PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs
Mark Batty Publisher: www.markbattypublisher.com/servlet/book_view?number=57
If you’re a visual person it’s hard not to keep your eyes open as you take in the environment around you. This is especially true if you’ve spent anytime in New York walking around. There’s so much to take in; people watching, looking skyward to the tops of buildings, and of course checking out the street art on poles, signs and walls. I’ve always appreciated that form of communication that straddles the legal boundaries of art in public space. So now more than ever I enjoy keeping an eye open for street art and stickers. I walk daily to work in SoHo and the fact that I have an iPhone that allows me to take pictures fast and the ability to upload them to flickr and to my tumblr account even faster keeps my eyes open. The pace and speed of myself taking those shots is matched by the sheer number of new things that grow on the poles and walls I see on a daily basis. Aside from appreciating that work, I really don’t have any background knowledge to the people behind what they do. On one level there’s a level of anonymousness to it though it’s fairly easy to pick out tendencies after a while. There’s also a lot of online information but you have to know where to look. When I noticed that PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs was being created I contacted the publisher for a copy to review. I was hoping that someone like me coming in w/ fresh eyes that wanted to learn more could get a lot from the book.
The book comes from the same people that publish the magazine PEEL. They’ve taken content from the magazine and clustered it into seven different areas. Those areas were 1. Social/Ploitical, 2. Characters, 3. PEEL (taking on the logo of PEEL), 4. Stencil, Spray & Drawings, 5. Contests, 6. Blackbook and 7. Toys. Each of those sections is backed up with interviews with artists and shows examples of their stickers (and toys). At times I felt like they were constrained with either showing too many examples or not enough visuals on a page. It’s a challenge when showing stuff that’s meant to be outside in the real world and then becomes replicated on a page. I think they were at their best when they didn’t let the computer hold them back and they let the content break the space like the interview they did with Me Love. It was a simple replication of a handwritten note that was the interview. As for the interviews themselves, after a while the questions started to feel similar which felt repetitive.
A book like PEEL is quite important because it becomes a document over time to temporal work. When you see street art and stickers you never know if they will still be there the next day. One thing that I wished each of the stickers had contained information-wise was the date and location that the image was taken. Some of the stickers felt out of context to me in that I didn’t know where the sticker was from nor the time frame in an easy way to see. Was this sticker five years old or maybe it was placed a couple months ago? It would have been cool to see a map at the back of the book with dots of all the cities that the stickers from the book came from. On the flip side i found it quite helpful that most of the artist’s interviewed had url’s to their site.
After reading PEEL I feel that I have a better understanding to what I’m seeing with stickers, but I think the idea of the book could have been pushed much further. Aside from interviews which I mentioned that started to feel the same, I would have loved to have heard more stories on their experiences. Like how an artist decided on the location to place a sticker, how often they went back to see if the stickers had changed, more about their process, dealing with printers, how they evolved their styles over time, did websites and online forums influence them – just general stuff like that. As ambitious of a book as it is, I also wondered if they had missed some of the more well known people out there.