit. “It's supposed to be illegal,” the collective's spokesperson said. "If they make it legal, we'll go find something else."

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