Poster Boy (street artist)
Poster Boy is a New York City-based street artist named Henry Matyjewicz whose only utensil is a razor. He is known for satiric collage-like works created by cutting out sections of the self-adhesive advertisement posters in the platforms of New York City Subway stations, and pasting them back in different positions. He lives in Brooklyn. Poster Boy also refers to a 'Poster Boy movement' where other people produce similar unsigned work in the New York City subways imitating this original artist.
One of his work is featured in Banksy's 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.
Poster Boy / Matyjewicz was born in 1983, and raised in a one-parent home in a poor neighborhood in Hartford, CT. He later moved to the more affluent West Hartford, CT. Poster, as his friends call him, was a vandal as a teenager, and was arrested on minor charges a few times before enrolling in Community College. There he became interested in the political ideas of Noam Chomsky, and in simple artistic ways of expressing political reality, as in Animal Farm by George Orwell. He went from Community College to a prominent New York art school, and worked in a Chelsea art studio. He started on his collage like visual appropriation in art school, using used canvases already painted and discarded by other art students. He has said this was largely because he did not have the space and money to make art the traditional way. On the subway between his Brooklyn home and Manhattan he began to manipulate the advertising posters that line the NYC subway tunnels. He soon dropped out of art school.
"At first, it was just something to keep me occupied while waiting on the subway." “I was playing with the posters, cutting them up" (he carried a razor used at work) and discovered that unlike the cardboard posters in the subway trains, the advertising posters on the subway platforms were printed on a self-adhesive material that could be stuck back down after being torn or cut out. He began to play with available images and text to create humorous “mash-ups” of advertisements. In 2008 alone he has created over 200 manipulated underground posters in NYC subway. He compares the creation of poster “mash-ups” to hip hop "freestyling" on a microphone. He does not have preconceived notions of what the work will be (“I don’t have anything planned…go there, see something, get inspired and do the work”), but uses the available images, often in a way that relates to current events. One commentator noted: "The pieces generally have a critical edge to them, making comments on the state of society and on the advertisements themselves." This can be explicitly political (as his pieces on Sean Bell, "IRAN = NAM", "Obama Drama," and Gaza), or a more general send up of celebrity and corporate culture.
Poster Boy has been called the "Matisse of subway-ad mash-ups," “a kind of anti-consumerist Zorro with a razor blade,” and “an anti-consumerist guerilla artist.” Culture reporter Ben Walters has said of his work "Poster Boy's work straddles two boisterous artistic subcultures: street art and culture jamming." Poster Boy has said of his technique “No matter what I do to the piece, as long as I did something to those advertisements and that saturation, it’s political. It’s anti-media, anti–established art world.”
He calls his work “A social thing, as opposed to being an artist making things for bored rich people to hang above their couch.” Besides the message of the individual piece, the aspect of producing anonymous public art that other people could do is part of the work. In a video interview he has said of his work “I want it to be free of copyright and free of authorship, as much as possible.” “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.” As his fame has grown, others have begun to emulate the technique. Whether these are unconnected individuals copying one original artist, or part of the "Poster Boy model" or "movement" has not been publicly confirmed.
His work is transitive (usually ripped down by MTA employees) but recorded in photographs. Photos of most of his work put up on the Poster Boy photostream on the Flickr photo sharing website.
Poster Boy has collaborated with Aakash Nihalani, a street artist who uses brightly colored electrical tape to create geometric patterns, and has worked on large outdoor monochrome pieces covering illegal NPA billboards with Jordan Seiler of the Public Ad Campaign.
His work had recently grown in scale, and recently he has applied his technique to large billboards. He seems to have been unaware of the somewhat similar and earlier billboard work of the UK group Cutup.
In March 2009, a major installation of subway advertising by the Museum of Modern Art at the Atlantic / Pacific subway stop in Brooklyn, consisting just of reproductions of works shown in MOMA, was doctored by what was claimed to be "the mysterious Poster Boy collective" along with Doug Jaeger of thehappycorp, The cutups included part of a goodyear tire appearing to be floating with Monet's waterlilies.
The initial Poster Boy work was all illicit, and he claimed “I don’t want to make any money off of it. I don’t want to bring it into the galleries.”. However, after his arrest in January 2009 his work has been shown in galleries, including a one-person show in Eastern District Brooklyn, April 3–26, 2009. He was also included in the group show, Razors, Tape, Glass, at Jajo Gallery in Newark New Jersey. This move has been criticized in the street art blogs.
Poster Boy's cutting and pasting of subway advertisements is illegal. Previously his work had been noted by the MTA police, but did not seem a high priority for them. “Vandalism of our property is illegal, and we prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” spokesperson Aaron Donovan told reporter Brian Raftery. “That being said, the problem to date has been minimal.” He has had several brushes with the law, but on occasions transit police have let him go. On January 30, 2009, while attending a benefit for Friends We Love artist's video documentaries, a person thought to be Poster Boy was arrested by undercover police agents waiting for him. This "Poster Boy" was charged with two misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief and went before a Judge on Monday, February 9, 2009.
At the hearing the man arrested, Henry Matyjewicz, 27, rejected a plea bargain, where he would plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief, and perform 100 hours of “community service.” His lawyer, Kerry Gotlib, said his Mr. Matyjewicz was “innocent of the charges.” Mr. Matyjewicz is scheduled to appear back in court in April. If the case goes to a trial the top penalties for the charges could be jail for up to one year. However, on December 16, 2009, Matyjewicz pleaded guilty to the offenses. In exchange, the judge agreed to vacate the felony provided Matyjewicz served 210 hours of community service. Once completed, he would get three years’ probation.
Sometime around January 2009 Poster Boy's underground fame became such that there seemed to be several imitators, and his idea of having others "take up the Poster Boy model" seemed to be catching on. There even seems to be some confusion over whether the Poster Boy arrested on January 30, 2009, was the same Poster Boy who initiated the subway collages, or a "legal" above ground stand in. The New York Times reports a call from Poster Boy saying the man who was arrested "is one of the many individuals who believe in the Poster Boy 'movement'" The AdBusters website notes that “Sources close to the artist maintain that there are, in fact, multiple 'Poster Boys' presently engaged in the project." In an interview after the arrest, Henry Matyjewicz has said that "Henry is an artist just inspired by what’s going on with the Poster Boy movement."
Whatever the case may be, Matyjewicz (who his lawyer, Kerry Gotlib, has admitted in court and to the media as being THE "Poster Boy") continued to have run-ins with the law. On December 16, 2009, the very day he pled guilty in exchange for community service, Matyjewicz was arrested for turnstile-jumping allegedly on account of illegally using a discounted student MetroCard. Then, on January 22, 2010, while still on said probation, Matyjewicz was once more arrested for slicing up posters. While the DA was pressing for jail time on account of said arrest, due to a technicality, Matyjewicz was to receive only probation. On May 10, 2010, after skipping out on his May 6 court date, Matyjewicz (who had been expecting to be placed on probation again due an earlier court ruling) appeared in a Brooklyn court and was instead sentenced to 11 months incarceration at Rikers Island. Matyjewicz got out of jail on appeal of the sentence after 13 days. In an opinion dated January 25, 2011, the Second Department of the NY Supreme Court's Appellate Division sustained the appeal and vacated the trial court's decision and order of incarceration. The appellate court remanded the case to the trial court (but before a difference judge) for resentencing in accordance with the original, negotiated plea deal of just probation and community service.
- Ginsberg, Alex (February 10, 2009). "A DEFIANT 'HELL". New York Post.
- Brian Raftery (2008-10-05). "Slice and Dice". New York Magazine.
- Ben Walters (2009-01-17). "Cut, copy and paste". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-01-30.
- Brian Sherwin (2009-01-23). "Poster Boy, Street Artist (interview).". The Gothamist.
- Poster Boy, interview in "Spending Time with Poster Boy" video, 1:44. Recorded January 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21iVQ0iXs00
- PSFK Blog. “Poster Boy: Remixing Subway Ads” September 25, 2008. http://www.psfk.com/2008/09/poster-boy-remixing-subway-ads.html
- Poster Boy. untitled (My NYPD Killed Sean Bell), subway poster mash-up, 2008. http://jackmax2.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/2633361143_0a51089a30_m.jpg
- Poster Boy. untitled (Ultimate Wars; Iran=Nam), subway poster mash-up, undated. http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/gallery/2009/jan/17/street-art-poster-boy-in-pictures?picture=341833011
- Poster Boy. untitled (Obama Drama), subway poster mash-up, 2008. http://flickr.com/photos/26296445@N05/3033377295/in/datetaken/
- Poster Boy. "Gaza Simulacra," collage for magazine cover, 2009. http://flickr.com/photos/26296445@N05/3191217607/
- Randy Kennedy (2009-02-04). "Poster Boy is caught, or is it a stand-in?". New York Times.
- “Poster Boy: The 27-year-old Brooklyn artist was arrested on Saturday.” AdBusters Blog Posted by Sarah Nardi, Fri, 06 Feb 2009 http://www.adbusters.org/blogs/aesthetico/poster_boy.html
- Friends We Love ft. Poster Boy NYC :: Artist + Vigilante (video interview) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOhOYyZL01g
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/26296445@N05/ Poster Boy’s NYC Photostream on Flickr.
- Seiler, Jordan. “PosterBoy Collaboration” on Public Ad Campaign blog (Friday, November 21st, 2008) http://www.publicadcampaign.com/completedprojects/
- "Video: PosterBoy Deconstructs Brooklyn Billboard," (1:04) The Gothamist, posted January 2009. http://gothamist.com/2009/01/19/video_poster_boy_deconstructs_billb.php.
- Finch, Charlie. "No Smiles at MOMA" artnet, 2009. http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/finch/finch3-3-09.asp
- http://animalnewyork.com/2009/04/poster-boy-should-remain-underground/ April 9, 2009
- http://gawker.com/5211860/is-poster-boy-still-good-in-a-gallery April 14, 2009
- Quoted by Brian Raftery, 2008. http://nymag.com/arts/art/profiles/50969/
- Billy Parker (2009-01-31). "NYPD Rolls Up on Poster Boy". The Gothamist.
- Ginsberg, Alex (2009-02-10). "A Defiant ‘Hell". New York Post.
- Waller, Nikki (May 10, 2010). "Poster Boy Loses Plea Deal, Is Sentenced to Jail". The Wall Street Journal.
- Matt Harvey (2009-02-18). "Who Is Poster Boy?". New York Press. Retrieved 2009-02-22.
- Waller, Nikki (May 10, 2010). "Poster Boy Loses Plea Deal, Is Sentenced to Jail". The Wall Street Journal.[need quotation to verify]
- Ginsberg, Alex (January 27, 2010). "Subway-ad slicer 'cuts loose' again". New York Post.
- Ginsberg, Alex (May 7, 2010). "Poster Boy dodges jail on judge's goof". New York Post.
Photos of works:
Articles and interviews:
- Randy Kennedy. “Poster Boy Is Caught, or Is It a Stand-In?“ New York Times, 4 February 2009. (http://nytimes.com/2009/02/04/arts/design/04post.html?8dpc)
- Brian Raftery. “Slice and Dice.” New York Magazine, 5 October 2008. (http://nymag.com/arts/art/profiles/50969/)
- “Poster Boy, Street Artist” (interview). The Gothamist. January 23, 2009. (http://gothamist.com/2009/01/23/posterboy_street_artist.php)
- Ben Walters. “Cut, copy and paste” The Guardian (UK) Saturday 17 January 2009. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/jan/17/guerilla-artist-graffiti-poster-boy)
- “Poster Boy Informal Interview” with Jordan Seiler, Public Ad Campaign. October 2008. http://www.publicadcampaign.com/2008/10/poster-boy-informal-interview.html.
- "Art Space Talk: Poster Boy" interview with Brian Sherwin on the MyArtSpace Bolg. January 29, 2009. (http://www.myartspace.com/blog/2009/01/art-space-talk-poster-boy.html)
- Friends We Love ft. Poster Boy NYC :: Artist + Vigilante" video mini-documentary, 3:30
- Friends We Love :: 120 Seconds w/ Poster Boy NYC" video monologue, 2:00.
- "Spending Time with Poster Boy" video, 1:44. Recorded January 2009.
- "Poster Boy NYC Art" Fan compilation video, 3:12.
- "Posterboy NYC Subway Art" Fan compilation video, 1:46.
- “Poster Boy In Action” Video by Animalmagazine, 1:25. Posted on Vimeo, December 2008.
- Jacqueline Lewis, Editor of Chief Magazine, talks to Poster Boy on video about his work