If stealing priority mail labels, scrawling messages on them in Sharpie and sticking them someplace they, legally speaking, shouldn’t be is high art, then Curly is Philly’s Michelangelo. The prolific street artist has tattooed the city with thousands of stickers, each decorated with a trademark squiggle and handwritten non sequitur.
One sticker reads: “The job of contemporary art is to infuriate.” If so, Curly (he’d rather not reveal his real name) has succeeded: His stickers are, if nothing else, the bane of cleaning crews all over town. On Friday, though, he’ll give them a reprieve by taking his work indoors for “This Art Is So Street,” a street-art show he’s curated, featuring Banksy associate Mr. Brainwash, local artist Yis “NoseGo” Goodwin and others. Will the exhibit, which includes five of his paintings, legitimize his art? Curly shrugs. “It’s art. It’s vandalism. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.” Regardless, his motivation remains: “I’m taking a little bit of public space and changing it because I can.”
Of course, “public,” like “art,” is an elastic term. Curly claims a city official recently stopped him, urging him to “stick to the newspaper bins” (though a reporter pointed out that this, too, is not a victimless crime). He’s been ticketed by New York cops, but says Philly police tend to look the other way. Maybe they get that this is just his way of engaging with the city: “I don’t think there’s any better way to get to know a city,” he says, “than to walk around vandalizing it.”
Sept. 7-30, Stupid Easy Gallery, 307 Market St., 215-421-6588, stupideasyideas.com.