Chicago street artist Weed Wolf both appears in and typifies "Text and Drugs and Rock & Roll," an anarchic new group show focused on the intersection of text and art. With his ubiquitous stencil (a generic marijuana leaf above the artist's tag), Wolf has made a name for himself—though it's not clear what his game is. Is he branding? Making a political statement? Both? Neither?
"TDR&R" focuses on the "seedy underbelly" of text-based art, and some of the participants, like Wolf, stick primarily to the streets. New York's Clown Soldier has work here, and so does fellow NYCer Faust, whose densely graffitied contribution quotes Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence": "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls."
But most public art isn't graffiti. It's advertising and product design, engineered to marry images to certain words or phrases. Artists can use tags to obscure labeling and ad copy or, as in at least one example here, employ strategies to appropriate them. Mark O'Brien turns old cases of Stella Artois into shoes and Budweiser boxes into electric guitars.