If you walk down Eighth Avenue near the intersection of 14th Street, you will see two unassuming signs hammered to wooden posts on the sidewalk. The signs read, “Please Be Advised THIS IS A POST. Use Caution. Thank You.” Placed in front of a vacant, graffiti-ridden lot, it’s easy to pass by and assume the warning signs are legitimate. But we know that in New York City, things may not be what they seem.
The culprit behind the work is Paul Richard, his name typed in bold on the signs. Despite the signature, Richard has remained under-the-radar, at least as a street artist. His witty and sarcastic pieces feature museum labels or warning signs on common objects like telephone poles, walls and light posts. Unlike other street artists, who choose to retain their anonymity, there is a face and identity attached to his works.
Often donning a suit and dress shoes, Richard is an atypical street artist. In a 2012 video interview posted on the Huffington Post, Richard said that the first sign he ever put up was mounted on a post and read “Untitled. Grass, Sticks, Bugs and Stuff,” in Boston in 1996. From there he continued to put museum signs on fences, fire hydrants and other objects on the street. Some of the signs have price estimates for an added touch of humor.
Paul Richard Signs on 8th Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets in the Meatpacking District.
Richard calls the signs he posts on street objects “Designated Art.” They “are tongue-in-cheek, but are also designed to draw attention to the object, by virtue of the incongruity of a museum label outside of the context of art,” Richard says. He also says that the signs draw attention to the other work that he creates.
The locations Richard chooses are strategic. “In front of Tiffany’s it’d be a disaster, but West Street [in] Greenpoint, no problem,” says Richard. Greenpoint and SoHo, two of the neighborhoods where Richard works, are art rich neighborhoods where artists of all different mediums and genres live and work.
Aside from the witty signs, Richards also creates drip paintings on the streets or on canvas, a technique he has been doing for decades. “My drip paintings are based on a drawing exercise I learned as a kid,” Richard says. “It’s called blind contour line drawing, where you look at the object, or model, but not the paper, and draw with one continuous contour line.”
The subjects of Richard’s paintings are often himself, which he has printed on t-shirts, or portraits of iconic characters like Justin Bieber, Darth Vader and Marc Jacobs, who commissioned Richard to paint his portrait on a door.
Though known for his street art, Richard is also an established artist who creates art that is hung in some of the most prestigious buildings in the city. One such work is a commissioned portrait of Ex-Surrogate Court Judge, Marie Lambert, who died in 1997. The portrait hangs in Manhattan’s Surrogate Court at 31 Chambers Street.
Next, read about 5 street art hotspots in NYC and see how the Meatpacking District looked like in the gritty ’90s. Connect with the author @jen_bagcal.