Tag Archives: Espo

ESPO on Sign Making

Throughout the length of  Steve Powers’ current show at White Walls, several gallery visitors have asked if he is a professional sign painter. This excerpt from Steve’s A Love Letter for You blog breaks down his shift from graffiti to sign painting, with a tinge of his usual humor.


After I stopped writing my name on stuff, I made a lateral move into sign painting. The materials were essentially the same, (enamel on metal), the colors were similar, (bold and garish are best) but the effect was totally different. When you paint graffiti, you are an outsider that is broadcasting your signal to the center of the community. When you paint a sign, you are broadcasting from the center of the community to the periphery. Graffiti is a youth testing out a microphone, Signs speak into the mike eloquently and with authority. Even as a teenager I could see a huge difference in how my work was perceived versus the painted signs that commanded respect.

There is an amazing painted sign tradition that permeates the landscape of West Philadelphia. I’ll be adding many more pictures in time, but look at these and see the direction we’re going to take this project. We’ll be reviving the dead arts of  sign painting and wall-writing; The bricks were painted 40-80 years ago and they remind us that West Philly was a powerful place of mercantile style and industrial might, and could be again. The rents are certainly right, the community is certainly ready. -ESPO, A Love Letter for You

This Saturday, December 5th  is your last chance to catch ESPO’s current show hanging at White Walls Gallery. Trust us, the smell of Steve’s tire pyramid makes for a multi-sensory experience that can’t be missed.

The Final Stretch with Steve Powers

Steve Powers

aka ESPO

Opening Saturday, November 14th 7-11pm at White Walls

See flickr for more images of his works in progress.

ESPO aka Steve Powers

ESPO Steve Powers at White Walls

Steve Powers installation

by Steve Powers

by Steve Powers

by Steve Powers

ESPO Steve Powers at White Walls

ESPO Steve Powers at White Walls

ESPO Steve Powers at White Walls

ESPO Steve Powers at White Walls

ESPO Steve Powers at White Walls

ESPO Steve Powers at White Walls

We, the reprobates and affiliates at Studio Gangster, specialize in a new artform we are calling post-felonial  art (some of us do prefer Ab-Ex-Recidivism). Some may scoff and say “You aint doing nothing but tagging up the walls” and you’d be right. But what your blinking dripping eye missed was the depth our doodles go to define our lives and how we live them. You aint seen graff this Tabasco since Lascaux,  nor graff so ICE-AY since Pompei. If you want to get down with the Newest School, heres what you do. Grab any writing implement, step up to a wall, tell the truth without hesitating. Step back and feel devastating. laugh at the guy with the bucket of glue, ask him why he’s so stuck up.

Now that we have formed this union of like-minded Post-Felonial Expressionists, we decide to build a pryamid, to point to the past we inherit from the Egyptians, and The Egyptian Lover, and to look toward the future we leave for The Creator, who will return to see how his experiment turned out. She will see the the story of  human achievement started  with a pryamid of stone in egypt and ended with a pyramid of tires in America. She’ll roll her all-seeing eye like she left the oven on too long.

Dinosaurs gave mankind two great gifts – petroleum and extinction

best regards

Your boy ESPO

ESPO in the House

In the House

ESPO has moved into White Walls to prepare work for his show opening this Saturday, November 14th 2009 from 7-11pm. Scope out his progress thus far and read below for a note from ESPO aka Steve Powers.

ESPO installation

ESPO installation

ESPO installation

ESPO installation

ESPO installation

ESPO installation

ESPO 1ESPO installationESPO installation

ESPO installation

ESPO installation

ESPO and Ramblin Worker

ESPO installation


First of all, regular viewers of the Steve Powers show know I havent really written graffiti in 10 years. Besides the occasional bathroom signature (a few in 10 years) or the even more occasional legal graffiti wall (1 in 10 years) I quit that writing shit.  I was tired of writing on people’s stuff, and I had done it every way I felt I could, including writing  a book on the topic, so  I grew up.

But ESPO has followed me everywhere from Street Market at Deitch to the present show here at White Walls. I remember that Jeffrey specifically said he wanted to present Barry, Todd, and myself by strictly our government names, but the graffiti back story was too good to ignore, so my name in press release went out as Steve ESPO Powers. Justin Giarla of White Walls recognized the same potential for a good conversation with collectors in the ESPO name, but went all out and dropped the government name completely, and unbeknownst to me, promoted this show as being by ESPO Exterior Surface Painting Outreach. When I see the ad finally, upon my arrival at the gallery, all I could do was make the sound of a tire going flat.

Justin says I’m more marketable as ESPO Exterior Surface Painting Outreach. Ok he sells a lot of work, I’ll let a man do his job. You sell the shit I’m cooking up, just stay out of my kitchen while I’m working. And since you blew up my spot, I’m going to grill the inside of this gallery with tags. if security catches kids going over me, they’re getting  sawzall haircuts.  And finally:

You cant make street if the street doesnt make you.

Meet ESPO (aka Steve Powers)

ESPO. Exterior Surface Painting Outreach. This is the X graffiti artist joining us in White Walls for November 2009 (press release here), bringing with him all the supplies he needs to create the show from within our gallery walls. This could be a show in the most theatrical sense of the word, or ESPO could silently mount the exhibition in the blink of an eye (as he does in the streets). How can one speculate such things? All we can do is look to the past for an overview of where he’s been and what he’s done.

Deitch Projects in NYC

Starting old school, here is an exhibition he did at Deitch Projects with Barry McGee in 2000 (photos via Deitch).



“Covering the walls were signs announcing, for example, ‘Buck Fiddy’s 50 cent store,’ ‘Super Savior Just for You’ and ‘Run Yo Shit, Brought to you by No Fair 1’s Productions.’ This zesty signage reflects the artists’ enthusiastic embrace of the American advertising esthetic, as well as their fondness for the lively grammar of slang. For imaginary products in the fabricated stores, Powers designed Pop-inspired labels, mini art works that demonstrate both his good graphic sense and his ability to manipulate the idioms of consumer culture. There were, for example, cans of ‘Stret Cred,’ ‘Dignity,’ ‘Class’ and ‘Belief’; ‘Promise’ is a roll of toilet paper.” -By Sarah Valdez, Art in America (October 2000)



Fullbright Scholarship in Ireland

ESPO received a Fullbright Scholarship to paint the streets of Dublin, Ireland from 2007-2008.  He was allotted $30k to live in Ireland for 6 months and paint the streets. By renting a one bedroom apartment 30 minutes outside of Dublin, he was able to connect with the local culture in this art exchange. A few flicks from Irish Street Art:



“As Mr. Powers was preparing to return home, he reflected on the contrast that had emerged in his life: He started his artistic career as essentially an outlaw, and was now painting in Ireland under the auspices of an elite, ivory-tower organization. “It’s interesting to revisit my original medium and do it differently,” he said. “The only reason I got into graffiti in the first place was I wanted some stories to tell.” –NY Times




A Love Letter for You in Philadelphia

ESPO’s most recent endeavor has been a full blown mural project in Philadelphia called A Love Letter for You. In three works, ESPO worked with 40 artists to complete 50 rooftop murals.



“The murals, which are best viewed from the Market-Frankford elevated transit line, collectively express a love letter from a guy to a girl, from an artist to his hometown, and from local residents to their West Philadelphia neighborhood.” –Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Some photos via A Love Letter for You:




White Walls in San Francisco

Alas, the artist is now in our very own gallery. Come by this Saturday, November 14th from 7-11pm to see ESPO’s newest works. We now leave you with Juxtapoz Magazine’s 20 Questions with Steve Powers, it’s good for a laugh.

ESPO x White Walls Nov 14

White Walls presents:

New works by ESPO

Opening November 14th 2009 7-11pm

Runs through December 5th 2009



Press Release

Love Letter mural project in Philly

ESPO’s Love Letter project on Juxtapoz.com

NY Times: Still Painting Messages on Buildings, but No Longer a Vandal

Press Release: ESPO

mother by Espo

White Walls Gallery is proud to present new works by Steve Powers on Saturday, November 14th 2009. Steve Powers (also known as ESPO) isolates moments, images and phrases of daily life to create an emotional revelation within the viewer. Please join us for the opening reception at White Walls Gallery from 7-11pm.

Dedication to making the world a better place may seem overzealous for an artist but ESPO is the exception to the rule. He has been an influential contributor to bettering the lives of teenagers from troubled housing projects by teaching art in Ireland, fighting for human rights in Guantanamo Bay, and spreading the love with his most recent Love Letter Street Mural Exhibit. ESPO, meaning Exterior Surface Painting Outreach, is revered for his graffiti, signage on the street as well as huge art installations in galleries such as Dietch Projects, Collette and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Aside from his successful career as a professional gallery artist, he is also a Fullbright scholar, a participant in the 49th Venice Biennale, and author of two artist books.

Maintaining his graffiti and signage aesthetic, ESPO’s new collections of shadow boxes are made with enamel and aluminum. They are backlit: shining in honesty, complexity and truth. This exhibit brings attention to matters of love, life and all the complicated situations in between. Notorious for his dark humor combined with eloquence ESPO’s paintings create a dynamic synthesis of words and images. His strategic composition of solid colors combined with graceful, bold lines is succinct yet conceptually engaging.

Please join us for the opening reception of new works by Steve Powers on Saturday, November 14th 2009, from 7-11pm. This show will be on exhibit from November 14th through December 5th, 2009 and is open to the public.

If You Were Here I’d Be Home

Nothing makes us happier than a sincere love letter. Stephen Powers is giving just that to his hometown, Philadelphia, in the form of a short term mural project. During the month of August, Powers aka ESPO has commissioned 40 international artists to help him paint 50 walls along the city’s elevated Markeet street train. The project is titled “Love Letter,” as each mural includes one phrase. By the project’s finish, passengers of the Market Street train will read the string of murals as one continuous love letter.

Along with hosting free signage workshops to young artists, ESPO is donating signs to local businesses as a part of Love Letter. The project will culminate in a book release as well as a documentary style film. From the images we’ve seen so far, this undertaking combines creative designs with careful execution.




The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage are responsible for funding this program.

See www.aloveletterforyou.com for more details, and look out for ESPO at White Walls Gallery this November.