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Vulture Exclusive: Poster Boy Speaks

Yesterday, the NYPD purported to have arrested enigmatic ad-defacing subway artist Poster Boy, with the Post identifying him as 27-year-old Henry Matyjewicz from Bushwick. This morning, the Times casts doubt on the story, reporting that Matyjewicz could just be a stand-in. Brian Raftery, who spoke with Poster Boy for New York last October, e-mailed him to find out what happened. His reply — or rather, the reply of the individual we assume to be Poster Boy! — after the jump.

First, and most obviously: What happened? How did you get busted,
what were the charges (if any), and how long were you in the system this weekend?

Henry Matyjewicz was arrested Friday night at 7:30pm. Sent to central booking. Then sent to Rikers. He was bailed on Sunday night and was released Monday 2am. The police showed up to the “Friends We Love” event in Soho and arrested Henry for partaking in a Poster Boy installation. From the beginning it was stated that Poster Boy is not about one person. What the NYPD did do is arrest an individual who volunteered to legally collage some prints at the show. The undercover police saw Henry talking to someone about the installation then arrested him. It was unfortunate. However, it was expected. Do you really think this movement would be jeopardized in such a way? Everyone, including NYPD, was aware of a “Poster Boy” appearance. It said so on the flyer. The NYPD, like subway posters, were exploited. It’s not hard to figure out what happened. Look at the piece that was produced for the show. Ironic or genius? Unfortunately, Henry was arrested and did go to Rikers. This should be expected from anyone willing to fight for what they believe in.

Did you get the sense the NYPD had been planning this for a while — that you'd been on their radar?
Since the flier guaranteed Poster Boy’s presence we expected the police to show. Look at the piece that was put up. It would’ve been a success either way, but how “ironic” is that? Maybe too ironic. The party would’ve gone a lot smoother without an arrest, but it didn’t hurt the cause. It feels good to exploit the NYPD.

How does this affect your idea that anybody can be poster boy — that it's less of an individual than a sort of decentralized collective?
Nothing has changed except the level of public awareness. Arresting Henry for being Poster Boy is like plucking a strand of Medusa's hair.

Did you think this had anything to do with the billboard you pulled down last month? Any regrets on that stunt at all? It seemed dangerous — not only for you, but for any people passersby below.
I don't think it was a single incident that caused the investigation. I think all the work was considered. No regrets. Notice how most of the straps were left so that the billboard wouldn't fall. I'm glad no one was hurt. That's the last thing I want. The next billboards hit won't be directly above roads or sidewalks.

What next? Will you curtail your efforts as a result of the arrest?
More awareness. More support. The issues surrounding public advertising are a little more evident. This will help the public see and understand the issues at hand. It’s unfortunate that Henry was arrested, but there comes a time in a person’s life when their beliefs are put to the test. Henry Matyjewicz passed with flying colors.

Related: How Poster Boy Turns Subway Ads Into Political Art [NYM]

Photo: Christopher Anderson