Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Announcing Poster Boy: The War of Art

VIA Subway Art Blog

We have known about this book for sometime and have been very excited to see a serious collection of Poster Boy's work in one place. We are especially excited to see all the work that was done while his court case was open and he was unable to post to his Flikr page. The book is available for pre-order and will ship out on March 10th.
"His cut and slash mash-ups of subway platform billboards only exist in New York City, but Poster Boy’s artful and funny appropriations of advertising have gotten him attention the world over. The New York Times dubbed him an “anti-consumerist Zorro with a razor blade, a sense of humor and a talent for collage”; the Guardian UK said of his work, it “is witty, web-savvy and economical . . . and the only materials it requires are chutzpah, imagination and a 50 cent blade.

Poster Boy tweaks corporate copy, replacing it with incisive and playful puns and turns of phrase rich with innuendo and political punch. Beautiful models turn ghastly and iconic spokespeople become the mouthpieces for Poster Boy’s ideas. Poster Boy: The War of Art collects his best work yet."

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Friday, December 18, 2009

PosterBoy Sentenced to 210 Hours of Community Service

The New York Post has recently reported that PosterBoy has plead guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief. As Will Sherman of Animal NY points out, PosterBoy's dedication to raising awareness about outdoor advertising's strong control of our shared public spaces should be reflected in the 210 hours of community service he has been sentenced to. The severity of the sentence obviously reflects the city's dedication to commercial use of public space over public critique and free expression. If the city has an interest in addressing the complaints of its citizens regarding the proliferation of outdoor advertising, often illegal according to city laws, it would be wise to use PosterBoy's clear passion and dedication to this issue for our collective advantage. In this way this unjust sentence might help ease the rift between activists and concerned citizens attempting to aid the city in its pursuit of a public space which encourages both a healthy community and an open dialogue between the public and the the city's commercial interests.

VIA The New York Post


The subway vandal known as Poster Boy -- a daring cut-up who sliced apart subway ads to create his own art -- yesterday agreed to a plea deal to perform 210 hours of community service. [More Here]

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Exclusive New Posterboy, Decapitator Collaboration

Decapitator was in town recently taking Shakira's head off of 10 limited edition Rolling Stone magazines at the Union Square Barnes & Nobles. I was on site the next day and managed to rummage through the entire magazine section until I found one of my own, even after the Village Voice made the hunt public.

But this wasn't the only reason this artist was in town. Turns out the Decapitator had contacted PosterBoy before he came through and I met them at an undisclosed location to watch them create two collaborative pieces. The two images were then installed somewhere in the Bushwick area.

As for the imagery, it isn't really my cup of tea, but I do love the fact that these two artists' mutual disdain for the supremacy of commercial messages in our shared public spaces created a friendship that spans continents.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

New PosterBoy Interview From UK Street Art

I haven't heard much from PosterBoy recently so it is good to see him still preaching the gospel. In his defense, I think he is working hard on an upcoming book that we anxiously await.

VIA UK Street Art

Up-close and personal with Poster Boy: The definitive interview


We’re big fans of Poster Boy here at UKSA, and although he’s not technically from the UK scene, we’d like to make an exception and introduce you all to this sterling talent!

Clever, Creative and seriously cool, Poster Boy is the masked crusader waging war on advertising billboards across NYC will only a razor blade as his weapon of choice. Interview by Helen Soteriou. All photos from Poster Boy’s Flickr, which you can check out here

Who is the guy behind the mask? Can you tell me about yourself and your background?

No ones behind the mask. There’s only the mask.

Do many people know your real identity? Do you parents know?

Only the people who need to know, including mummy and pop-pop.

How did Poster Boy come about? Why did you start cutting-up posters and did you ever think it would turn into the phenomenon it is?

I’m constantly torn between wanting to be an activist and an artist. I’m not the greatest artist nor am I the greatest activist, but I’m a pretty good Poster Boy and that requires being little of both.

New York is inundated with advertisements. So why spend money on materials when posters and billboards are ripe for the picking? Stealing and vandalising ads is illegal, but littering the public’s visual space with images and messages that are motivated by profit is wrong. There’s a lot of potential in working with your environment, especially if the motives are well place. Besides, the traditional mediums have never satisfied my ambitions.

I always hoped this would catch on. I couldn’t have been the only one with these sentiments floating around.


What are your views on advertising?

Advertising is bizarro art. Both are cut from the same cloth, but what sets them apart is intent. Art is driven, at least in theory, by the desire to express oneself. Advertising is driven by the desire to promote a product or service. Often times the two overlap making it hard to tell the difference. As long as there’s money to be made there’ll be advertising. I can’t deny that. With development of technology and the market comes increasingly elaborate ad campaigns. Sometimes the campaigns are funny. Sometimes they’re artful. But one thing I’ll never accept is public advertising no matter how clever the campaign is.

Do you think that people are more wary about believing the images / messages that are printed because of the worldwide economic downturn?

The economic pinch continues to breed skepticism. However, people have been wary of the media lies for a while now.

I remember our first conversation and the email you sent me:
Have you ever read something and said to yourself, “Christ, where have I been the last few years of my life?” Well, your email just did that to me. These type of requests and acknowledgements have always humbled me. …

Why do you think people are so taken by your work?

I think people relate to the work mostly because of the commentary. There’s a lot going on in the world financially, politically, culturally, and environmentally. The work touches on some of these topics. Often times with humor, which is very important in serious situations.


The other reason is the medium. I mean really, with the exception of the people profiting, who doesn’t hate public advertising?

We talked about some of your future plans and what Poster Boy intends to do next. You strike me as someone who has a strong passion and desire to follow his dreams – to continue to grow and be creative in the way you want.

I should hope so. My dreams are pretty much all I have right now.

To me you are sending out a clear message to people that they should not give-up on their desires -to listen to their hearts and pursue the path that they want without being afraid to voice their opinions. Do you think this is a fair statement?

I believe it’s a fair statement. As long as your path doesn’t involve the destruction of life I say follow it. The worst that can come from following your heart is knowledge and wisdom.

I believe that the whole point of street art is that it is on the street for everyone to see– you are not stifled creatively and not drawn by the $$$. Nobody tells you whether you are good enough. It is art for the people, not the selective few.

Street art is for anyone to experience. It works both ways. The streets serve as a venue for artists who wish to forego gallery-world hierarchies.


I’m not stifled or drawn by the money. Doesn’t mean the pressure doesn’t affect me. I’ve turned down some very lucrative deals in order to make a statement. I’ll be honest, when rent is late or I can’t manage three squares a day I feel a little gypped, but when those feelings start bubbling I just remind myself of why I started this. All my life I wanted someone or something to believe in. Except for a few inspirations here and there I never found it. So I set out to be the that thing I always yearned for. So what if PB&J has been the menu for weeks or the lies to my landlord are getting better, life could always be worse. Besides, poverty tends to be quite the motivator these days.

I think the popularity of street art has exploded over the last couple of years and I feel that it is good and bad. Great street artists are enjoying the success they deserve and some are just riding on their coat-tails.

Actually, I don’t believe bad street art exists. I say cover every Goddam inch of concrete and steel! What bothers me are the people who try to mask gallery art as street art and vice versa. I’m not one for strict labels or definitions of anything, but there’s a fundamental difference. At the same time I understand certain situations call for compromise. I know I’m not the purest street artist or activist. There have been Poster boy shows with prints being sold, and I’m not even sure if I should feel guilty for it. I’ve always tried to bring something different to a show and I’ve never sold an actual Poster Boy piece. The point being that the street art persona should be critiqued and presented differently than the gallery art persona. Once street, graf, or whatever art, is brought into a controlled environment it ceases to be street art, period.

With the phenomenal costs prints and original works are going for it has become de rigueur to like street art. Yesterday, I went to opening night of an exhibition on Brick Lane in London , and it was dominated by the young and trendy. Like a few of the street artists who were present, I felt awkward and out of place. My question to you is how do you feel about how street art has evolved and do you feel proud to be labelled a street artist. Do you always see the streets as your playground?

Let me guess, some guy in a Basquiat shirt, skinny jeans, and an ironic mustache gave you the, “where the fuck is your Murakami bag” look? Don’t worry, we’ve got that too. It happens whenever something is in vogue. Next time just make a scene. Tell everyone you’re Banksy or that your dad owns the Tate.

I’m proud to be a street artist in the literal sense. I find comfort in the uncertainty of the streets.

How does it feel to have a platform? You have the attention of all the major media players in New York who are raving about the statements that you put out?

It feels really weird, ’cause I’m not that cool.

Who influenced you growing-up – people and / or other artists?

This one’s hard. You’d expect me to say Keith Haring or something. Not that he hasn’t, but I’ve been inspired by many characters in my short life. I can honestly say that Bugs Bunny inspired me as much as Fredrick Douglas.

How do you work – do you come-up with ideas on the spot or do you see posters and then think about how you can create images from them?

The work is always impromptu. It has to be, the ads are always changing. Even the gallery work relies on materials in the immediate environment.

Are there any other comments that you would like to make?

God Save the Obama.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Read Chompsky, Or Don't

Is PosterBoy back in town doing subway mash-ups? I haven't heard anything from him in a while and so I'm gonna assume this is someone else. It's a little too simple for his work anyways.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recent PosterBoy Show

I can't believe it took this long to review the most recent PosterBoy, Aakash Nihilani, Ibrahim Ahmed III show at the Jajo Gallery In Newark, but I wanted to see if my initial reaction changed with a bit of time to think. It didn't. Similarly to his last show at Eastern-District, PosterBoy's transformation of the gallery space doesn't address the underlying advertising and public space issues his work in public so effortlessly tackles. In this recent show you might not even know that the materials were in fact stolen billboards if you weren't aware of his process because the billboards he chose were obscure New Jersey based rug retailers. On top of this Aakash's work looses its spatial relationships, merely becoming a way to hold PosterBoy's billboards to the wall, albeit in an artistic fashion. I thought to myself, even more than most street art, this work just doesn't work in a gallery setting.

Nonetheless, I found myself out at Jajo enjoying myself and rabble rousing with an interesting crowd of people, talking about street art, graffiti, and outdoor advertising's monopolization of our collective visual space. This was an unsuccessful gallery exhibition but a successful event which reinforced an open dialogue about important activist issues that are often left out of gallery conversations surrounding street work.

This fact begged me to rethink what I expected, or wanted from a gallery exhibition of street art and public space activist projects. Most importantly, whether the work exists on the street or within four white walls, I want the work to create conversation about whose ideas belong in the public and how as a public our communications are often illegal and transgressive. Whether this happens on the street or within a gallery isn't the issue, it just has to happen for the work to hold water. And in fact this kind of conversation was well represented the opening night. I just don't know if it needed to be up for a full month.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cutting Up Advertisements and Rearanging Them is Just Plain Fu

I know this photo is blurry and I don't have imagery of the final product, but trust me this guy was re-working that Adventureland poster with his headphones on. He was completely oblivious to the world around him, and was working like he thought what he was doing was legal. I quickly realized the desire to rearrange the space around you is inherent in many peoples public persona. The fact that subway advertisements are now stickers has made that process incredibly easy and I think the reason for the recent wave of ad reworkings, and of course the work of PosterBoy.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Copycats Keep PosterBoy Working When He's Not in Town

I know for a fact that PosterBoy is not in town right now so this is definitely the work of other active participants in the PosterBoy project. Shine on you crazy diamonds!

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Paul Rudd (Fan) Reaches Out to Poster Boy?

A few weeks ago I spoke to a class of Parsons students studying, "applied disciplines that are fundamentally engaged with society and culture within the art context", as the program description describes. I talked about PublicAdCampaign and installed a project so that they could see alternative media projects in action. This was right around when the whole PosterBoy thing was getting a lot of press, and we discussed his, or their work as well. Turns out the students created projects which critically engaged the PosterBoy concept and this happens to be one of them. We were asked to come back to the class to critique and discuss the student projects and this happened to be one of my favorites. There were many more letters from a wide variety of advertisements. Some were funnier than others but I thought in general, they gave the ads a pathetic and cynical quality that I like to associate with advertising in general. Well done.

from Gothamist by

Photo via rj3dc's flickr.

Is an unlikely bromance in the air? Has Paul Rudd reached out to Poster Boy with specifics about how he wants the I Love You, Man ad campaign altered? This letter was spotted on the downtown 6 platform at 51st Street. The actor does like to take on fake names (at a recent Virgin Megastore appearance he went under "Fred Rudd"), so giving himself a musical moniker of "Raul" does fit his M.O. However, this is probably just the work of a crazy Rudd fan, or some sort of plan by Dreamworks to enliven their boring posters.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

PublicAdCampaign and PosterBoy in El Pais

If you can read Spanish, indulge yourself in a text that I will be slowly translating over the next few days. This article appeared in El Pais today 03-13-2009, and was written by Barbara Celis, a journalist and documentary film maker. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to both of us about public space and the artistic process.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

MoMA Severs Ties with HappyCorp

A recent post by The Gothamist explains MoMA's final word on the whole PosterBoy alteration of the Atlantic/Pacific project. What I couldn't understand was why MoMA would speak so clearly against the vandalism when to do so would destroy their credibility with those who thought the stunt was interesting. It seems they are receiving a lot of pressure from the MTA and CBS outdoor. If this was the reason they were firing HappyCorp, I thought it a little sheepish of them. Researching more, I read a comment regarding PosterBoy's work on that station and I think it explains why MoMA might not have been game for such fun. It holds up quite well and is reproduced here.

By MisterSparkle on 02/24/2009 at 7:17pm

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that MoMA is involved in this, even if they are denying it. More to the point, though, I don't really understand the intentions of whoever actually vandalized the ads (be it a member of the Poster Boy movement or somebody else).

To a certain degree, I can understand vandalizing ads for large corporations, consumer products and the like in the name of both art and anarchy. But the MoMA ads seem to be largely unobstructed, unadulterated prints of some of their best art work. While I do take issue with MoMA's high admission prices, I respect their fundamental role as a cultural institution and their attempts to draw more visitors to the museum. Therefore, I see no reason to destroy MoMA ads that a) consist of already great artwork and b) have a generally admirable goal (promoting modern art and generating new patrons), especially if the ads will be replaced shortly at MoMA's expense.

To me, this is the height of snarky, holier-than-though post-modern derisiveness because it attacks the very art that gave way to the validation of subversive street art. If the person responsible was working with MoMA, I would be impressed by MoMA's awareness and hope that they might leave the ads as-is or do more work with street/graffiti art in their marketing. If the person was Poster Boy or some other adherent/imitator, he or she clearly has no respect for the art that gave rise to theirs and no sense of purpose and integrity.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

More on MoMA's Mashed Up Masterpieces

This post, and all the links contained within, seem to cover all the aspects of the PosterBoy MoMA mashup. My only two cents is, yes HappyCorp knew this was publicity stunt and MoMA is surely happy about that as well. It doesn't ruin the fact that HappyCorp respects PosterBoy his concerns about public space. They did a good thing by championing his work and keeping the outdoor advertising industry furious about their lack of control.

from Gothamist by

As of Tuesday, Doug Jaeger of HappyCorp was cleverly wording his comments about his and Poster Boy's involvement in the alteration of MoMA's subway ad campaign in Brooklyn, which he developed. According to Jaeger, he met Poster Boy, who he says is more than one person, and that he and some others were in the subway system the night the ads were deconstructed.

The NY Post, not a fan of Poster Boy's work in the past, chimes in today saying that Jaeger has "admitted his responsibility in the bizarre publicity stunt," refused to pin any of it on Poster Boy (who is already facing charges), and allegedly didn't have MoMA's permission to carry out the vandalism. In a statement released yesterday MoMA said, "The museum deplores any kind of vandalism and we are distressed that this happened, did not condone or authorize it and hope it doesn't happen again." (In other words, they love it, it's drawn even more attention to their campaign, but they can't say that because it's totally illegal.)

The museum is keeping mum about their current relationship with HappyCorp, and the fact that they haven't severed ties with them has the MTA "furious," according to the Post. While we haven't heard back from Jaeger about the latest developments, we talked to Jeremy Soffin at the MTA, who told us that even if MoMA and HappyCorp altered their own ads it is still illegal, and that "designing an ad doesn't give him any more right to vandalize than anyone else." The MTA's contractor CBS Outdoor is currently in contact with both parties on the organization's behalf.

While it seems pretty evident that this was the plan all along, the Village Voice is still questioning why the HappyCorp folks went from being so proud of the installation to vandalizing it. Maybe they were just tired of seeing Starry Night? The subway station isn't a dorm room, after all.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who is Poster Boy? Who Cares?

I was excited to see yet another piece on the now infamous PosterBoy came out yesterday in The New York Press. Always a potential outlet for the open discussion of the issues surrounding his work, press is one way I hope the public can be informed about the larger context in which PosterBoy's work is taking place. Needless to say this interview disappoints on many levels. I think John Doe's comment on The New York Press's website encapsulates my feelings well. "The Poster Boy movement would have been better off without so much Henry..."

John Doe's sentiment has less to do with Henry, who I think is an incredibly interesting character in this whole affair, than it does with Matt Harvey's incredible lack of interest in the "movement" he seems to put at the forefront of the article. When the interview byline reads "Henry Matyjewicz says he's part of an art revolution that's bigger than one person." I get excited, hoping to find an insightful look into what this whole "art movement" is, and potentially what it's goals are.

The Interview begins with a solid account of the last few months of activity surrounding PosterBoy. Interestingly, Harvey begins this account by framing the times, "After the economy crashed—and millions of straphangers were sick to death of being sold so much shit—Poster Boy’s style evolved into more sophisticated mash-ups." This is the first time I've seen the political climate used to help explain the recent overwhelming excitement and interest in this kind of illegal art activism. It was a similar situation of economic destitution which bore the consumer movement in the late 30's and early 40's, and I think an interesting insight on Harvey's part. Earlier in the century, consumers in an economic wasteland, unable to pay for the common goods they needed, rose up against the injustices that the economy had exacerbated, no longer able look past them. They demanded price control and consumer product grading systems, and in turn began to see their roles as consumers through their roles as producers, demanding minimum wage requirements and a standardized work week. If deepening economic woes can cause consumers to re-evaluate the economy they live in and demand restitution for things they look past in more favorable economic times, then maybe we are also at a tipping point where consumers of today might be fed up enough to want to openly discuss some of the ways in which they are currently being taken advantage of. After all, necessity is the mother of all inventions, and an artist working with no material costs whatsoever, discussing the purchase of products that people are quickly becoming unable to afford, rings pretty true in my ears.

The interview starts out promising, trying to nail down some of Henry's heroes, a good way to contextualize what Henry is interested in with his part in the project, but that doesn't turn up any interesting relationships. It goes on to immediately tackle whether or not the work is activist, but here Henry is unwilling to paint it solely in that light saying, "It’s activist work. It’s a bunch of stuff. You know? It’s illegal. It’s whatever. But there’s, you know, just one more thing that you can label it under." It's not Henry's job to be the champion of ideas here but come on, this is an opportunity to call out some of the serious ideas about how the work challenges existing structures in our city and for whom the city is currently operating. I mean for god sake the guy is facing jail time for something he may or may not have done as well as for something which I believe shouldn't even be a crime. Clearly there is an unjust system in place here working against the residents of this city (Henry included) and for the large ad corporations inundating our public space with private messages.

The interview then goes on to try and figure out whether or not Henry is PosterBoy, all the while seeming like an opportunity for Henry to once again shake off responsibility for some of PosterBoy's more aggressive acts. Henry saying, "I feel a lot more safe in a studio making a painting than climbing up a structure and cutting down a whole billboard in Brooklyn." I Don't know who this PosterBoy is, if it's Henry or a whole crew of disgruntled citizens, The fact of the matter is Henry has denied responsibility for that act so let's move on.

In fact regardless of who tore that billboard down, both of them were excited about the fact that it had happened. Harvey responding, "Yeah, I loved that." and Henry reiterating the sentiment, "Yeah, that’s one of my favorites too." A quick response on Henry's part is all we get in the way of explanation for why this act from PosterBoy was so politically charged. "But it’s very good when you turn it (the billboard) into something that’s more local and public and more of a community space." The article makes haste moving forward, more concerned with whether or not "they wanted to pin..." the billboard removal on Henry. Who cares?

I could go on but I think my point has been made. The rest of the interview passes by inanely with questions about Henry's background, family life, and what he thinks PosterBoy would look like if he was a superhero. Really? Really? A superhero? get out of town.

The one saving grace is that in the end Henry does assert that his role in this project is about participation, that when things are wrong you must decide you level of involvement and not be afraid of the consequences.

"I understand what I can do and what I want to do and my involvement; and I think people should do that too and not be afraid to get arrested because that fear is why were are in this predicament—this moral predicament— in the first place, you know. You need to stop being scared and being empowered and thinking you can make a difference."

Personally I could care less who PosterBoy is, and maybe even less about who Henry Matyjewicz is. The fact of the matter is some very bold illegal activities are taking place right before our eyes and I want to know why.

VIA The New York Press

Henry Matyjewicz says he's part of an art revolution that's bigger than one person. In his first interview since his arrest, he talks to MATT HARVEY about what Poster Boy means as a movement.
By Matt Harvey

A full year ago, as the city was marching to the beat of BUY! BUY! BUY!, defaced posters began appearing throughout the subway system. The early cut-and-paste jobs were crude and clever puns loaded with obscenities. A glop of paint turns a reality show tagline—about some rock stars’ brats—on itself. Alongside a tow-headed child, a placard asks: “Are They Born to Fuck?” The images are simultaneously logged on a Flickr site of someone called Poster Boy NYC. Street art blogs such as “And I Am Not Lying” took notice and Gawker and Gothamist kept the ball rolling.

After the economy crashed—and millions of straphangers were sick to death of being sold so much shit—Poster Boy’s style evolved into more sophisticated mash-ups. He teamed up with a high-minded cabal, including the public space artist Aakash Nihalani—who framed Poster Boy’s petty criminality in geometric tape designs. By the time New York magazine published a profile of Poster Boy on Oct. 5 2008, the subway artist was an anonymous masked avenger (a sexy accompanying photo showed tan arms in a wife beater, with a bandana and conductor-style cap, slouchy jeans and Nikes). He was now a symbol for an ever-more frustrated creative underclass losing jobs every day.

Then there was the cold night in Williamsburg when a solitary figure hung over the top of a king-sized billboard next to the Marcy Avenue El. He cut two long strips into the 50-foot-long poster—featuring a cartoon Giraffe and the words “Reach?”—with a box cutter. As subway cars careened past, the sheet of vinyl peeled off like a giant bumper sticker. Again, it was all digitized for YouTube. An act of youthful rage was transformed into a rebel raid on a corporate Death Star—and taggers later descended on the blank canvas to finish it off.

On the evening of Jan. 30, undercover cops busted Poster Boy in a Soho gallery space where Sly Art vs. Robot had advertised a performance by “Poster Boy NYC.” Identified as Henry Matyjewicz, a 27-year-old art student originally from Hartford, Conn., he was arrested on vandalism charges and, according to him, shuttled to Rikers Island. The New York Post reported on Feb. 3 that he was fingered by his own hubris— when overheard bragging to a girl about his exploits—with the headline, “He’s a Boaster Boy.” Indeed, Poster Boy inexplicably gave up his anonymity when he’d let a cameraman from the Guardian follow him in mid-January for a video that was later posted on YouTube. The video showed a young man with olive-colored skin wearing a gray fedora, a gray hoodie, a leather jacket and a bandana over his nose and mouth. He deftly slices and dices subway ads in the name of art while explaining his intentions.

On Tuesday, Feb. 10, Matyjewicz refused a deal offering him community service, vowing to fight on in court. But people were already saying that Matyjewicz wasn’t really Poster Boy. A Feb. 4 New York Times piece posited that Matyjewicz was just a stand-in.

Last Thursday, I met Henry Matyjewicz (pronounced Matee-YAY-veetch) on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. He was bundled inside a black coat, and he pointed to a yellow sticker on the ground that was torn from one of his mashups. It was stuck across the doorway of The Charleston, where we planned to meet. I took in his short, athletic frame, handsome features and thick black hair. Over the course of the next couple of hours, his frequent and long discourses—on topics ranging from art and music to politics and metaphysics—gave me the impression he was repeating received ideas to see which ones stick. He was simultaneously proud and eager to please. First, he averted his eyes from my gaze to deal with the lightning bolt stuck to the concrete.

“It’s from a Gatorade ad. I swear to God I didn’t put it here.” As he explained what happened, things weren’t exactly matching up to the reports. He goes in and out of the third person when referring to Poster Boy. He explained it was to protect himself from prosecution, but I sensed there was something else more puzzling at work: Sometimes he really was Poster Boy and sometimes he wasn’t. Strangest of all, he didn’t seem to remember some of the specifics of his own arrest.

When I called Matyjewicz later for clarification on some of his comments, he told me: “I’m pretty sure I was arrested in Brooklyn and sent to Soho.” When I tell him that was not possible, he replied, “I’m not good with that stuff.” It’s not the first time I’m baffled by holes in his story.

So where are you from?

Born and raised in Hartford, Conn., and moved out to New York a little bit later to go to school, to art school.

I’ve been to Hartford before. I’ve been to West Hartford.

It’s like night and day, the difference. West Hartford is like...the difference would be like Upstate New York and Manhattan.

Some areas of Hartford are just like, whatever, you know, just laid back. But there’s a lot of places in Hartford that are pretty…you don’t want to walk to down the street unless you’re from there—or at least you’re strapped... Some places are pretty crazy in Hartford, and it’s not that big of a city. It’s predominantly Hispanic or black.

Are you Hispanic?

Half Hispanic. Grew up on the Hispanic side really. Half Polish, last name Matyjewicz. I mean, clear giveaway, but I grew up with my Hispanic side.

Puerto Rican or…?

Yeah, Puerto Rican, sorry. Puerto Rican-Polish.

[We get into a discussion of Keith Haring and his “Crack is Wack” mural along FDR Drive.] Is Haring a hero of yours?

Haring? I acknowledge, you know, I respect what he does, but he’s actually not a hero. You know, I like a lot of what he stood for, the energy he had. Just like his really bright colors, his line of work, you know, like sometimes he would have messages like “Crack is Wack,” and so I appreciate his energy.

But as far as like a full-blown hero? I’d have to say no.

Who are your heroes?

I’d say for art, it would be Basquiat; I mean that’s the dude that even his background his pretty close to mine, you know. Even he came from a more, like, upper-class background than me, but he still had to go through a ton of shit—especially being black. So he went through his own shit. I don’t want to take that away from him. I like...there’s a lot of Spanish influences I love as far goes, and like Egon Schiele and Goya; Marcel Duchamp—a lot of those guys [were] into activist stuff. A lot of musicians influenced me. I like jazz a lot.

How do you think the activism influences the work of Poster Boy?

Well coming from someone who is just a part of it, how does it affect it? It just...I guess it gives it another label to attach to the work. You know? It’s vandalism. It’s graffiti. It’s street art. It’s activist work. It’s a bunch of stuff. You know? It’s illegal. It’s whatever. But there’s, you know, just one more thing that you can label it under. I don’t, you know, hmm. Yeah. That’s all I can say about that.

So it’s mainly an aesthetic manifestation?

Right, right. Cause you gotta understand from what I hear that the Poster Boy movement is, you know, I guess like it’s activist work or high-minded art. It’s beautiful activism or… [he’s distracted by music and doesn’t finish the thought].

[He then says he wants to explain the difference between Henry and Poster Boy]

Henry is an artist just inspired by what’s going on with the Poster Boy movement.

So Poster Boy was started before you?

Well, I was born before there was a Poster Boy movement.

Poster Boy has been out for less than a year. But I got into art before the Poster Boy thing. So I’ve been, you know, a painter in New York. There’s more to me than just my involvement with Poster Boy. I share a lot of the same ideals behind Poster Boy, but I’m not that extreme. I still like the idea of painting on a canvas, you know. And maybe…existing [and] living in a gallery system. Maybe this would be the way certain things work in the gallery system, but I’m still willing to participate in it because I still love the traditional mediums.

My involvement with the Poster Boy thing was just the legal aspect. Maybe I’ve given an interview or two about the Poster Boy movement and, like, I’ll show up like I did at the art show [in Soho] and create a piece, you know, as Poster Boy. Just doing my part for something I believe in. I don’t get paid. I didn’t get paid for it. I just believed in it. I played my part.

So were you recruited or...?

No, I just found out about all that was going on. Then they said they needed volunteers, and my expertise lies in the arts. And they asked if you’d be willing to do a Poster Boy piece, and I said, “Yeah, of course.” And so I did. It’s a legal piece [of art], and there was a chance of getting nabbed by the cops. Not that that was what they were planning. But if you look at that piece from that night, it’s really ironic—or really genius. So I’m willing to make sacrifices for certain beliefs.

How did they nab you?

Undercovers showed up. It was on the flyer saying, “Live Performance by Poster Boy,” and I was aware of this. And like I said, I am willing to take the fall for something I believe in.

And that was the piece on YouTube?

No the piece on...I mean they’re trying to hit me up for it, the piece on YouTube, and attach that to me.

So you’re saying that’s not you?

Yeah I’m saying that’s Poster Boy and not Henry.

There are people that say that it doesn’t even look like you.

Of course it doesn’t look like me. When they nabbed me, I had a gray hoodie on underneath a pea coat. In the video, it’s clearly a gray hoodie underneath a leather coat. They took my gray hoodie and the scarf, and they said, “Oh look, this is the same person as the video.” And I said no, it’s not, it’s just a gray hoodie…They were just trying to get me with whatever they could. Well actually, they didn’t mind what was going on in the subways. They were like, “You know a lot of the stuff that you do is cool, but it’s illegal.” And I was like, “I don’t do it all. What I do on my part is just the legal piece, which was done at the Soho gallery at the show.”

So you only did that one piece?

Right, right. And I didn’t want to, like, you know, take it in with the spirit of Poster Boy. I didn’t sign it. I didn’t sign it as Henry. I didn’t sign it as Poster Boy because Poster Boy isn’t about copyright. The idea of originality is thrown out the window. It can belong to anyone.

Images are stolen from corporate media and reused for a greater purpose, and I like that, so I didn’t feel the need to attach this Poster Boy piece that I did as Henry as a community service thing. You know, a selfless act. I participated in it and did it, but I’m not trying to get any recognition as a part of something that is bigger than me. So that’s why I did it. Forget about it. Getting arrested was nothing. It was just dirt on my shoulders.

So you’re saying they arrested you for a private, legal act?

Like I said, the evidence that was thrown against me, these are random posters that were vandalized and not for what was at the show. It was a legal piece. They went to the show on the suspicion that Poster Boy was going to be there since that was on the flyer and since I was working on the legal piece, they were like, “This is Poster Boy, let’s get him.” So it was kind of expected in a way. And like I said, I didn’t care. I didn’t want to keep anything.

I didn’t want to get money off of this, so I did make the piece in the name of Poster Boy and, you know, let it happen. Whatever Poster Boy wants to do with that image…gets done. I didn’t feel any attachment...

So it sounds like you were a superhero?

Yeah, it was like a Robin Hood. As someone said recently, a Keyser Sze? From Usual Suspects? I’ve never seen that movie, but I’ve got to see it now. How I feel about things is that we’re too attached to material things and the need to be famous and have money and have that as the idea of success...It’s a little too wacky.

I mean, I want to make money and be a little successful making paintings and stuff. But I don’t feel the need to, like you know, make a ton of this shit and just spit out this artwork and make millions and millions of dollars. If it happens, it happens. I’m not trying to do that. I don’t feel the need to do that. This idea that’s kind of put out there by the media makes people feel insecure because, if they don’t reach that, then they feel bad. And I think that compelled me to partake in Poster Boy because, though I’m not as extreme as what Poster Boy stands for, I feel...I have an affinity for what is being said.

What do your parents do?

Well my dad, he doesn’t do too much of anything. He owns a building, and he used to do some construction. He’s not really that active. He’s trying to lay low with the construction, but [he’s] barely getting by collecting rent in this building that was passed down to him. My mom, she’s like a nanny— barely gets by.

So you come from the working class?


Brothers and sisters? Yeah, all that.

So you said you went to art school? What art school?

I went to NYU, and they had a pretty good art program. I felt like there was a lot of bullshit in the art school that I didn’t really agree with.

Did you graduate?

Yeah, I graduated. So, it was...there was a contradiction between what I feel art should stand for and what they were teaching. So that’s kind of how I was able to like...really...I don’t know, come together with the whole Poster Boy thing. Like I said, maybe I’m not as extreme as the ideas behind Poster Boy, but I agree with a lot of it. Again, [I’m] a little too chickenshit to go out there and do that kind of stuff Poster Boy is doing.

You mean as Henry?

Yeah, of course, I mean as Henry. I feel a lot more safe in a studio making a painting than climbing up a structure and cutting down a whole billboard in Brooklyn.

Yeah, I loved that.

Yeah, that’s one of my favorites too. The whole point was, from what I gather, is to free up space for public engagement, whatever that may be. And lo and behold, the next day it was tagged by an artist named Lee(to), and it’s perfect, and it’s still up there—which is amazing! The potential for that is great. Ideally, I wouldn’t want to see any of the ads you know? Cause they’re like big and out-there and in-your-face. But it’s very good when you turn it into something that’s more local and public and more of a community space. I’d rather have that than a big billboard—a big advertisement.

Do you think that’s why they’re so intent on persecuting somebody for Poster Boy: because no one wants to see these fucking ads? Why not tear them down and throw them in the fire?

But none of us have that power. None of us want to see those ads. Nobody wants to see those ads. Some ads are clever, you know. You watch the Superbowl and you see like a funny ad or a clever ad, and there is some art behind it. You know, composition and color, there’s some appreciation. But then when it’s that big and in-your-face and it’s so aggressive; you get kinda tired of it. You’re like, Damn, I wish that shit would just like disappear. And then someone like Poster Boy comes by and just says, “Fuck it.” I’m going to cut it down with same razor I use in the subway. That takes fucking balls. Maybe you can’t do the same thing. But support it. If you believe in it in some way...

Do you think they wanted to pin that on you?

You know anything they wanted to pin on me. Anything. Every vandalized poster. Every piece that’s on the Flickr site. Every video piece. The billboard piece. The YouTube video.

They’re trying to nab me with all of that. I was kind of, like, taken aback at first. So I was kind of scared like, “Oh shit, I’m gonna get hit for all of this stuff.” You know, I don’t mind getting arrested and making a statement. But Jesus Christ, I don’t want to go to jail for this stuff.

So with that in mind, I tried to cop a plea. Maybe I’ll give them something to throw me a bone here, so I said, “All right, a while ago when Poster Boy started coming up, I maybe vandalized a poster or two but nothing else. You know, I didn’t climb up and do the billboard thing.” But they weren’t hearing that. They said, “Oh, really?” So they sent a cop right away to take a picture of every vandalized poster… I mean if that’s what it took—for me to get arrested, for all this crap to happen— maybe it’s worth it. Maybe I’m playing my part more than I think I am. I think so. It’s more than just doing a piece as Poster Boy. It’s me serving as a scapegoat or almost like a...

Well that’s an interesting term. Let’s talk about being a scapegoat.

Well, as far as like a scapegoat, like the whole idea with the NYPD trying to pin everything on me. Like people can’t understand something existing like Poster Boy, so they need one person to pin it on. People can’t imagine something existing like Poster Boy, so they have to have an individual to put all this shit on. I guess that’s my role, creating the change that I’d like to see. And so be it. I mean, I’d hate to go back to jail and stuff, but you know, at this point, seeing the way the institutions have been reacting, like the NYPD or MTA and advertisers and stuff, then my resolve would be [to get] stronger and getting a little more courageous as an active citizen. They [want to] give me jail time, fine, give it to me. I’m going to be scared shitless probably, but sometimes you have to put that aside. Put your fear aside.

How do you make a living by the way?

Bartend, odd jobs here and there. I sell paintings once in a while, and I’ve been getting a little mention—before the whole Poster Boy thing started. We’ll see where that goes. Of course, I’d love to make it as an artist. That’s why I came over here. I wasn’t born and raised here, you know? But I’ve been here for a few years. Not opposed to it. But capitalism seems like a pyramid scheme almost. The more you make, the more you spend, and the higher up you get, you just want to keep going and going, and make more money and consume more… Things should be evened out a little more. Maybe not be an anarchist state, you know. I still believe in some kind of government, but like make things like school free, healthcare, things that are essential. Like rights, human beings...

You said you liked comic books as a kid. If Poster Boy were a superhero, what would he look like?

Oh man, I think automatically, V for Vendetta stuff or like Batman.

What would he look like? What would he wear, Poster Boy?

The image that’s in my mind is this guy with a black jacket, jeans, a pair of red Converse and a fedora hat and a bandana covering his face—cause that’s like a couple pictures I saw that sticks in my head. Poster Boy is a New York thing. No, like, fancy clothes but still with a rough edge in a way, fucking like James Dean cool and then the bandana, like a vigilante, like an outlaw.

So I think that’s how I pictured it.

Anything else you want to make sure people understand?

Just that, in the spirit of Poster Boy, to understand that there are things out there that are not right and probably always will be things that are not right, and you have to decide your level of involvement and how you have to change that. I’ve decided that as a human being, as Henry Matyjewicz, as an artist, as a citizen, as an American. I understand what I can do and what I want to do and my involvement; and I think people should do that too and not be afraid to get arrested because that fear is why were are in this predicament—this moral predicament— in the first place, you know. You need to stop being scared and being empowered and thinking you can make a difference.

You feel like you’re this lone person that can’t make a difference, can’t do something about it, and you’re scared and you’re alone. But if you feel empowered and know that even a little bit can make a difference, then you feel empowered and not fearful, then you accept things like getting in trouble, jail, death… Poster Boy doesn’t want to hurt anybody.

He’s trying to bring awareness and letting people decide whether it’s art or not.

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Poster Boy and Aakash Nihalani rework Monet, Smells of Appropriation and Publicity Stunt

This seems to be the only commentary I've found on the PosterBoy, MoMA mashup that happened a few days ago at the Atlantic/Pacific train station in NYC. Mr. Gould's initial response to the MoMA installation is expected, yes it's clearly a publicity stunt and yes it is equivalent to an advertisement in every way. That said, it is expected PosterBoy would find his way to this station to call attention to this fact by treating the work the same way he has treated advertising throughout the subway system.

Mr. Gould's final remark about the connection between PosterBoy and Doug Jaeger turning this into a publicity stunt instead of a well guided attempt to continue along an artistic trajectory set nearly a year ago by PosterBoy, does not sit well with me. On some levels I agree that this wreaks of a partnership where both parties are clear about what they will gain from the stunt and are taking advantage of an opportunity. On another level I am aware of more of the back story than I think Mr. Gould is, and thus realize what an amazing opportunity for PosterBoy this was. The Atlantic/Pacific station is heavily trafficked and nearly impossible to hit. Without Doug Jaeger's participation this project probably could not have happened.

So as an artist, PosterBoy is in a strange position. By doing the project he is able to continue his work in an interesting way by leveling MoMA's art advertising stunt and thus comparing it to the regular advertising you see. He is also able to draw attention to his project on an unprecedented level, thus gaining momentum for what he hopes will be a strong investigation into who controls public communication in the public environment. The only thing he has to do is team up with someone involved with the MoMA project. Remember MoMA had nothing to do with this stunt.

And so the question remains. Does aiding a PR firm while moving his own ideas forward become caustic to his project as a whole?

VIA Free Williamsburg

C/O Dan Gould

My initial reaction to the MOMA installation at Atlantic Ave. was mixed. I concede that people are inundated with advertising, and this was an opportunity to offer people something more cultured. Still, the motivation seemed a little suspect. Seeing Poster Boy and Aakash Nihalani, however, remix the works made me very excited about the installation. While the public display makes the work vulnerable to vandalism, it also provides for the images to be appropriated and enter the larger cultural dialogue. It, therefore, brings a new life to the pieces and provides for more social commentary.

C/O Doug Jaeger

What I don't quite understand in this story is why Doug Jaeger, the advertising brains behind the original campaign, was photographed participating in the vandalism? The move reduces Poster Boy's street art to a publicity stunt. This makes the project seem calculated and doesn't bode well for the MoMA or Poster Boy.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Brian Lehrer Live-Cancelled

Recently PosterBoy and myself were asked to appear on the Brian Lehrer Live TV show, broadcast over the CUNY cable network. After having been approached by the producer, it became apparent they were interested in the politics of the activist artwork we both make. They made it abundantly clear that they wanted to discuss the social ramifications of work which challenged the current system of public space usage through social deviance and illegal activity.

Obviously we were very excited for this opportunity and agreed to a Wednesday evening appearance on 02-11-09. After talking to PosterBoy, I explained to the producers that he would need his face blurred out and his voice manipulated in order to retain anonymity. (This was especially necessary given Henry Matyjewicz's recent arrest) Things seemed fine, and both of us looked forward to having a forum to openly discuss our work with someone known for attacking critical cultural and social issues.

Tuesday morning I received this email...

Hey guys,

I just got off the phone with the President of the CUNY television station, and I have some bad news. After thinking about the face blurring question he decided he is worried about legal ramifications for CUNY with having you guys on the air at all.

When we went deeper, he was too worried about the concept of what might happen, and he mentioned a few CUNY rules and regulations that I was not aware of. While I don't agree with his decision, it doesn't look like a battle that I can win right now, so we are going to have to cancel this Wednesday's interview.

Good luck with all that you guys do. I will be in touch next week when I've had a chance to take my case to the right authorities in person.

My apologies,

The rest of this post is made with all due respect to Brian Lehrer and the rest of the crew.

I was obviously a little upset at the opportunity passing before us to present our case in a respected public forum. I thought highly of the show for wanting to discuss what I think to be a very interesting and important public space issue. It struck me as odd that they would cancel, sure that they had over the years entertained other guests who were involved in illegal activities, both activist as well as less socially motivated crimes.

This got me to thinking about whether or not they would allow a landlord or outdoor advertising company executive on the show that had been involved with illegal outdoor advertising. I looked back into their history and couldn't find any specific examples but guests have definitely come and gone with controversy. I came to the conclusion that they probably would not have legal issues bringing on a executive or landlord, despite that guest being responsible for illegally putting up advertising images in our public space.

What is the difference between the two guests, and why would one have "legal ramifications for CUNY" that the other would not? It couldn't actually be the nature of the crime. If that was the case, one would think PosterBoy and I would be more readily accepted onto the show given that our crimes are meant to promote open discussion of another larger illegal issue in our city, while the crimes of the outdoor advertising industry were crimes committed in an effort to take advantage of the public for personal gain. Clearly the criminal behavior we promote has at its heart less criminal intent.

What could be the difference between us and them in the eyes of the President of the CUNY television station? I started thinking of other people I have been compared to over the years, street artists, graffiti artists, urban pranksters. The terms kept flowing and I soon arrived at a term often used to blanket large swaths of critical outdoor visual activity, Vandals. It became abundantly clear that we were not being allowed on the show not because of our label as criminals, but rather because we were painted as social deviants.

And herein lies the problem. Somehow in a strange manipulation of the facts, the severity of the crimes committed by individuals and those by large outdoor advertising companies, have been switched. The activist, or vandal, whatever you would like to call him or her, takes the brunt of the legal responsibility for illegal usage of the public environment, while those responsible for much larger crimes seem to hide in broad daylight.

In fact this same situation has played itself out for years, criminalizing petty crimes while casting a blind eye on more traditional illegal activities perpetrated by the the outdoor advertising industry in the city of New York. I hate to continually refer to the same post over and over again, but The Anti Advertising Agency's post on the anti-vandal squad resonates to well. With 3,786 graffiti arrests in 2007, and not a single outdoor advertising perpetrator arrested, the city is telling us what kind of visual pollution it sees as criminal, despite what the laws may be. This is obvious without even considering the amazing feat undertaken by the NYPD to reveal the identity of these deviants, compared with the incredible ease needed to catch those responsible for outdoor advertising.

So who is the Brian Lehrer show afraid of? Who would be upset enough to give legal troubles to a University because they entertained the socially minded mischief of a few public individuals? (I'm sure they are not that frightened by the actual legal ramifications but the fact that they are willing to entertain the possibility at all shows they don't want to take the risk of outing a very powerful industry in the city) I think the answer to this is relatively obvious and is yet another example of how outdoor advertising promotes a social environment which silences the individuals that live in that space.

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ad, graffiti… what’s the difference?

VIA under-covered

Posted on by under-covered


Answer: The difference is obviously whose paying for that space in the public eye. In lay terms, money. But in the last few weeks there has been a lot of push-back to renew the debate.

In the last few weeks there has been a flurry of activity around the question of advertising’s role in our environment and who has the right to project messages to the masses.

New York City’s well-known metro ad-altering trickster Poster Boy was caught — but not really. Fact is, there are hundreds of poster boys out there and the police — who arrived at an art opening flagrantly advertising his appearance busted someone and claimed to have captured Mr. Poster Boy himself.

Police in Boston captured a more tangible suspect – Shepard Fairey — when they also arrived at his opening at the Institute of Contemporary Art where a retrospective is being shown in his honor.

In both cases the culprit is actually unknown. It’s anyone’s guess who put up the “obey” signs in Boston — Fairey has been around for so long and accrued such a following that any fledgling anti-addies with a library card or internet access could print out and slap up their own ‘obey’ signs. More obviously, Poster Boy is not one arrest-able citizen but many creative, albeit mischievous, metro-riders who are sick of seeing (on average) 5,000 ads per day… And started talking back.

One cunning blogger is Boston put it well on Universal Hub when she/he wrote,

“The whole point of the ‘Obey’ campaign is that it’s viral; that Fairey himself has no control over who uses the images or where they’re placed.” — Cynic

And, predictably, there’s always the narrative of the peeved cop who wants to keep order and make a show of dragging the ‘bad guy’ in and set an example (or at least frighten the next generation of anti-addies). Instead, in both clunky cases, the police were regarded by the locals as brutes. Party poopers. And as for those young street artists — as one ICA patron put it,

“It makes him even more of a hero to me. The fact that he is arrested for his art shows that it is meaningful to him and he cares about what he is doing.” — Ginny Delany, 27 in the Boston Globe

The meaning of contributing to your environment — to change what you find wrong or unhealthy in your neighborhood — is the catapult for these “viral” images. And the active anti-ad, street art movement (not new, by any means) will further force the question, what are ads and what is graffiti?

Here’s a fitting answer by a couple of New York City artists:

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Friday, February 6, 2009

The Most Important Thing You Will Read About PosterBoy Yet Is A Lot Less about PosterBoy Than You Think

I would like to thank Steve Lambert and the AAA for their last post on PosterBoy regarding his arrest. Sometimes I am so busy trying to keep the content updated on this site, I forget that some of the important issues this content brings forward are not as obvious to the rest of the world as they are to me.

That said there has been a flurry of activity around PosterBoy these days. Much of the activity has dealt with his recent arrest. Magazines and press that have run their opinions recently include, The New York Times, The New York Post, The New York Press, The New Yorker, The Economist, Gothamist, Gawker, and soon El Pais in Spain. I'm sure this list does not include half the content PosterBoy has been able to create in the last six months through his simple yet incredibly affective idea.

So they have arrested PosterBoy, or so the story goes. And yet we have all missed the point PosterBoy is trying to make.

PosterBoy like many activist public space artists is trying to challenge the current state of our public environment. The very fact that his activities are criminal at all is a result of the power that outdoor advertising exercises over our public lives, and the lack of power that is given to individuals for whom this public space should function. (This public project is a good example of the good that comes about through public interaction with public space) What's almost too good to be true is that unlike other public artists, graffiti and street alike, his project directly questions this tenuous relationship. And still all we can pay attention to is whether or not he's really Henry Matyjewicz, and did he or did he not get arrested.

By all means I will be there Monday morning at Henry's court appearance, and I undoubtedly am frustrated by the fact that he had to spend time in jail at all. The mere fact that the Anti-Vandal squad, (a task force of 75) or whatever branch of the NYPD that was used to pull off an undercover sting operation to arrest someone who has single handedly created more dialogue about the use of our public space, is astounding. But lets forget for one minute the issue of his arrest and think about why he is in this position, and who might be a better candidate to take his place.

The city runs a special task force through the DOB called the Sign Enforcement Unit. Headed by Edward Fortier, 5 individuals attempt to handle the overwhelming proliferation of illegal advertisements in the city. In fact their only task is to handle billboards, and yet they are swamped by the herculean task set before them. Often it takes them months to even get to illegal billboard complaints like this one, and even once they have located an illegal billboard, many more months of legal negotiations in order to finally have it removed. The cost of this task force as well as the legal battles which must take place, is paid for by YOU AND ME! PosterBoys activities cost you and I nothing, and instead of advertising content, he brings you critical issues.

The best part about this, and what makes us arguing over who we think PosterBoy is even more ridiculous, is that we know the full names of every landlord which operates illegal signage in the city. That's right, all you have to do is type in the address of a building with signage on it, and you can see if there is a permit for the sign. If there is no permit, you have the full name of the person responsible. And yet here we are arresting one of the only people in our city trying to make us aware of this fact.

What makes this whole thing even more absurd is that PosterBoy, for all his concerted efforts to bring to light this important issue, has made not a single dollar and remains committed to not profiting directly from any of this activity. Juxtapose the millions of dollars being made by the operation of illegal signage in the city by individuals whose names we know and for whom we need no sting operations and undercover detectives, and you quickly see for whom the public space is operating.

It is our duty to PosterBoy, and all those individuals who have put their safety on the line to bring you face to face with this glaring issue, to channel our frustration and energy to outing the real issue at hand. Henry Matyjewicz is not only not PosterBoy, but the NYPD, by his arrest, has failed the public at large by ignoring the real culprits, and the motivation behind PosterBoy's activism.

When discussing PosterBoy, let us not forget to talk about the other vandals operating in our city. This all just makes me think of the woman in the KCET Billboard Confidential video Part 3 saying, "It doesn't really seem like anybody cares and I don't really believe the city is capable of doing anything about it." PosterBoy has made you think about it, now lets make our city capable of doing something about it.

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Winter Weave Easter Video

With all the activity around Poster Boy these days I haven't had a moment to post this video. I've been fielding an incredible amount of fan mail, legal offerings and in general, people who want to help or become a part of this movement. I am so excited to see the level of interest that PosterBoy has sparked in the public. It truly looks like a revolution. Wondering what the confluence of events that sparked all this may be, I came upon an interesting book, Lizabeth Cohen's, A Consumer's Republic. In it she discusses the political strength that came out of the consumer movement in the late 20's early 30's. It seems that a larger economic crisis like the great depression had forced consumers to stand up for themselves against a capitalist production system which had grown accustomed to taking advantage of them. Only in dismal economic times did people realize that they were standing by while larger corporations were making huge profits. I think it is safe to say that one of the motivating factors behind the public backing PosterBoy's activities with such fervor these days is this same sense of being taken advantage. If big business is gonna walk all over us, and outdoor advertising is one of those big businesses, we are going to fight back. It has become apparent that we aren't getting anything out of the current use of public space and it's making people stark raving mad.

January 29th I taught a class for some art students on media activism. By actually producing a piece in front of them I hope to give them both the tools and the confidence to be able to go out and re-imagine the public environment they live in on their own terms.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Two sides to Every Coin-part 2

I figured PosterBoy should have a chance to answer the questions surrounding his arrest. We are happy to be able to provide PosterBoy the opportunity to tell his side of the story.

PAC-People are hearing rumors that you were arrested on Friday evening. Wanted to get the straight scoop directly from you.

PB-Henry Matyjewicz was arrested Friday night at 7:30pm, sent to central booking, then sent to Rikers. He was bailed on Sunday night, and was released Monday 2am.

PAC-Explain to everybody what you were doing the night of your arrest.

PB-Tossing back a couple of brewskies and watching Henry Matyjewicz get arrested for art crimes he didn’t commit.

PAC-Were you expecting a police presence at your first "real" exhibition in New York?

PB-First off the work was a live contribution from the Neo-Cons (Poster Boy, Aakash Nihalani, and Ellis Gallagher) to help raise money for Friends We Love. Since the flyer guaranteed Poster Boy’s presence we expected the police to come through.

Look at the piece that was put up. It would’ve been a success either way, but how “ironic” is that? Maybe too ironic. The party would’ve gone a lot smoother without an arrest, but it didn’t hurt the cause. It feels good to exploit the NYPD.

PAC-What were the police's reasons for arresting you?

PB-According to Henry they were trying to find Poster Boy. The plainclothes officers arrived around 7pm, like the flyer said, then started snooping around. They overheard Henry talking about the piece he helped install then arrested him. I reviewed the evidence presented by the NYPD through Henry’s account. They have a some random pics from the Lorimer stop on the L line of some vandalized advertisements and Henry’s grey hoody which is supposedly the same one from the youtube video. So basically they have nothing.

PAC-What is the best thing that's happened to you since being in jail?

PB-Henry’s arrest helped propagate the ideas behind Poster Boy. I hear the new Poster Boy movie is set to come out this summer. I hope it’s a trilogy. Thank you NYPD and Henry.

PAC-Did anyone buy the now notorious "the neocons did it" piece that you were making especially for the exhibition?

PB-No physical work of Poster Boy will ever be sold or privately owned. The piece will be recycled and used for other work.

PAC-In your own words, what does this arrest mean to you and in relation to your work?

PB-More visibility. This will help the public see and understand the issues at hand. It’s unfortunate that Henry was arrested, but there comes a time in a person’s life when their beliefs are put to the test. Henry Matyjewicz passed with flying colors.

PAC-Any last thoughts you might like to ad?

PB-The only thing that could match the NYPD’s shit investigation is the New York Post’s shit reporting.

PB-Of course I’m not surprised. It’s the New York Post.

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Two sides to Every Coin-part 1

Here is the official NY Post account of PosterBoy's arrest.

If you're one of the subway system's most-wanted - but anonymous - vandals, it may be a good idea to keep your mouth shut.

A guerrilla "artist" known as "Poster Boy," who cuts up and rearranges subway advertisements into designs of his own, was busted after an undercover officer overheard him bragging to a girl about his exploits at a party, sources said.

Henry Matyjewicz, 27, of Bushwick, Brooklyn, was arrested Friday at an art show at a SoHo loft that featured his work and was hosted by a group called Sly Art vs. Robot City.

Transit police had gotten a tip that Matyjewicz would be at the party, advertised as "The Friends We Love Festival," and sent the undercover officer, the sources said.

Poster Boy's work has caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage to ad campaigns, and he has long been a thorn in New York City Transit's side.

But not knowing what he looked like, the officer was able to nab him only after he overheard the artist/vandal bragging to the girl, the sources said.

He was charged with counts of criminal mischief, graffiti and possessing a tool to make graffiti. He was also held on a warrant for shoplifting in Manhattan last August, court records show.

Matyjewicz was held on $750 bail. No one answered the door at his Brooklyn apartment last night or at the loft where the party was held.

Matyjewicz had recently made efforts to become part of the mainstream art scene.

In a recent interview with the Web site Gothamist, the former art-school student boasted he was so well known for his work that "I have Vandal Squad officers hounding me for autographs."

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Poster Boy, Street Artist

The bad news is our web traffic has tripled because of PosterBoy, The good news is our web traffic has tripled because of PosterBoy. That said, I promise we will continue to bring you other content but until then this we continue to support PosterBoy in everything he is doing. Despite what I'm sure is a whirlwind of press and praise, PosterBoy seems to be keeping the public in his heart and mind.

from Gothamist by Jen Carlson

php1sP66YAM.jpg When we first heard of Poster Boy it was for his subway ad "mash-ups." More recently a video came out showing him work on a much larger scale, above ground, and promising it's a sign of what's to come. Earlier this week we tracked down the anonymous artist to ask him about his plans, ideas and why he does what he does.

Do you consider yourself a street artist? Amongst other things, yes.

Did you start with the subway ad "mashups" or had you been working on other canvases before? I started with hand-me-down canvases in art school. Appropriation art was the excuse I gave. Without trying to sound pathetic it all started with not having the space and money to make art the traditional way. After a while the canvas work didn't satisfy my ambitions. I felt I had a lot more to "say" and it was eating me inside. Then one day out of frustration and curiosity I started tearing down the ads.

Recently there was video of you taking down a billboard and a hint that bigger things were to come. What's next? I have something planned that, if successful, will make the poster and billboard stuff look trivial. However, the process will take a few months maybe a year or so. For now, just advert takeovers and more collaborations. For people who're interested in PARTICIPATING please email

How hard is it to take down a billboard?! Cutting them down is easy. I use the same razor in the subway. Having the nerve and competence to climb up is something entirely different.

Have you ever been arrested? Yeah. Never for art related crimes though. What have I gotten away with? That's the real question.

What have people said to you when they see you altering the subway ads? I get a lot of, "Oh you're the guy that does the poster stuff", and, "Hey, did you do anything on the such and such line?" Most of the time people stare. On a good day I have Vandal Squad officers hounding me for autographs.

What is your overall goal? The overall goal for Poster Boy is to inspire others. I'd love to see people take up the Poster Boy model and create change within their environment. I'd like people to interact with art, media, and public space a little differently. Attaching a copyright to images and ideas is petty. I don't subscribe to the idea of originality either. Whether you believe information comes from the collective unconscious or plain ole history there's always a precursor to your idea. The creative process is more like a perpetual collaboration with our predecessors.

Please share your strangest "only in New York" story. While walking through the LES one day I approached your typical NYC movie set. Before turning the street to avoid the hoopla I caught Woody Allen staring at me. So, while walking, I stared back. This went on for about a minute. Right before I turned the corner I grimaced the way a five year old would. He laughed then I laughed. I thought it was kinda cool that I made Woody laugh. Usually he's the one making people laugh...that is when he isn't boning his daughter.

Which New Yorker do you most admire? Amy Goodman from Democracy Now. I don't trust news from anywhere else.

Given the opportunity, how would you change New York? Ban tv, deadly weapons, and advertisements. Make public transportation, school, healthcare, and internet free. Make all energy free and renewable. Oh, and maybe change the NYPD uniform from navy blue to hot pink.

Under what circumstance have you thought about leaving New York? If the MTA raises the fare again.

What's your current soundtrack? Charlie Parker, Dead Prez, Radiohead, Mos Def, old Beastie Boys, Chopin, and Santogold have been on heavy rotation lately.

Best cheap eat in the city. The Hare Krishna Temple on Houston & 2nd Ave. serves tasty vegetarian food to students for a small donation. For everyone else there's Oyama sushi on 1st Ave. & 11th St.

Best venue to see music. Central Park when the weather is right.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reader Comments

In case you don't read the comments on this blog, here is a recent diatribe from Ronnie that everyone should look at carefully. It is in response to some of the other comments on the "What's Left is the Idea" post, but makes some incredibly clear and incisive observations about advertising, its manifestation in the public sphere, and its effects on our social psychology. Thanks Ronnie.

Calling all critics!

1) Public property is subject to the authority of the majority. Any laws restricting the freedom of the people to express their views using public media are unconstitutional, whether these laws provide censorship, exact fees for the "service" of expression, or even require an application and identification process. MTA is a public benefit corporation, meaning that insofar as many aspects of their operations are concerned (for instance promotions), they reap both the advantages and responsibilities of any other public entity. If you don't adhere to such standards of liberty, then I suggest that you relocate to a place where the government more overtly overlooks the basic rights of the people.

2)Billboards are tools used to influence people's minds and gear them towards consumption, and it is very good at accomplishing that goal. If it wasn't an effective means of manipulation, then companies wouldn't collectively spend billions each year on advertising.

An individual with no background in advertising or psychology may make the mistake that the purpose of a billboard is simply to forge a memory of a product or company name. The truth known by most if not all who are educated on the subject is that advertising uses one or multiple "emotional appeals" to manipulate public opinion in favor of the product or company. Britney doesn't drink Pepsi so you'll remember Pepsi. You already know about Pepsi. Britney drinks Pepsi because you want to fuck Britney or you want to be Britney or you love to hate Britney like you love to hate your precious/detestable caffeinated corn syrup soda water.

This force of psychological manipulation DOES have a negative effect on society, since the vast majority of advertisements emphasize self-interest. You cannot emphasize self-interest without simultaneously de-emphasizing self-sacrifice. This means that those "buy zit cream and she may give you a hand job" commercials and even the helpful "if you smoke could look ugly when you're 40" billboards may help turn sweet little Timmy into a self-centered, self-loathing, self-improving-and-destructing Tim. Since this archetypal "Consumer Tim" is probably more likely to see the inside of the space station than his local soup kitchen or Habitat for Humanity office, anything to help slow the rapid production of Tims in this country is helpful, not harmful.

3) As for those of you who think that somehow this act is irresponsible, perhaps you should compare it to some of the "legitimate" artistic endeavors. (look for the article "Giant Feces Destroys Swiss Town").

4) People are dying. The world is dying. If we don't do something about it, there will be nothing left of this beautiful thing we call life on this planet. One way for a skilled, creative person to make a difference is to help pull the plug on consumerist psychological manipulation, to remove us from the realm of the unreal and back into the world where your purchases and actions have real effects on you and everyone else on this goddamn rock. If you have a complaint, stop bitching at others who are trying to use their own abilities to make a difference and go do something about it yourself. Some day, despite your disapproval of his methods, you may even thank PosterBoy for drawing your attention away from the contents of a billboard and towards the issues that this world faces. With that I bid you good day. You are free to respond, but you will most assuredly receive no response. I limit myself to one blog response manifesto per annum, and it looks like I used mine a little early this year. Have a good day.

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