Though Convenient, Bad Branding Cannot Be Written Off As Art

While driving around my neighborhood this morning, I noticed for the umpteenth time a wooden Ampersand and a solar cell next to it in a vacant lot on a corner.  It took this umpteenth time of seeing it to wonder what the heck it was for.  Upon doing some quick research online, I found that it is a marketing piece for a Shannon Ebner show at the Hammer Museum– it was really nothing except an opportunity to showcase how more thought should be put into some things.

It reminded me of a series of murals I saw all around Los Angeles a year or two ago.  It was a huge basic color image of the Statue of Liberty and a big 1969 on it.  There was no buzz around what they meant, which effectively left a question mark the size of the 8′ Ampersand in my head.  From the 1969, I thought it was possibly a Gap ad.  When that didn’t seem to be the case, I couldn’t even find anything doing a Google search when the murals were up.  I finally gave up on trying to find out what it was about.  Now that I was reminded of it, I did a search and found that it was either a political statement against the city’s newly enacted laws against supergraphic advertisements on the side of buildings or it was one guy’s version of art.

In either case, just being does not necessarily make it art.  In both cases, it seems that they were trying to convey either a political or marketing message and didn’t really succeed. 

When comparing to other large format or outdoor  installations of art – Shepard Fairey, Banksy, the 30 Gibson Guitar sculptures on the Sunset Strip or even Buffmonster.  They all make a clear statement or intimately relate to the location they are placed in.

These pieces induce more head scratching as they could have more clearly led people to its intention.  In the case of the murals, they certainly spent a bit of money on it.  With those kinds of impressions, a larger statement or movement could have been made if they had structured more of a campaign around it.  The ampersand is a little more forgiving as the LAXART site says explains the ampersand as “a conjoiner; it signals an incomplete thought and acknowledges that there is more to be said.”

They knew it was incomplete, but sadly, in both cases there was so much more that could have been said…


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