January 11, 2016
Over the past five years, Conrad Benner's blog StreetsDept.com has become a staple of the Philadelphia arts scene by passionately documenting the area's street art and graffiti community. In celebration of a half-decade that has seen his work featured by The Guardian, Time Magazine, Instagram and Mashable, Benner is staging a sort of greatest hits exhibit at Paradigm Gallery + Studio in Queen Village.
Ten artists who have helped shape Streets Dept. will display a mix of new and old work in #StreetsDeptTurns5 Friday, Jan. 22 through Saturday, Feb. 20. The lineup is a who's who of both internationally recognized and locally beloved street artists: NoseGo, Kid Hazo, Old Broads, Ishknits, Joe Boruchow, Bines, Harlequinade, CERA, Amberella and NDA.
"I wanted it to feel like what my blog has looked like over the past five years," Benner said ahead of the exhibit's opening. "It’s 10 artists [who] have not only made my blog really interesting to look at, not to mention successful – I wouldn’t have a blog without great content and these guys and ladies are the content producers, really – but also energized and excited about the street art scene in Philadelphia.
"In my opinion, we have one of the best street art/graffiti scenes in the country and that is a direct result of the work of these people."
"I started photographing wheat pastes and stickers and then Ishknits popped on the scene and yarn bombing was a thing," Benner said of the genre's progress. "A few years later I get an email from a person named Kid Hazo that’s doing sign installations. So it’s constantly evolving. I don’t know what to expect."
This continual upending of expectations isn't going anywhere, anytime soon, according to Benner -- at least in Philadelphia. As development across the city continues and abandoned buildings, so often used by street artists to bring their work to the public, are torn down and replaced, they'll have to get more creative.
As Streets Dept enters the next phase of its life, Benner predicts that this type of public installation work will be the next frontier. Light installations, as he's documented, have popped up in the past - perhaps more are on the horizon or digital media might make a bigger entrance.
"Or holograms maybe, in 20 years from now," he said.
After the opening reception at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 22, the artists and curators in attendance will make their way to Tattooed Mom on South Street, itself a bastion of street artist support, at 10 p.m. for a bit of an after-party.
Benner couldn't say much about what will or won't be on display at the show, but he did give us one teaser:
"It won’t all be on the walls. There’s one very exciting piece that – I don’t want to give it away – but it will blow people’s minds away and will show this artist’s work in a completely new light."