Many street artists alter existing street signs with paint or stickers. Philly’s “Kid Hazo” (who, like most of his kind, prefers to remain anonymous) creates his own. His installations, generally screwed onto existing city signposts below legitimate signs, mimic municipal design and materials well enough to blend right in if you’re not looking closely. But the messages are absurd: In Love Park, one official-looking sign cautions passersby about vampire squirrels. On a pay phone at Fifth and South, a sky-blue sign prohibits the use of the Throwback Thursday hashtag. Another in Center City establishes a unicycle lane, complete with an actual unicycle locked to the signpost. (You can see photos of more of his installations at kidhazo.com.) We talked to Hazo about faking authenticity, Rocky and unicycle spoke cards.
City Paper: Let’s start with your name. Where did it come from?
Kid Hazo: I loved the idea of the hazard symbol, popping out to alert you, and I wanted to derive a name from that. “Hazo” came from hazard. It’s totally made up. I Googled it and didn’t find anything, so I decided to use it.
CP: How did you come up with the idea for these signs?
KH: The project was inspired by NYC-based artists TrustoCorp, a brilliant duo that created an array of hilarious street signs. They were taken down a few years ago and I wanted to do something similar, but directly related to Philly.
CP: Why were they taken down?
KH: If it’s not installed by a specific institution, people sometimes have a problem with it. Street art has a very short shelf life.
CP: Is that the main reason for your anonymity?
KH: Whether it’s legal or not, right now, I’m not so sure how it will be taken by authorities. I keep my name under wraps for now. If someone does have a problem with it, it will be a little harder to find me. [Laughs.]
CP: You also list Philly-based street artists like yarnbomber Ishknits and Joe Boruchow, who does large, black-and-white paper-cut-looking installations, as influences — what did you take away from their work?
KH: I love street art in general as a culture, especially with props. Joe maps his work around certain objects in the city, like mailboxes and doors. He shapes his work around the environment. For Ishknits, she knits work that makes things that are drab become colorful. She involves you, so when you’re walking up to something you have to look twice. I think that’s part of the fun of street art in general — to make sure people aren’t seeing the same things day in and day out. The street signs are a great medium to use because they add something different to the mix.
CP: How do you actually create the signs?
KH: [Laughs.] I can only reveal some of that. I had to do a bit of research to figure out how to start. Once I figured out how to produce them, I started doing some graphic design work in order to create the final project.
If I want to directly replicate a sign I try to work out the colors. Then I take a picture and work on the outlines. I do make it a little different so it stands out. It shouldn’t look exactly like the signs already posted.
CP: They do look pretty authentic, though.
KH: Learning how to work with the colors and how to set up a contrast between them is important. The signs are high quality and are meant to be real. If they stay up, they’ll last.
CP: Do you know where each sign will go before you make it?
KH: Yeah, I have it all scoped out beforehand. There’s a lot of planning that goes into these. When I get inspiration, I’ll usually be walking around the city. A sign catches my eye that I think is ridiculous or something that people won’t normally pay attention to, and I’ll play off that. There’s a sign, based off a bike-lane sign, about Rocky — it has fictional and nonfictional locations to throw people off. Tourists might think some places are real. I actually mapped out the locations from the movie so [the distances] would be accurate.
CP: Planning on more prop art in the future?
KH: There is one big one that’s coming up; it has a lot of mini props that go with it. We’ll see if
I can pull it off.