The Mysterious Stikman Cometh (to LMNL Gallery, Philadelphia)

Yesterday, Vandalog creator RJ Rushmore opened a new show, Common Thread, at his Philadelphia-based gallery, LMNL, that put a focus on the works of the ever-anonymous, stikman.

To Rushmore, stikman represents street art in its purest form, growing a solid following without every revealing his identity even after many years. His Instagram feed is full of stikman, and he’s even given away copies of his calendar on the platform.

 

What initially attracted you to stikman?

stikman’s work has exactly what I love in art, particularly street art: There’s that first level where it’s just immediately understandable and eye-catching, but then there are all these deeper levels as you see more and more of it. It’s conceptual. It’s graphic. It’s outsider art. It’s insider art.
To paraphrase John Peel’s description of The Fall: He is always different, yet always the same. That’s the attraction.

 

What do you think sets stikman apart from other street artists?

stikman is one of the last great truly anonymous street artists. But I think what really sets him apart is his absolute authenticity. I may not adore every single stikman piece I’ve ever seen, but I’ve never seen him phone it in. Not once. Who else can you say that about? That authenticity, combined with his character’s universal appeal, has made fans out of me, Martha Cooper, Shepard Fairey, and so many others.

 

How did the show at LMNL with stikman come to be and what does it mean to you to be able to showcase his work given that you’re such a big fan of his?

Ever since [stikman’s book publisher] Caroline alerted stikman to a particular graffiti trade secret, he’s been developing this new body of work, his thread paintings. With stikman ready to unveil that new direction in a big way and an open slot in the LMNL Gallery calendar, Common Thread was fate.

I have seven stikman pieces hanging in my apartment right now, another dozen or so works that I rotate in seasonally, and a handful of street pieces within spitting distance of my front door. Working with artists like stikman on shows like Common Thread is why I enjoy curating.

 

What do you think is the meaning behind the stikmen? 

The best thing about stikman is that his work can mean so many different things to so many people.

To me, it means always be exploring, whether the streets, in the wilderness, or curled up on a couch reaching a good book. Always explore, because a stikman could appear anywhere.

 

Can you drop a few locations of your favorite stikman pieces?

 The great thing about stikman is that my favorites and your favorites are going to be absolutely different. I ran into a young guy in Ypsilanti, Michigan last year. His favorite stikman was a little piece on the asphalt in Ypsilanti, because he saw it every day and he couldn’t believe that stikman had come to his town. He has a personal relationship with that piece, so it’s his favorite.

There’s one piece near my office in Philadelphia that I have a special love for. It’s this bright yellow wooden stikman topped off with a black stencil pattern. But that’s not what makes it stand out—it’s that the entire sign gets buffed grey at least once a month, but the stikman is never painted out. It just stays there, bright and bold as could be. Even the buffman likes stikman.

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