Tom Polo in his Artspace studio, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 
Published in VAULT | Issue 22, 2018


Over the past decade, Polo’s practice has revolved around one-liner texts and figurative works that deal with the semantics of personas: our best and worst selves, and the ways in which we conceal and reveal them. He’s presented stand-alone words on billboards, banners, neon signs, sweatshirts and a book, often bending and spinning letters into radical, anti-style placards that feature ineffective or paradoxical suggestions. Words become dead-ended dialogue in A closed conversation opens (2018), while YOU ARE EXCELLENT (2008), with the ‘T’ cropped off, is a cordial salute to failure and shortcomings.

“I’ve always regarded my work to be about the communication of words and images,” he says. “Language can draw you in but it can also be a barrier, like when you see spelling mistakes on billboards, or poorly hand-painted signs. These graphics are designed to entice, but because they’re hard to read they become counterproductive, so their mixed message depends entirely on how you read the situation. I find this underlying humility to be endearing. It adds a quality of simpatico.”

In other works, Polo hides passages in the undercurrent of his painterly figures, a sub-narrative for those who seek it.

The above text is an excerpt.
Read the full feature in VAULT: Issue 22