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AK Public Art Initiative to Begin New Countywide Project by Artist Stephen Powers

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Buffalo, NY – The Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s Public Art Initiative will soon begin a new project, titled Emotional Wayfinding, by artist Stephen Powers (American, born 1968). With subject matter gathered from conversations with Western New Yorkers, the project will take the form of more than 100 metal signs—some screen-printed and others hand-painted—in the shape of average “No Parking” or “One Way” street signs, which will be placed in a variety of locations throughout Erie County in the summer of 2018.

Over the coming months, the museum will distribute a tear-away postcard in various locations throughout the city, prompting Western New Yorkers to share their thoughts on what they like and dislike about Buffalo. The artist will gather these responses and use them to develop signage that will be displayed in twenty-nine towns and villages throughout Erie County, as well as the City of Buffalo. In addition to the distributed postcard, thoughts can also be submitted on the museum’s website.

The project continues the artist’s passion for creating public artwork based on shared stories and everyday experiences that result in unusually dramatic and even heartwarming presentations. At turns sentimental and fervent, the overall gesture of Emotional Wayfinding will inundate our landscape with playfully disruptive signs meant to reorient our relationships to our shared environment and with each other. The work will remain on view for the next several years.

Powers was born and raised in Philadelphia where he began graffiti writing in 1984, under the name ESPO (alternatively sited as “Exterior Surface Painting Outreach,” or as an auditory acronym for Steve POwers). By 2000, Powers gave up graffiti to become a full-time studio artist. His work has been shown at the prestigious Venice and Liverpool Biennials, as well as numerous shows at New York City's Deitch Gallery. In 2005, he organized The Dreamland Artists Club, a project in which professional artists helped Coney Island merchants by repainting their signs. In 2007, Powers organized his first solo museum exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The show, which included many sign and guidepost artworks, attracted attention in New York and Philadelphia. In December of that year, ESPO appeared on the cover of the art magazine Juxtapoz. “In 10 years time,” they wrote, “Stephen 'ESPO' Powers’s name will reside next to Crumb, Robert Williams, Basquiat, McGee, and Warhol as those who truly changed the way art is defined and displayed.”

The Public Art Initiative was established and is supported by leadership funding from the County of Erie and the City of Buffalo.