For the third episode of our 'Wall-to-Wall' series, curator and writer Ken Miller talks with Stephen 'ESPO' Powers about taking his art to massive proportions.
ESPO gained notoriety as a grafitti artist and has since undertaken some of the most ambitious public art projects of the last decade, massive paintings that cover buildings in Brooklyn, Baltimore, and Philadelphia (and Europe and Asia and on and on).
He also wrote The Art of Getting Over, the definitive examination of graffiti’s influence on pop culture, advertising, branding, and fine art. He doesn’t really like interviews very much, so if you want to ask him some follow-up questions about the interaction between art and the landscape, it’s best to stop by his gallery/store ICY SIGNS in Brooklyn.
What was the genesis of your recent Baltimore piece?
Baltimore started with one man's dream – Ryan Clifford, who initially had nothing but a dream but over the course of 13 months acquired an abundance of what we needed to realize projects like Love Letter Baltimore: community, political and financial resources.
In general, do you approach folks with an idea or do people come to you?
In general, we get the call.
You have done some incredibly ambitious, large public art pieces… The walls in Philly and downtown Brooklyn, the signage for Coney Island, etcetera … How much do you have to negotiate or deal with people in government and business in order to make these things happen? Any tricks?
No tricks, all trades.
Do you think public art is inherently political?
So many of your pieces are created from ephemeral bits of conversation, catch phrases, slogans… Where do you find your words?
Right at the tip of my tongue.
What would you say is the fundamental philosophical difference between public art and ‘personal’ art that you exhibit in a gallery?
It’s the same thing, except I sing softly indoors and I holler in the streets.
Do you think there is any difference between public art and street art? Is the distinction/idea of street art even relevant anymore?
The fact that you have to ask if street art is relevant is proof that it’s not. I think if you speak to humanity in a way that resonates, it’s art, wherever it is.