Art Through Time: A Global View
The Urban Experience Art: I Hear you Bro
Leon Reid IV, who sometimes works under the alias Darius Jones, practices a form of art known as Street Art.
First developed in the late twentieth century, Street Art is an international phenomenon that consists of placing images in the urban environment. It is frequently surprising, almost always uncommissioned, and often illegal. Reid’s work, which ranges from graffiti to sculpture to altered street signs, can be found in cities across the United States, Europe, and South America. It is installed furtively by the artist and his helpers who have at times gone so far as to don the reflective vests and hard hats of city or utility workers.
Reid often plays with the kinds of messages viewers are accustomed to seeing on signage around the city. His projects have included emendations and additions to subway and traffic signs. In this photograph, Reid and artist-filmmaker Brad Downey, with whom he often collaborated, have replaced the generic word “phone” with the more evocative phrase “I hear you bro,” turning a bland street sign from a utilitarian object into a statement of empathetic support. The placement of the signs is a key part of each work. I Hear you Bro stands across from a Brooklyn housing project where both public art and friendly communication from official sources are scarce.
Reid assumes that his work will be removed either by the law or even just by passers-by. While some pieces disappear immediately, an occasional work will remain in place for years. Out in the city, unconfined by gallery or museum walls, whatever ends up happening to the object or image effectively becomes part of the life of the artwork. This impermanence lends a conceptual aspect to Street Art. Reid documents all of his works in photographs or video, since he loses control of them as soon as they leave his hands.
Gastman, Roger, Caleb Neelon, and Anthony Smyrski. Street World: Urban Culture and Art from Five Continents. New York: Abrams Books, 2007.
Gavin, Francesca. Street Renegades: New Underground Art. London: Laurence King Publishers, 2007.
Kingsley, Katherine. “Bending, Bolting, and Evading the Police.” New York Times, May 1, 2005, The City section, New York edition.
Leon Reid IV’s Web site. http://www.leonthe4th.com.
Lucas, Gavin. “Street Artists.” Creative Review (July 2004).