Open a show in The Brooklyn Museum and see what happens. There is no way to predict the impact on your life or the opportunities that will arise; you just have to see what happens. Another artist might have to wait back at their studio, where empty walls and unused supplies say “Now what?” Not me, the museum IS my studio, so I get to see what’s happening to me as it is happening. What’s happening is a visitor walks in confused and curious, and they look at the work until they see something relatable, and when they connect to that, they start connecting to the rest of the art, like a series of dots until they see me, the human exclamation point, painting in the corner of the round room, and they start to form a question in their head.
We set up a sign shop in Coney Island in 2005 and since then have traveled the word setting up sign shops in storefronts, galleries, a parking lot and museums. They were mostly closed to the public until we set up shop in Brooklyn, first in our first permanent location at 72 Fourth Avenue, and now in the 5th floor rotunda at the Brooklyn Museum. Visitors are coming to the fifth floor to see the larger exhibit “Coney Island, Visions Of An American Dreamland” and they are usually surprised when they walk into my show. They are not in the Coney Island show and it’s not the American Art wing, but it’s a good synthesis of the two. My painting was born in Coney, and fed a steady diet of American culture, eating off fine china and out of dumpsters, and has grown into the son and sum of all of America’s visual and verbal codes; Slogans, punch lines, logotypes, portraits, jokes, outside art, inside slang, bathroom scrawls and ponderous lyrics. All of it wrapped in the color, grease and gloss of Coney Island, bright and shiny and a little sticky, all the better to cling to your heart after you leave.
So the question, once formed and finding a break in the action, is asked, “What is all of this?” It’s my life, the profound and the profoundly dumb, the great and the grating, the happysad and the highlow and the totally confusing are all of this. The answered question resolves the confusion, and that is what is happening
The Rotunda at the Brooklyn Museum, for 118 years has been an educational institution, providing insight to art for Brooklyn and the world. I’m the best person to explain the Art of Stephen Powers, and I do it best by example. See me paint myself into a corner, then see me paint my way back out of the corner, every day from now until August 21st.
Oh yes, the Coney Island show is closed, and my show got a 5 month extension. The American wing is currently closed for renovations. That means what’s happening will keep happening. I’ll keep flipping the light switch in people one person at a time, one day at a time. Come by for a light every afternoon. I’m looking forward to seeing you seeing me.
Photos by Matthew Kuborn and Jonathan Dorado