Last week, street artist Ube-Wan Kenobi emailed me a flyer for an upcoming solo show, which he called "Sticky Situations," at McNabb Martin Contemporary Art in Little Italy. I was interested. UBE, as he likes to be called, refused a phone interview, for anonymity purposes, so I started firing away questions via email. One of the first was: How are you working with a gallery on a show without revealing your identity?
He said that he and the gallery had an understanding to communicate only through email.
My interview with UBE had gone on for three days in a string of 20 or so emails; around the midpoint, I emailed McNabb Martin, requesting a quick interview to ask about the unusual arrangement. In the meantime, I wrote about what people could expect from "Sticky Situations"—according to UBE, that is.
"I consider the whole show an exhibition of my performance art on the street," he said. "By that, I mean the act of putting up stickers is the art, and what you see [at the show] is documentation of that."
The bulk of UBE's street art is stickers. He integrates his name into recognizable logos—"USA Today" becomes "UBE Today," "UPS becomes "UBE." At the show, which UBE said he might attend, there'd be free, limited-edition zines and photography—both original and submitted—of UBE's art "getting up" around town.
Well, Pat McNabb Martin called back—after I had turned in the story—to say that she doesn't know of an Ube-Wan Kenobi. Hearing her repeat that several times, with a touch of irritation, was pretty funny.
"Why would he—wait, is it a he?—steal my logo?" she asked. McNabb Martin had me read the flyer to her, which listed all of the gallery's information correctly.
"Well, that's what he does," I was forced to say. I'd been duped, and McNabb Martin knew it. This was our introductory conversation, and she'll surely remember me as a dingbat.
"Remember when I mentioned part of what I do is performance art? I thought it would be interesting to extend it to print and online media," UBE wrote back after I congratulated him for a well-executed prank. "All joking aside, I appreciate you being a good sport about it. I'd like to think harmless pranks help to keep society fun and interesting, and even better when art is involved."