They’re light on spelling and punctuation—except for a liberal use of the exclamation point—but nonetheless communicate loud and clear, the varieties of impromptu public signage—including plentiful graffiti—former Buffalo artist Anne Muntges has discovered in her walks around New York City of late, and reproduced in several score ink-on-paper drawings currently on show at the Western New York Book Arts Center.
Strong language expressing strong if not always quite well articulated sentiments, from the simple and straightforward “Fuck You” on a fire hydrant, to the slightly more nuanced “Fuck the Government” on a brick wall, to a hand-lettered poster on a tree on a street of tidy brownstones:
Putnam Ave Block Assn
Please do not urinate here
Curb your pets and yourself
Amid some startlingly lovely sentiments: “RIP Grandma and Gramps” in black paint on a temporary-looking plywood partition wall along a sidewalk. And some heartbreaking: “Pregnet n Hungry Please Help” on a brown paper beggar’s bag discarded among street trash.
Various laundromat instruction signs to customers—or more like desperation pleas—often with a plastics subtheme. “Do Not Put Snakers or Anything Plastic in the Dryer.” Or a crudely hand-lettered sign above a scrap jumble post-conflagration remnant of a dryer, in the slightly frantic voice of the dryer personified: “Things Like This Happen When You Put Rubber and Plastic in Me No Rugs No Sneakers in Dryer Fire!!! Fire!!! No rugs No Sneakers.”
In a different—non-laundromat—context, the plastics subtheme delves into the philosophical/scientific question of just what is or isn’t plastic. On an apartment window above a row of the apartment building’s trash cans: “Note Styrofoam Is Not Plastic!” Debatable, I would think.
A commercially printed sign on a door above a stoop staircase reads: “No Sitting On This Stoop At No Time!”
A hand-lettered message on a poster states succinctly: “We’re Fucked.”
And paint graffiti on a building wall declares that “Even Jesus Drank.”
Some cases of secondary messaging via editing of an original message. “Do More” in heavy black letters is followed up with “Or don’t.” On a carefully lettered sign on a deteriorating wall “Please Help Keep the Neighborhood Graffiti Free,” the word “Free” has been graffiti slashed out.
“Death Pussy” sounds like a rock group.
Usually communicate loud and clear, that is. Except when the signer waxes poetic, as in “All the Tendernesses Pooling.” Or the one about somebody with a magical testicle, though which one—which testicle—is a question.
A few of the drawings are wordless, but perhaps not messageless. One of an elegant kitty on a wall above some cultivated lush greenery. And one of a freshly dead and still integral youngish-looking rat on the street next to an empty plastic (Styrofoam) coffee cup. Dead before its time, it looks like.
Muntges’s recent previous art has been about domestic interior spaces. In an artist’s statement she says that “something about [New York City] has forced me to adapt to looking beyond the space I occupy to start to find how I fit into a greater whole.”
The show is called “Me, My Pen, and I,” and continues through October 27.
ME, MY PEN AND I
Western New York Book Arts Center
468 Washington St, Buffalo
348-1430 / wnybookarts.org