Street Scenes: Coolidge, Houston's Answer To Banksy

penguins walking.jpg
Since hopping astride a bicycle a couple of years ago, my perception of Houston's physical landscape has altered utterly. No longer are my eyes subject to rivers of tail-lights and ceaseless processions of giant freeway billboards. Instead, I'm watching for cracked pavement and feasting my eyes on street art. People like street stencil artist Coolidge, or Lidge for short, have become my new billboards.

Coolidge's specialty is whimsical spray-paintings of mostly cuddly animals: Boston terriers, My Little Pony characters, T. Rexes, sea turtles, robots, parachuting pink piggies, sanctified bunny rabbits with halos around their heads, Ralphie from A Christmas Story in his bunny suit. You tend to find these in blighted areas of the Inner Loop - on concrete pillars and the walls of crumbling warehouses - and they invariably bring cheer to otherwise dismal cityscapes and a smile to your heart.

pony 2.jpg

"Smile" is in fact the word that comes up most often among his fans. Take these comments from one of his Facebook page's photo albums

"btw Mr. Cool_Lidge....a friend found the pony just where you said she would be...i now am the proud owner of 3 pictures....and she is cutier than ever /em smile," writes one.

"I really like where your heading with all of this sir. Keep the world smiling," chimes in another.

And a third had this to say: "I think I love the penguins best. They are the only thing that made me laugh today. Thanks."

Okay, so that was a laugh and not a smile, but you get the picture. Or pictures. Art Attack chatted with Coolidge earlier this week, and Houston's answer to Banksy was as intriguing a guy on the phone as his art is on walls all over town.

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23 comments
Raquelyno
Raquelyno

i rather have this than graffti

HeightsKat
HeightsKat

I like the penguins at the intersection of I-10 and Taylor (near Target), but I miss the sweet pink pig. How could anyone with a heart paint over that little guy? It was the cutest little graffito ever. (The parachuting pig on White Oak just isn't the same for me.) I kinda liked thinking the pig's name was Coolidge. But Coolidge-the-street-artist works for me too. Thanks for the piece.

Sauqkgy
Sauqkgy

If your worried about the budget, make rich people and major Corp.s pay taxes. They bitch and moan but have so many loop-holes that they end up paying close to nothing.

Jason McElweenie
Jason McElweenie

I'm here to unmasked Coolidge!

The person you speak of in this piece is none other than.............................

Former Astro Brad Lidge!

I'm pretty sure but I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure

joel2
joel2

of course the city removes them quickly, it's illegal.

and are you serious??? at a time when our tax money is desperately needed to fund education and medicaid in this state you run a positive article on some etsy-loving a##hat that goes around wasting our tax-dollars. my kid's unexpectedly smiling his way to poverty you pricks.

Jason McElweenie
Jason McElweenie

Forget lobbyists and cronies. Forget needless war spending. We need to go after the real criminals that are ruining our countries infrastructure. We need to put an end to this type of cleanup that costs a few thousand dollars a year. Forget the trillions spent on war! Forget the billion dollar planes and million dollar missiles. No sir, that's not why we have problems funding education. GRAFFITI I SAY! THAT IS THE REAL ENEMY!!! Let's stop these people trying to add art and beauty to our world while we blow the shit out of other people worlds!

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

Yeah, Joel, those concrete pillars and overpass abutments are so beautiful the city really needs to cut more programs to fund more abatement projects. If it weren't for people like Coolidge, Houston would be as magnificent as Florence.

And come to think of it graffitti abatement is not state- or federally funded.

joel2
joel2

if that's your platform for proposing a new bill to create ways to channel citizen's expressions into the public eye then i think you're going to fail miserably, congratulations. don't know where you people think our tax revenue comes from but when business owners / future property owners drive through neighborhoods and see a proliferation of graffiti, humurous or not, they take notice. it makes for a smile for some, but it's a grimace for me and more notably a hazard to a good majority of businesses.

i'll just copy my postings from swamplot to provide some more fun / food for though:

"something about the middle school level of ambition that hastily produced paintings on other people’s stuff brings to mind. the relevance of street art died a long time ago and is not progressing any new ideas. i understand a lot of people do like it, but we live in a democracy and the majority has voted NO."

"oh, and also, there’s so many different ways to get art out into the public eye that doesn’t involve the desecration of property. if anyone truly wanted to be an “artist” rather than a local facebook celebrity then they would explore these oppurtunities.

i mean look at the stuff that christo and jean-claude have been able to do as one of the more notable examples. it still retains the ephemeral and lighthearted fun of graffiti, but provides a lasting image and the scale of it all makes it so much more impressive."

Evan
Evan

Graff is graff and it's here to stay, that will never change. Why bitch about it over the internet?

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

I don't like it just because it's illegal. I like it because it's fun and beautiful, and that's two commodities this city doesn't have enough of. If such a program did fail miserably at the ballot box, I would bet it would be at the hands of voters in the burbs and recent transplants to the hideous cookie-cutter faux-Tuscan condos that would vote it down. Thinking stuff like Coolidge and Weah and Give Up is trashy reflects municipal insecurity and a fear of true greatness. Houston is not Zurich or Stockholm. We need more color and spontaneity.

joel2
joel2

hard to tell perhaps, but i'm not against the idea of having fleeting works of art come and go throughout the cities unnoticed/neglected areas. i just think you need to do it responsibly and work with the city to commission works that would be enjoyable to a majority rather than a minority. i get the feeling your love for it is simply becuase it's illlegal, but i don't think elevating "artistic" civil disobedience to some sort of lofty purpose is productive for the citizens or the city.

you sit here and condone illegal activity yet have a hissyfit when the city doesn't include you guys in talks regarding crucial education information to be distributed.

Brooke Browne
Brooke Browne

Aw. He's my fave. If I had a building in town, I would cross my fingers he'd find it.

Lcantu89
Lcantu89

wouldn't Give Up make for a better banksy comparison? with his cultural statements and somewhat political viewpoints and such.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Patience, my pet. We are working on covering many aspects of street art in Houston.

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

Illegal street art is political by its very nature, and no statement is more profound than to make someone smile.

ChuyBenitez
ChuyBenitez

I love Coolidge, but saying he's Houston's Bansky is a bit of a stretch, because hands down Bansky is totally political and provocative with his 2D & 3D pieces, art installations, performance pieces (placing his work in museums), and now Oscar nominated films, and Coolidge is neither political or provocative with his animal & human stencils. I'm glad Coolidge is getting kudos, though!

Coolidge 'Lidge'
Coolidge 'Lidge'

I actually agree with you. I try to avoid using political or provocative images in my actual subject matter. That stuff doesnt interest me. I like it to be accessible. Its just fun. The world needs a break from political discourse sometimes. Maybe thats my political message! Maybe I am provocative! My brain is melting right now!!!!!

p.s. I was actually nominated for an Academy Award for producing the 2007 film "There Will Be Blood"

p.p.s. That last part was a lie, although my brother and I did do a remake of "Rambo" circa 1994 but it was not recognized by the Academy. However, our mom did tell us it was "amazing".

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

I think what the story is saying is that people like to "collect" Coolidge sightings, just like they do with Banksy. The other obvious parallel is that they both work in stencil.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

I have three Coolidge works as backgrounds on my work computer, home computer and cell phone. All three are of Boston terriers, but I also love his parachute pig.

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