John Morse’s “Roadside Haiku” installations in Atlanta riled neighborhood busy bodies with cleverly disguised anti-bigotry messages. The same idea just won him bragging rights as 2011’s best work of art in New York City.
The 12-inch by 18-inch haikus combined stop-and go traffic and your daily behind-the-wheel haze with Haiku surprises that “make a commentary on the urban conditition,” Morse says.
In its opening lines, Roadside Haiku signs (bottom photo) offered nods to the consumerist allure of a bandit sign—making money, losing weight, selling old gold, yard sales, etc.—but within the 17 syllables, the project revealed entirely different messages, offering compact observations and commentary on modern life.
It delighted some drivers and art fans but pissed off Keep Atlanta Beautiful.
New Yorkers took a different tack and had a very different reaction. The New York City Department of Transportation commissioned Morse to take the inspiration of “Roadside Haiku” and create “Curbside Haiku” (top photo) signs promoting safety. Not only did he get paid, he didn’t have to post his art in the dark of night, and the project just won the prestigious Brendan Gill Prize. Translation: More cash to go along with the esteem.
For “Curbside,” Morse created 12 colorful designs derived from the symbols on roadway signs. Each has an accompanying haiku that delivers a safety message aimed at a particular mode of transportation.
Flux Projects, which backed Morse’s Atlanta effort, couldn’t be happier about the development.
“We are thrilled for John and proud to have supported a project that evolved into a major commission to beautify and enrich the streets of New York,” Board President Louis Corrigan says in a prepared statement. “It’s fantastic that Atlanta is now exporting award-winning public art to New York City.”