Wandering Boston’s South End, I am enjoying temporary art installations with the artist Pat Falco. As part of his fall residency at the Boston Center for the Arts, he’s hand-painting text-based signs this month and placing them in choice public areas. The project, with the meta title “Untitled November,” leads us to Dwight Street, where we hop into a dumpster together to view a snide piece about “AFFORDABLE HOUSING.” Eschewing art world clichés, he strives to present and create work that is approachable, humorous, and, perhaps above all, honest.
Similar to Jean-Michel Basquiat or Shephard Fairey, Falco’s work is meant to spark subversive, playful thought in the viewer. “I liked graffiti as a kid,” says Falco when we sit down for our formal chat in the BCA. “Everything that’s been good has been done, but I like that public realm.” Despite his claim that there’s little ground left uncovered, his signs feel unique. As did his two-day installation at the North End’s Columbus Park, Boston’s Contemporary Art Museum for Contemporary Art, Artists, and their Contemporaries, which shared visual art, performance art, and screenings in a pubic setting—and comically proclaimed itself “Boston’s largest Contemporary Art Museum under 100 square feet.”
The aforementioned projects inject social discussion with wit and humor. And they happen to be a way for the shy Falco to reach broad audiences. “I had all these issues that were Boston-centric, that I wanted to turn into a daily thing.” One of his sneering messages swarmed through social media earlier this month when Pat tweaked a Fort Point sign that initially gloated, “New England’s largest and oldest artist community.” It now admits, “New England’s largest and oldest luxury condo community.” The subtle change is beautiful, direct commentary—the rapid growth of the neighborhood and an influx of wealthy new residents are largely pushing out the artists it proudly claims. Falco says, “I think the main goal is to divert attention to the issue. There’s a residual effect to when people see them.”
As a city, Boston has its share of puritanical restrictions. We’re liberal, but we tend to take ourselves too seriously. Thoughtful humor like Falco’s encourages us (and in some cases teaches us) to enjoy contemporary art, and to loosen up. He’s raising awareness and making us laugh. It’s honest, it’s humorous, and it’s the best way to reach an audience.
Keep that in mind when you stumble upon some disconcerting text, because nothing is sacred in his work. Not even Christopher Columbus, whose North End monument has a fresh Falco sign around his shoulders reading, “I’m sorry everyone.”
>>FOLLOW PAT FALCO’S UNFOLDING RESIDENCY AT UNTITLEDNOVEMBER.COM
>>FOR MORE INFO ON THE FINAL L.A.P. SHOW, ON DISPLAY THROUGH SUN 12.21, VISIT LINCOLNARTSPROJECT.COM