Many artists wrestle with ways to capture the attention of those driving, walking, or riding public transportation, while others are interested examining the message itself. Geoff Hargadon is interested in both his work as commentary and as a medium.
Geoff Hargadon chooses to work within materials that are widely seen and messages we commonly acknowledge—or just as easily disregard. As a result, he captures curious, eager would–be buyers and sellers of Andy Warhol’s work.
His could be the work of a cover band, emulating the original and seeking comfort in the others shadow. But Hargadon is not that artist and Cash For your Warhol (CFYW) is not that work. CFYW are portraits of Americana, reflections of our economic mindset, measuring the size of our wallets and not our better intentions.
Hargadon is not an illusionist; his is the work reflecting back in the mirror, sharing our economic strains, and tired selves seeking the quick buck, and the instant gratification of CASH.
AR: Can you briefly explain Cash For Your Warhol for the uninitiated?
GH: At the height of the financial crisis of 2008-09, I noticed an increase in the number of signs on telephone poles posted by entrepreneurs interested in taking advantage of those in a tight spot (cash for your car, cash for your house, etc.). I called some of the numbers and found that people actually do call those numbers to sell their houses—which seemed absurd to me.
So I decided to exaggerate the message to speak to the upper echelon of art collectors, and send a message to the viewer that we are all affected by this crisis.
AR: So, if CFYW was born out of the financial crisis, who do people reach when they call the number listed?
GH: It started in March 2009. The first set of signs had my mobile number on them. I never thought anyone would call the number. To me it was an obvious prank, but I was wrong: I have received a number of calls from people looking to sell their Warhol’s, at all hours. So I got a Google phone number and now the calls are archived methodically and quietly. One of the unexpected outcomes is an audio presentation of the work, which is what I am working on at the moment.
AR: Had you done anything like this before?
GH: If you mean have I ever executed an idea without worrying about the outcome, just because I thought it was a good idea? Yes. My first experience with this was an installation of 3,000 discarded ATM receipts, collected over 6 months, displayed in a 50-ft wide grid. The response energized me and gave me the confidence to simply express ideas and enjoy the response—whatever the response may be.
In 2005, I created a little website called The Somerville Gates (which is still up there is a link at geoffhargadon.com/projects), which was a parody of The Gates installed in Central Park by Christo and Jean Claude. It was an immediate hit, generating massive media attention and 7 million hits in a week—completely unexpected, by the way. The timing was right, and it appealed to those of us who thought the Central Park gates were nice, but a wee bit overhyped.
AR: What has been the response to CFYW?
GH: The response has been phenomenal. We have received thousands of calls, coming from collectors, artists, pranksters, drunk kids at 3 a.m., and curiosity seekers (“Is this real?”). The word of mouth on blogs and other websites has been good. I installed two billboards in Miami last December during the art fairs, and that generated some buzz. Lots of demand for the stickers, too, which we are glad to provide while supplies last.
AR: What was the moment that you realized you were on to something?
When a photo of a sign showed up on Artnet a few days after I started putting them up, I knew we were up to something good. A few artists I’ve long admired have had some nice things to say about it, which helped confirm I was on the right track.
AR: What happens when people realize that this is street art?
GH: Many people don’t realize it. I have the signs made by the same company in Oklahoma that makes many of the “cash for your house” signs we see all over. I have chosen the same fonts and the same basic design to create an ambiguous message, and based on the calls I’m getting it seems to be working.
AR: What’s your goal for the project?
GH: I’ve been asked to participate in a group show in October at Samuel Owen Gallery in Greenwich, Conn. I’ve framed four street signs for the show, which look good all dressed up.
Then I head to London in mid-October, where I will be showing all new work at Moniker Art Fair. Mark Chalmers from The Garage in Amsterdam was keen on the idea of showcasing CFYW there, He knows what he’s doing, has worked with a number of top artists as they were just emerging, and has a great sense for what works and what doesn’t. For London I will show some new sign designs, borrowing from Warhol’s color schemes, aluminum plaques that are a nod to Jenny Holzer, and some other surprises. We will also be doing some street installations around London.
After that there is a solo show at Kayafas Gallery in Boston, which will feature signs and photography. And I’m working on a totally new medium for the art fairs in Miami this winter. There are many other media that are suitable to the concept, and I hope to develop them over time. I’m going to trust my intuition to tell me when the project is done—at the moment I feel it still has legs.
More on Cash For Your Warhol visit cashforyourwarhol.com
More on Geoff Hargadon www.geoffhargadon.com
– interview by Adam Rozan of The Broken Meter for Warholian