Street art lovers in New York may have noticed a familiar childhood icon working the turntablelately at the Bowery. The Monopoly man, practically artist Alec Monopoly’s signature, now graces the giant mural that is the EMM Group’s future home. The jolly tophatted man is also known as Rich “Uncle” Pennybags, and while most of us might remember him as Monopoly’s mascot, he became a symbol of the times in Alec Monopoly’s creative hands. When the economy officially tanked and executives living in excess were still lining their pockets, Alec Monopoly took to the streets of L.A. and expressed more than what we could with words through the childhood mascot.
Alec Monopoly’s vibrant pieces first began to show up in L.A., where he was based. He works with spray paint and wheat pasting to create colorful, eye-catching art, that’s accessible to everyone. Tongue-in-cheek, colorful, and gorgeous though his pieces may be, the artist always makes a point to stay away from areas that need to be free of graffiti. In an interview with Brock Fetch (he made Fetch happen) of Juxtapoz Magazine, he said:
“I stay away from mailboxes, highways, freeways and basically any federal and government property. I like warehouses and abandoned buildings. For example I would never hit a coffee shop like the one we’re in: they [the owners] are trying to make it just like I am. I try to be as positive as I can about what I put out there and I try to do it with imagery everyone can identify with. Most people walking by my stuff are not graffiti people or art people, so figuring out a way that everyone can identify with my work is important.”
He took this attitude with him to New York, his hometown. Although the Monopoly men began appearing here, it’s a little bit harder to work to work with a city so crowded, with cops patrolling every street. Still, the artist managed to have a gallery full of his work on canvas. Vibrant depictions of Christian Bale in American Psycho, Twiggy, Jack Nicholson, and Robert DeNiro in his Taxi Driver days graced walls. Absent from his gallery work, however, are always his Picasso Monopoly men. Some pieces, he insist, can only work with a canvas too big to fit inside any building. Among his favorite spaces to work with, in fact, are the backs of huge billboards, because they give him time to work, space, and it takes a long time for them to be taken down.
The new mural in the Bowery is one of the few larger and permanent pieces that Alec Monopoly has created. He has only produced on commercial work, which was for the American Cancer Society, and even then it was only because the cause is very important to him. Check out an awesome video of the artist in action below!
Mallory "Friday" Soto is the Editor of Cool Sh!t, Joonbug's source for internet culture, tech, charity, and the arts. A former Lit zine editor and comic book fan, she comes from a background of short stories and tales of masked vigilantes. She's a native New Yorker and avid video game fan.