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Gallery

During the 1990s, Stephen Powers painted lauded graffiti across New York City as ESPO. In 1999, he published the dorm-room bookshelf staple, The Art of Getting Over.

Powers now paints “legal” murals as part of A Love Letter for You in Philadelphia and Brooklyn. The images in this gallery are from his “Daily Metaltations” painted on aluminum.

Stephen Powers’s work has been shown at the Venice and Liverpool Biennials, as well as numerous shows at Deitch Projects. Powers was a Fulbright scholar in 2007. He used the grant to paint in the streets of Dublin and Belfast. Powers is now working on an ongoing mural project titled “A Love Letter for You.” Powers is also the author of a book detailing his personal graffiti history, The Art of Getting Over (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), as well as a graphic novel, First and Fifteenth: Pop Art Short Stories (Villard Press, 2005).

All images © the artist, all rights reserved.

TMN:

How did you end up moving from graffiti artist to studio artist?

Stephen Powers:

I traded my skinny jeans and ski mask for a smock and a beret.

TMN:

Did you always want to show work in galleries?

SP:

No. They were as quiet and stern as libraries, but without books.

TMN:

What’s changed now that your work isn’t illegal anymore?

SP:

Business hours.

TMN:

What’s possible for you now that wasn’t in the ’90s?

SP:

Million-dollar art commissions.

TMN:

What was possible then that isn’t now?

TMN:

Million-dollar fines.

TMN:

Did writing The Art of Getting Over change your approach to work?

SP:

No. It changed my approach to bookstores. Once I learned bookstores could not return author-autographed copies, I approached bookstores with a pen.

TMN:

Did you expect the book to become so ubiquitous?

SP:

Obsequious, maybe. Ubiquitous, never.

TMN:

What are the Daily Metaltations?

SP:

Small paintings I make on enamel. I make one a day.

TMN:

From what I’ve seen of your work, word choice and meaning play a large role in your work and ideas. How do you understand the place of language in your art?

SP:

What I do is Language Arts.

TMN:

In his chapter on your work in Graffiti Lives, Gregory Snyder takes the time to talk about the difference between an artist being attracted to the look of a word versus its meaning. What’s your take on this?

SP:

I’m attracted to a good looking word, passionate about a good meaning word, and want to marry a word that is good meaning and good looking.

TMN:

Can you tell me a little bit about the mural project in Brooklyn?

SP:

Love Letter Brooklyn is covering concrete with conversation from the community in Downtown Brooklyn. The main muse of the markings is David Villorente, who grew up in the neighborhood and still resides in its confines. The Love Letter is penned by Steve Powers and painted by ICY SIGNS and Colossal Media. It is Sponsored by Macy’s and Jamestown Properties in collaboration with The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

TMN:

What was the Dreamland Artist’s Clubhouse?

SP:

A sign shop at 1206 Surf Ave. in Coney island from 2004-2006. We painted free signs for local businesses in a project sponsored by America’s #1 public art program, Creative Time.

TMN:

How did you guys end up making so much work at Coney Island? Sounds like it would have been a dream come true for a lot of artists.

SP:

Making dreams come true is the artist’s job description.

biopic

TMN Editor Nicole Pasulka believes she could beat a lie detector. When she sits in a chair she almost never puts her feet on the floor. Even though she likes the internet a lot, she is convinced that people will always read magazines and she is secretly building one in her basement. More by Nicole Pasulka