Denver-based street artist Theo has only been working since February but already he’s getting a lot of attention. Inspired by his love of beat writer Jack Kerouac’s novel On The Road and the Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, Theo and other members of the Kerouac Project, have taken to stenciling pensive looking “Kerouacs” around various locations in Denver where the writer was known to have visited or that he mentioned in his book. It’s also a protest of the fact that the upcoming film adaptation of the book is being shot in Canada. From the Denver Westorld:
Sixty years after Jack Kerouac filled a 120-foot scroll in a haze of lust, creative ambition and amphetamines that resulted in the original On the Road, producer Francis Ford Coppola is actually making a movie of the book — his third attempt. But while On the Road is a distinctly American classic, he’s filming the entire movie in Canada.
That snub is particularly egregious considering that Denver factors prominently into the action — in fact, you could argue that our fair city is a main character in the book. While, sure, some of the action takes place on either coast, Denver is like the meat of that literary sandwich, providing the book with a prodigious amount of its soul, not to mention its hands-down best character: one Dean Moriarty, known in real life as Neal Cassady, Denver boy and Beat god.
And in the rabble-rousing spirit of Cassady himself, at least one team of “elite street thugs” is not taking the slight lying down. For the last few months, cloaked in secrecy and carrying a copy of On the Road and a handful of stencils, this group has been visiting known Kerouac hangouts and doing the writer a favor he may or may not have gotten around to himself: tagging them with a likeness and the words “JACK WAS HERE.”
“I got the idea when I heard about the film adaptation coming out,” explains the artist and ringleader, a shadowy figure who calls himself only Theo. “The filmmakers substituted Gatineau, Quebec, for Denver. I’ve been a Kerouac addict for years, and I’ve always wanted to pay tribute to the author in some way, but it only recently hit me just how this could be done: It’s just a simpler reminder that Kerouac was here in Denver and not some small town in Canada that no one’s ever heard of. I think it’s an appropriate gesture to celebrate one counterculture with another.”
There is a very cool Tumblr blog dedicated to the “Jack Was Here” Kerouac Project.
Above, outside of Neal Cassady’s favorite bar at 15th and Platte Street in Denver. Below, Kerouac interviewed in French on Canadian television, 1967.