UPPER EAST SIDE — One local artist is taking free expression to a whole new level.
Painter, illustrator and graphic designer Max Singer has been hanging his drawings in public areas citywide with signs encouraging people to take them home.
The artist is the creative force behind “Angstville," a non-linear comic strip featuring characters he's emblazoned on everything from sidewalks to store windows.
Singer eventually started attaching signs next to his works reading, "Free Art. Take One" — a concept he said many people have trouble processing.
“People will see the sign and the first thing they’ll do is ask, 'Is this free?'” he said. “Then they look at me funny, like, 'Can I really take one? Is this a scam?'”
Singer started the free art project three years ago while working on “Angstville,” when he decided that the characters would make great subjects for street art. The idea slowly evolved from creating sidewalk drawings with chalk to making pieces that people could take with them.
At first, the drawings contained one-line character descriptions such as, “Abi dreamed of glory” or “Bob was out of kilter.” Over time, the descriptions transformed into more abstract phrases such as “phantom bowling green” and “ignorant rhino horn.”
“It turned into words that did something for me when I put them together,” Singer said. “Stream-of-consciousness art would be a good way to describe it.”
Singer has hung his drawings, which are usually done with white marker on thick black paper known as chipboard, in front of the MoMA, the Whitney and the Guggenheim. Sometimes, he chooses one avenue and hangs drawings on trees over a 10-block span. Every Sunday, he creates a small display on the window of The Source, a gift shop near his Yorkville studio. He also maintains a Tumblr account to chronicle the project.
Singer usually only stays put for a few minutes after hanging his work, but some collectors have contacted him through social media to share their reactions.
“One guy wrote to me through Facebook and said, 'I hope you don’t mind, but I took six of your pieces,'" Singer said. "He said he had them framed and gave them to his mother for Christmas. I thought that was really cool.”
Singer — whose illustrations have been featured in Rolling Stone and New York magazine, and whose artwork has been exhibited at the New York Public Library and The Knitting Factory — said the project has helped him learn to let go.
“I’ve sold some pieces in the past and it can be difficult. They’re like my babies,” he said. “For me, this is a good way to learn to let go and to just give creativity to the world without worrying about what will happen to it.”