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Sign of the Times

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Cleveland billboard, “liberated” by unindicted co-conspirators inspired by POPaganda: The Art & Crimes of Ron English. A documentary about billboard bandit and agit-pop artist Ron English by filmmaker and media activist Pedro Carvajal, POPaganda played to a sold-out house at The Cleveland International Film Festival. (Image courtesy Pedro Carvajal.)
By my lights, Ron English’s work sometimes veers too close to that Jeff Koonsian precipice where irony sheds its air quotes and becomes the very McKitsch it parodied. His schlockoid love of black-velvet chiaroscuro and hyperrealistic F/X make him the Salvador Dali of culture jamming, a Groucho Marxist whose obvious delight in skewering sacred cows is matched only by his tireless self promotion. But if his exuberantly gauche “popaganda,” tailor-made for the self-consciously badass Juxtapoz crowd, sometimes seems as subtle as a flying mallet, his detourned billboards are Improvised Exploding Devices, strapped to the soft undercarriage of our Society of the Spectacle. Wander through English’s gallery of defaced, refaced billboards and feel the love.