Visual Arts

5 Favorite Things From Sticker Phiends 6 in Tempe

Adhesive art is alive and well in the Valley, even if it's hidden in plain sight. Those with sharp eyes and an appreciation for creative expression probably have spied a few instances of adhesive art dotting various spots around town, typically in locales that artists frequent.

There are the unique and beautiful wheatpaste pieces by El Peezo that have appeared (and subsequently disappeared) from the downtown Phoenix arts district, for one, as well as the collage-like clusters of sticker art found in and around the spaces along Fifth Street and Roosevelt Row, or similar displays found over in Tempe. Plus, more than a few local music venues boast hordes of band stickers affixed to both walls and bathroom stalls.

See also: Sticker Phiends 6 in Photos

Considered to be as much a component of street art as graffiti and stencil work, the sticky installations of adhesive art are a different sort of beast than their paint-splattered cousins while occupying the same sort of legal gray area. Not only can it be done practically anywhere and everywhere (including spaces where tagging isn't possible), it's quicker to slap up and has a lower barrier for those potential artists interested in pursuing the form. And certain types of sticker art can be tougher to remove.

Adhesive art is practiced in cities around the globe and been celebrated and showcased in many a gallery and art space, including here in the Valley via Sticker Phiends. Launched by onetime local artist Mike "Mad One" Neely back in 2008, the popular event featured an impressive amalgamation of works that's included sticker and adhesive art in its many forms, as well as other media of the street and urban sort.

After a two-year break that was due to Mad One's relocation to Portland in 2012, Sticker Phiends made a welcome return to the Valley this past Saturday at Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe for its sixth edition. Jackalope Ranch was in attendance and got to scope out the multitude of stickers and the other creative efforts on display and compiled a rundown of a few things in particular that we dug.

The Stickers

The namesake art form of the event was most definitely in abundance at Cartel on Saturday. A long table next to the DJ booth (where co-organizer Sike was working the ones and twos all evening) was covered with piles of free samples for attendees to sift through while local sticker artists like Xray Voltron traded and sold their works in the coffee lab's seating area.

And then there were the two eight-foor-square sticker walls, which featured the works of more than 100 different artists from throughout world, including Portland's Voxx Romana, Slick-Dissizit from L.A., and Mad One himself. He estimates that it took him upwards of 24 hours to curate and create both pieces and admits to being "fascinated" by all the sticker art that was submitted from around the world.

"Every year this happens, the international presence gets stronger, which I love. There are submissions from Australia, Tokyo...basically everywhere," Mad One says. "I don't look it as a collection of big names anymore, I'm looking at how much everybody from all these different places and elements and what they do in life wants to be involved."

He's also impressed by the quality of the stickers that are being sent his way.

"As this goes on, I'm not looking at the quantity of submissions, I'm looking at the quality of art that's being submitted," Mad One says, "and it's getting stronger and better and more advanced every year, whether it be the way they make 'em, the way they design 'em, or the materials used to make a sticker. So that's what I like to see."

The Art Work

Art of a non-adhesive nature was also a big part of Sticker Phiends 6, as more than three-dozen prints and paintings adorned the walls of Cartel Coffee Lab. Works were submitted by a number of the same artists that contributed their stickers to the show, the most prominent of which is the esteemed Shepard Fairey, who offered up several pieces utilizing his signature theme of "OBEY."

Other notable names from around the U.S. that had works on display included famed L.A. stencil artist Murdock, muralist/street artist Codak, and east coast graphic designer Evoker One. Local creatives also has a presence at the event, ranging from Blunt Club founder Adam "Dumperfoo" Dumper to the enigmatic Tempe-based creative known as Disposable Hero.

"There were some heavy-hitter names that sent in art work to be part," Mad One says. "I just think it adds a whole different element to the show."

The Return of Mad One and Sticker Phiends

Mad One was a big part of both the local street and underground art scenes during a decade-long stint in the Valley from 2002 until 2012. And it was here that the influential Pittsburgh-born artist both furthered his craft and made his mark.

"I was doing graffiti back east but eventually came to Phoenix," he says. "When I got here, I noticed there was a pretty good graffiti scene going on, but I wanted to do something different, so I took the street art approach, if you want to label it that, and started making stickers and posters and stencil work."

Even after moving to Portland more than two years ago, Mad One had a desire to come back, if only for a weekend, and bring Sticker Phiends with him.

"I felt like taking a little two-year break from the Valley, but I felt like the itch and the passion was still within me. And people were constantly asking about [Sticker Phiends], like, 'Hey, when you going to do it again?' and stuff like that," he says. "It was artists and it was people that weren't even artists, just people who regularly attend the show to see the art and wanted another Sticker Phiends.

And although Mad One isn't considering moving back to Phoenix full time ("As much as I love coming back here to see friends and extended family, I just know it's not home," he says) the artist will continue to visit. In fact, he's already planning next year's Sticker Phiends show.

Mad One's "Cash For Banksy" Project

Besides toting a boatload of art work with him on his latest visit, Mad One also brought along several screen-printed signs and vinyl stickers for his newest project. It's sort of a satire and social experiment that concerns how renowned street artist Banksy (himself a practitioner of the adhesive form) has become commercialized commodity. Mad One created a series of signs as stickers declaring "Cash for Your Banksy" and advertising a Los Angeles-area phone number to call for anyone who possesses a piece made by the artist and is interested in selling it.

"So over in the UK, [Banksy] is everywhere: he's in galleries, he's on the street, and people are paying millions of dollars for his artwork. This is just a project where I wanted to see how aware people are and what type of people that call in and truly, genuinely think they have an original Banksy from New York or some people are just inquiring about the whole sign. Like, why are their signs for Banksy and what are you giving cash for?"

Mad One may not have been the first artist provocateur to come up with the idea (as artsy NYC-based prankster Hargo did similar stunts involving works by both Banksy and Andy Warhol), but he's one of the first to attempt to take it nationwide.

So far, Mad One says that the "Cash for Your Banksy" signs and stickers have appeared in cities around the midwest, northwest, west coast thanks to some fans and cohorts that have been interested in participating in the project. You'll also see a few in the Valley, including one by Cartel, since he nailed some up during his visit.

"I've put up signs myself, but I've sent people a package of signs and stickers and some posters and they'll go ahead and do the propaganda and we'll document it," Mad One says. He's also gotten some "interesting" responses left on the voice mail, which he says will also be documented for the project.

The Celebration of Street and Adhesive Art

Mad One considers Sticker Phiends to be what he calls an "adhesive celebration" of the forms of street art that are usually found affixed to walls, buildings, or objects around the Valley or across the world.

"I don't want mainstream it or tie it to street art in the title," he says, "But I do like to focus it more on the adhesive mediums of street art, whether its the paste-up or wall-paste posters or stickers in general or all of those types of installation pieces."

That said, Sticker Phiends was an inclusive event that offered up tables and spaces inside Cartel for any type of street artists, from taggers to graf-heads, to "pull out out their paints and books and sketchpads" and create alongside those turning blank stickers into masterpieces.

"There are a couple of tables in there available to anyone from that whole culture of people, whether they're graffiti artists, graphic artists, or printmakers," Mad One says. "I think they all have some sort of past experience or current interest in this type of art."

And, as we mentioned, anyone could bring their stickers out to the event.

"I've opened the door to that," Mad One says. "Sticker-wise, yeah, its for everybody. There were a lot of kids in here as soon as we opened the door, and now that its a little later you've got the older crowd. So yeah, everybody's got their hands in it and a lot of people love Sticker Phiends."

As of on cue, one Sticker Phiends 6 attendee passed by Mad One and asked, "Did you put this on?"

"Yeah," the artist replied.

"Fucking awesome, man. Loved it."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.