ESPO Discusses Kurt Vile Mural, History of Philadelphia Graffitti

Andrew Parks

By Andrew Parks

on 07.01.14 in News

Longtime street artist Stephen “ESPO” Powers has weighed in (via Pitchfork) on last weekend’s defacement of his Kurt Vile mural by a Philadelphia DJ named Lee Mayjahs.

“On Saturday a guy named Lee, misguided about graffiti and out of his mind, buffed the wall ICY SIGNS painted for Kurt Vile’s Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze record,” Powers wrote on his Web site. “Misguided because he thought our commissioned album design was responsible for the graffiti in the neighborhood. Out of his mind because he was using a crappy 1/4 inch nap roller and interior paint … Lee got caught mid-buff, and was washed out by a wave of internet indignation that was hilarious to me and every other writer I know, past and present. None of us can believe anybody gives a care about spraypaint on a wall. As I’ve been telling the buffman since the ’80s, graffiti isn’t permanent — the sun is going to take care of it, eventually, and sooner than you think. So, buffman, go solve a real problem, how about shutting down the open air drug market a mile away? Too hard? Tell me about it, you know how long it took me to get a good hand style?”

“It’s tragic,” Jane Golden, the executive director of the city’s Mural Arts Program, told Metro a few days ago, when asked about the drab paint Mayjahs had spread over ESPO’s piece. “I think the big point here is that it’s really sad to lose a work of art.”

A Philadelphia journalist named Leah Kauffman interviewed Mayjahs about the incident and posted his thoughts on her Facebook page Sunday, writing, “Turns out that he is not well. He is offering to pay ESPO to come down and restore the mural. I hope he gets the help he needs. I also hope ESPO takes him up on his offer.”

“I’ve lived there for 15 years,” Mayjahs said of the Fishtown neighborhood where the mural was commissioned by Matador Records. “I’m always cleaning up the streets and alleyways. I don’t know … For some reason I feel like ever since that piece has been there it’s attracted more and more graffiti to that neighborhood. Every time I paint over illegal graffiti I was blaming it on [the mural] and I didn’t realize the people in the neighborhood love it, I’ve never really sat and looked at it. I never did any research on it and then I just snapped.”

Check out a documentary on the making of ESPO’s Vile mural down below and the rest of his lengthy statement on the matter and Philadelphia’s graffiti history in general here