Scene

Sign Language

How one Denver artist brings street style to his work.

September 2011

Dan Ericson wasn’t looking for the graffiti-meets-fine-art niche he occupies in the Denver arts scene—it found him. While making caricatures for a college art class, he ran out of canvases and improvised last-minute with a discarded “No Parking” sign and a black marker. One sketch of rapper Ice Cube later, a medium was born. “I always wanted to do something with music, hip-hop specifically,” Ericson says, “but never knew how I could tap into it, especially being a white kid from Denver.”

He begins by recycling street signs that Colorado municipalities can’t use—occasionally ordering specific signs for commissioned projects—then adds texture and shadows with black acrylic paint and shreds of reflective stickers to create monochromatic silhouettes of musicians and other heroes who inspire him, from hip-hop icon KRS-One to the Dalai Lama. In 10 years, he’s created hundreds of sign portraits, and has donated most of them directly to the subjects. His moniker, the Signtologist, came from the Roots’ legendary rapper Black Thought after Ericson gave him a “No Parking” sign painted with the group’s likeness. His work has been featured in national outlets and shows, including his big break in XXL Magazine a few years ago. “I take something that is part of everyday life, which conveys orders or laws,” Ericson says, “then I make it so it can be viewed differently.”

Check it out: Watch for Ericson’s work at gallery openings and music festivals, including this month’s solo showcase at the Wash Perk in Washington Park. thesigntologist.com