Here's a prime example of how I regularly drive myself completely insane.
Okay, so yesterday, I stumbled upon a screen-grab of a still from Spalding Gray's "Swimming to Cambodia" that evocatively captured the endearingly decrepit, art-slathered vibe of SoHo circa 1987. I posted it here, calling attention to the stencil sprayed on the wall behind Spalding, citing it as a bit of street art that I spotted everywhere around that neighborhood at the time. Walk down around those streets now -- as transformed as they are -- and you'll still see numerous stencils, stickers and bits of street art, but back then, they were in less concentrated pockets, so each piece had a bit more breathing room, it seems. As such, when you spotted one, it left more of an indelible impression.
In any case, after calling attention to it -- essentially a self-portrait of the artist, a young Asian guy with the subtly spiky hair of the era -- I also noted that it was so ubiquitous that there was also a stencil series (or campaign, for lack of a better term) that seemed to mock its hubris. That parody stencil was essentially a cartoonishly grim depiction of that same artist getting shot in the head. I guess it was just a tasteless form of artistic turf-warfare.
Here's where the trouble starts: Since doing that, I've become committed to finding further evidence of both bits of street art, and somehow convinced myself that it would be easy as pie to find shots of them online. Yeah, think again. Trying typing in variations of "80's," "street art," "stencil," "NYC," and "SoHo" into a Google image search, and you've got yourself a full evening of frustration.
I combed through Google and Flickr and Tumblr and a few street art sites I knew, but found nothing. I went analog and turned to my bookshelf to crack open aging tomes about New York City street art from that era, but still came up empty. This was going to plague me.
I want to say that somewhere between Houston Street and Canal Street, there is still a surviving example of this series somewhere, but that might just be my typically naive projection (the same sort of notion that occasionally convinces me to look for rare Einsturzende Neubauten discs or laughably out-of-print books at, say, Barnes & Noble).
I'm now throwing it out there to you. I know I didn't imagine these bits of street art -- and I'm not even sure why I give a damn at this stage -- but Spalding Gray evidently reached to me from beyond the grave and planted them back in my head. I didn't necessarily understand them at the time, but now that I've scratched the surface, I need to bring the search to fruition.
Who else remembers these stencils? Do you know the backstory? Do you have pictorial representation of them? Speak up and help solve the mystery.