Guerrilla artist Robbie Conal has been slapping his sardonic political posters on the sides of buildings and bus shelters ever since Nancy Reagan told the Cabbage Patch Kids to just say no. He's done parodies of presidents ("Men with No Lips" featured a pursed-mouth Reagan) and TV anchors ("Winken, Blinken, and Nod," with a snoozing Dan Rather as Nod). But it took "Starrfucker," with the independent counsel blinded by two stars borrowed from the American flag, to draw a crowd.
Conal and a band of volunteer guerrillas were plastering the posters in Washington D.C. under cover of darkness when passersby began shouting approval. "It was the first time where everywhere we went, people would run after us, but when they'd get to us, they'd say, 'Hey, could I have one of those? I know a good place to put it," he says.
Conal, who hails from L.A., travels the country twice a year. (He and local volunteers canvassed Cleveland one February: "We had to put anti-freeze in the glue pots.") He says he generally tries to keep a low profile on his midnight runs "so it doesn't become a performance piece about putting [up posters]," and hopes people get a laugh out of his "counter-infotainment."
Recently, Conal's been considering branching beyond political satire. "I'm a little restless," the formally trained artist admits. "One of my fondest hopes is that if I put up posters about something, somebody else will put up posters disagreeing with me, and we could have some kind of public poster debate, but it hasn't really happened.
"I'm grateful to have found a form of public address that is receivable by a large audience, and I know that it works," Conal says. "On the other hand, it's a double-edged sword, because how many pictures of ugly old guys in suits and ties with a one-word tag line can you do? . . . Even though there's so many bad guys and so little time."
Conal's work is on exhibit in the Taking It to the Streets: AgitProp Printmaking Today show at Spaces, 2220 Superior Viaduct, through January 2.