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Guerrilla Street Artist Ron English Takes Risk with Daring US/Mexico Border Art Prank

Posted by Billyjam, April 7, 2011 09:11am | Post a Comment
      One piece in the three-part April Fool's Day on the Border art prank by Ron English

Last Friday, April 1st, guerrilla street artist Ron English was down in Texas, where he spent the early afternoon posting his art on both sides of the US/Mexican border (McAllen, TX & Reynosa, Mexico) as part of his grand scale and very risky (even by his illegal art standards) April Fool's Day on the Border art project. Since the 1980's Ron English has been risking getting arrested (many times actually getting arrested and jailed) for sniping his large scale, anti-corporate & anti-estabishment faux-advertising street art on roadside billboards, bus stop ad spaces, & various other highly visible public spaces.

Ron claims he is the first street artist to ever do something like this on the wall separating the US/Mexico. The Popaganda artist risked not only getting arrested but also the wrath of the notoriously vigilant US border patrol & Homeland Security forces. And on top of all that, the veteran street artist literally risked his own life by entering the territory of trigger happy Mexican drug thugs.

"Very close to where we were at on the Mexican side doing the billboard [was where] all those people got shot. It was scary," said English, referring to the six latest casualties in Mexico's bloody drug war who got gunned down & killed just the day before he crossed the border for his April Fool's Day on the Border stunt.

For most of his art projects English has a pool of people in Texas and other states who join him to pull off these art pranks, but not this time. "People were so scared no one would cross the border with us over to the Mexican side because of all the violence. It's gotten so much worse in the past year and it is way worse than the American media shows it to be. But one guy did agree to come across the border," he said, speaking to the Amoeblog by phone two days ago, back in the safety of his New Jersey home.

"Left a souvenir on the separation wall" - Ron English regarding above US/Mexico border art

Nothing bad happened to anyone, but English didn't waste time, either. "We walked in [to Mexico] and within like an hour and a half we were back out." While on the Mexican side in Reynosa he posted both the Guernica styled (a trademark favorite of the artist's) billboard art. And then on the way back from the Mexican side into the US for pedestrian traffic he slyly propped up the black-humor Uncle Sam sign that read "You Must Be This Color To Enter This Country." "Most people went past it and didn't even notice it. But a couple of people stopped and held their hands up [by the color code bars] to see if they were the right color," reported English with a little chuckle.

Earlier in the week, back over on the Texas side, where English had done a series of three public art shows (at the university, a private gallery, & at the International Museum of Art and Science, where his You Are Not Here installation runs through August 14th), he prepped and mounted on a slim wood backing the faux Uncle Sam poster art. Getting it across the border into Mexico was not a problem. "We just covered it up and when they [Mexican border authorities] asked about it in Spanish when we were bringing it in, we said that we were just taking it over to get it framed for cheaper. They weren't that concerned about it. They were more concerned about our camera equipment coz they thought maybe we were smuggling arms," he said. And how about coming back into the US side -- did he face any problems with US Customs & Border Protection? "Only for having an apple in my bag. They didn't seem to be aware that we did it. They just aren't expecting you to do something like that."

"You are not here… in Reynosa, Mexico" - Ron English on above art on Mexican side of border

Once back on the US side, English and his associates set out to do the third and final (and trickiest) part of the April Fool's Day on the Border prank. Back in December 2007, along with Banksy and some other street artists, English had posted his art on the controversial Palestine wall as part of the Banksy orchestrated Santa's Ghetto Bethlehem 2007 art project. In comparison, the Texas/Mexico separation wall proved to be much more challenging. "The problem with the wall is that it is really a fence. So we needed a part of it to be concrete. We found this one part but it was at a slope," he said, noting that of the three parts of last week's project that, "Doing the wall was the scariest part for me."

"The parts that are concrete -- they built these slopes up to them. So we found that one [concrete] part but the only problem was that there is a border patrol like fifty or sixty feet away. There's actually two of them and they kind of go back and forth. They zig zag back and forth. So we had maybe 30 to 60 seconds to actually pull the thing off. And we had to drive down to this ravine to get to the wall. Nobody had ever graffitied it yet ....pure canvas. It's so intense. We were at an angle so they couldn't see us. It was crazy. We drove up and down and had lookouts. But we did it!"

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Exit Through The Gift Shop (4), Us Mexico Border (1), Banksy (5), Interview (284), Ron English (6), Art (89), Street Art (6), Mexico (22), Us (1)