The Wall Street Journal
September 29, 1988
by Andrew B. Cohen
One Thing's for Certain: Better In a Museum Than on the Subway
NEW YORK - A Common saying often aimed at curbing youthful acts of graffiti goes like this: "Fools' names and fools' faces often appear in public places."
But once the names and faces - not to mention the graffiti - become the star attractions at avant-garde art exhibitions, who are the fools then?
Certainly not the artists, with names such as Tess One and DJ No, whose graffiti are now on exhibit at Manhattan's Franklin Furnace museum. Still, none of it would be possible had not the medium for most graffiti changed from bare walls to small self-adhesive stickers - 3,000 of which were painstakingly peeled from the city's lampposts, dumpsters and subway walls for this formal presentation.
The name of the show is Hello My Name Is. . . - a title that refers to the labels most often seen affixed to breast pockets at conventions and which are the stickers of choice for many graffiti artists. Highlights include shaped stickers by Shy and the stickers turned out by Cost, notable simply because there are so many of them - more than 50. There are also works by Praze 156, Mr. King Geeski and JSON, formerly known as Terror 161.
"This is a unique thing, it's real graffiti," not graffiti produced just for a show, says Harley Spiller, the museum's administrator and one of the show's three curators. The other two are Norm Magnusson, a copywriter for ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi DFS Compton Inc., and Adam Buckman, a reporter for Electronic Media, a trade publication.
All three are avid sticker collectors, and each has a favorite work. (Mr. Magnusson's: "Hello My Name Is: Impermanence.") But one they all like is by the Green Cheese Man. It reads, "Green Cheese Man - Enemy of the Gregarious."
Why have the artists switched from walls to stickers? According to Mr. Buckman, it's because the city has been cracking down on graffiti artists - and it's safer to slap an already prepared graffiti sticker on a wall than it is to stand there spraying away with a can of paint.
Still, the risk of getting caught remains, which is why Lase (short for Laser), a 23-year-old attending the show's opening, gave up "tagging" once he started getting work as a free-lance graphic designer. "I used to bomb all the time," he says.
And, indeed, he seems to miss those old pre-employment days. "This stuff is addictive," he notes. "The greatest thrill is to hear people on the street talking about your work."