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Giving to the Poor?

January 6, 2009

I’ve been a fan from afar of Above for awhile now. I liked the arrows hanging from power lines, loved the aesthetic of the arrow covered roll-downs and trucks, but have to admit I wanted to see a little more diversity in visual language. Seems like Above has really started to branch out, doing a lot of stenciled scenes of life-sized people (a la Banksy — I hate to have to compare, but it seems pretty hard to step out of that guy’s shadow these days). One of Above’s recent pieces is a stenciled stage set, where an unwitting ATM goer steps in front of a stencil of a masked mugger, who appears to be stealing the cash and handing it to a homeless woman. The piece is interesting because it needs an audience to complete it, something so amazingly rare in street art these days. In addition, Above has made an edition of digital prints of a photo of the piece which he is selling and donating 100% of the profits to homeless advocacy organizations.

I wanted to post this here because I think it is interesting, and I’m wondering what people think. When clearly the dominant wave of street art activism seems to be making posters for presidential candidates, Above has taken a different path, and seems to have tried to create a coherent and intelligent piece that operates on multiple levels: as a piece of street art which acknowledges and invites participation from an audience, as a piece of political art making commentary of massive inequality in our society, and as a self-conscious commodity that tries to use the money it generates to address said inequality.


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