Saturday, 22 May 2010

Steve "Espo" Powers and his community work

Steve powers grew up in Philadelphia in the 70's. At 16 he was enrolled at a local art institution but did not enjoy the practice his tutors were teaching him, being unable to relate to still life and life drawing. At this point Steve discovered graffiti art. As a movement, this point in time was ideal to begin painting pieces, work was now moving out of New York city and beginning to appear on a world wide scale. In his neighbourhood the scene was booming, with over 50 kids all beginning to write graffiti. Steve then continued to develop and paint his pieces in New York and Philadelphia under the pseudonym "Espo" for "Exterior Surface Painting Outreach" and between 84 to 99 was a prolific and commonly known street artist. Always interested and influenced by advertising and its similarities with graffiti Espo began to experiment by adding slogans and tag lines to his colourful pieces which controlled the rooftops and railway lines. He started to see a disappearance of the hand painted signage on coney island which had always been a great inspiration to him, the amusement owners were now favouring cheap plastic ones. And so, Espo offered to hand paint all the rides and amusements free of charge, which after their suspicious nature over receiving free work was put to rest, there was a great demand for his efforts.
Later Espo took a trip to dublin to paint a mural in what was one of the most dangerous areas during the conflict. Here he started to develop the work which would be what really brought him into the public eye, beautiful typographical slogans with very personal messages.
He next embarked on the "love letters" project which in essence were series of 50 murals to brighten up a neighbourhood in Philly. Legally comissioned by the council, Espo had to work with the local community to up with something which everyone would be able to genuinely enjoy rather than a stereotypical happy-clappy mural. The idea was that they were to be painted to look as though it was a rogue persons message, solely for the eyes of a loved one. So in that way even though it excluded everyone it kind of included them because they could to relate to the act of reaching out to one another. In 1999 and at the age of 31 Powers was arrested for numerous counts of criminal damage, following this he decided to exit his career as a graffiti artist and focused solely on studio work. He continues to produce work this way very successfully and puts on shows around the world to this day.

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