Stephen Powers

September 13, 2003

Stephen Powers’ practice until now has been influenced by sign painting, storytelling, graffiti and marketing techniques. He has previously combined these influences to explore the creating and selling of personality in the marketplace. Now he’s exploring the sale of struggle, instead of the confessional tome, or the tell-all interview, Powers is putting a well-designed spin on his own problems and putting them up for sale. The paintings distill personal experience into the lowest common denominator of communication, the sign.

Painted in enamel on aluminum, Powers’ work is giving direction, while at the same time he is trying to find his own way. He isolates the phrases from daily situations that resonate with him and combines them with pictorial elements to form logos that graphically illustrate the struggles that make up life.

Powers has also created a series of sculptures based on a street he lived on for several years as a teenager in Philadelphia. 22 row-homes, fabricated in .024 gauge aluminum to 1/10 scale, and painted, sit on a platform that is literally and metaphorically the block. The houses are priced to sell, and as they are sold, the new owners will remove the houses until the block is empty, save one or two that will remain. Powers is telling several stories at once; About the changing social landscape of the city of his birth, how experience scales down the places we come from, and why memory and teeth, extremely useful attributes- fall out of our heads.

lowly above you are several works Powers calls “Punchline Boxes”, painted boxes that are each propelled by a disco ball motor. They turn to reveal evocative phrases that lead to a conclusion, and then cycle back around. They are a cross between the 4 panel comic strips in the newspaper, the 4 beat rhythms of Burma Shave ads, and the logo works that are already part of his practice. The Boxes testify to the point that jokes by their very nature must be retold endlessly, and we must make the same mistakes over and over in order to learn anything.

Not for nothing is a phrase that is usually exhaled like a bit of gas at the moment exasperation levels have peaked towards a person that is not comprehending what is going on, ie; “Not for nothing, Steve, she don’t like you.” The phrase explains that the bearer of the news gets no benefit from you hearing it, so it gives the information that follows the shine of truth. Not For Nothing is the title of Stephen Powers’ show at the Kantor Gallery. The title sets up the information he is imparting to the viewer in his paintings, which he calls “Emotional Response Icons”.

Opening artist reception will be held Saturday September 13th from 6-10 pm. For more information please contact 323-933-6976 or visit and view us at Curated by Kenton Parker.