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Thundercut, altered pedestrian walk signs in NYC (Photo: Noah Sheldon)


Works of art using standardized iconography found in vernacular signs:

  • Ari Kletzky, Islands of L.A. project, reclaiming traffic signs (2008-present): An artist that literally works with actual signs, Kletzky has been changing traffic signs in L.A., tweaking the messages so that (e.g.) a "STOP" sign now says "Don't STOP making art. The link above is the first installment of a series of signs to create a fictional "Islands of LA" national park (more info).
  • Stanley Marsh 3, mock road signs in Amerillo Texas, another, one more (1990s): Marsh actually created his own road signs and placed them up in various public places. Eventually he faced legal trouble and was tried at court.
  • Thundercut, Boom Box Walker (2000s): one of the NYC graffiti artist's various artistic alterations of pedestrian walk signs. Vernacular iconography like the pedestrian walk signs were initially designed for not only practical or functional purposes (easily recognizable to have a universal system of signs), but also political (the non-racial icon is generalizable to almost anyone and thus politically correct). Thundercut specifies the generic icon, giving it specific recognizably racial or gendered features and character.
  • Ed Rusha, Standard Station, Amerillo, Texas (1963): The pop artist Ruscha first drew his inspiration as an artist by photographing vernacular road signs from his road trips across the country, and ever since he has displayed an aesthetic obsession with vernacular signage of all kinds, from books, to commercial advertisments for products such as spam, gas station signs--things so banal and ubiquitous that most would dismiss them as boring (and Rusha's oeuvre seems altogether dry and deadpan in its sentiment).
  • Vuk Cosic, Duchamp Sign / Venus (2009): As part of his online series, "History of net.art, Vol. 1: History of Art for Airports," Slovenian net.artist Cosic translates Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase and Alexandro of Antioch's Venus de Milo into vernacular sign icons.
  • Heath Bunting, Pain of Existence (1996): the British net.artist's upside-down pedestrian walk signs are in line with his concern for control structures public spaces, from his proto-flashmob performance King's Cross Cross Phone In (1994), to his Border Xingat the Tate Modern (2002-3).
  • Alexei Shulgin, Road Signs: Men at Work in Depth (1998): another staple net.artist, Shulgin's website documents road signs from all over the world as if conducting a morphology or taxonomy of road signs (amassed from user-submitted photos via e-mail.)
  • Thompson & Craighead, The Dot Store: an online net.art store that basically sells banal icons such as road sign "temporary tattoos."
  • John Maeda, Human (2007): another online artist who has customized several different variants of the restroom icons with his own hand-drawn designs.
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    Matthias Lehmann, bambi running through the forest (2008)

  • Xu Bing, Book from the Ground (2008): The Chinese artist has attempted to create his own universal language out of recognizable icons. This book was written entirely in this visual language.
  • Matthias Lehmann, bambi through the forest (2008): The Dresden-based artist used the basic design from the deer silhouette from the deer-Xing signs to plant several deer images in the forest trees on the side of the highway, so that when the car passengers was moving, passengers would find an animation of a deer running in the forest, basically a zoetrope or Edweard Muybridge effect.
  • Qiu Zhijie, Tattoo 3 (2000)
  • Doug Ischar, Untitled (1987)
  • Ashley Bickerton, Tormented Self-Portrait (Susie at Arles) (1987-8)
  • Mark Handforth, Rolling Stop (2008), No Exit (2004)
  • Rebecca Lowry, Rouged Water (Regard) (2010)
  • Stuart Davis, New York Under Gaslight (1941)
  • Stephanie Brooks, Platonic (2000)
  • Zoe Strauss, "Stay Alive," Billboard Project (2012)
  • Packard Jennings, Subway History Signage (Underbelly Project in NYC subway) (2010)
  • Hang Nguyen, Planting Seeds (2008-present)
  • Mobstr

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