“Are Clint Mario and ME here?” asked a hip-looking twenty-something dude as he rolled up to the one-night display of the street art duo’s work at the Krause Gallery on Wednesday evening. “Nah,” responded a person in the crowd, hanging out in front of the tiny space at 149 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side. Moments later, someone else said they might be and how this opening was “supposedly their first time meeting.” Out of all the rumors swirling around, this seemed the most unlikely. How could they not know each other?

For well over a year, the mostly-anonymous prankster-artists have been working together on an epic scale in their execution of a prolific branding campaign centered around the smiling mystery persona Clint Mario. Armed with keys to the ad kiosks at bus shelters and payphones, the two-person team is responsible for pulling off dozens of takeovers with the audacity of an outdoor advertising company, replacing paid ads with lowbrow parodies lampooning various brands, products, and movies.
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Inside of Krause Gallery, the walls were covered with various iterations of their signature pastiche as young art lovers gawked and took selfies in front of a Clint Mario cutout propped in front of a step-and-repeat remixed with ME logos. They drank from Clint Mario-branded cups and browsed Clint Mario prints. One installation-like piece was comprised of several old-school Nintendo Game Boys spelling out the letter M-E with Clint Mario’s face emblazoned on each screen.

ANIMAL reached out to ME, who once agreed to do a short Q&A with us, to see if the cagey artist would do another one about this show. Per usual, he kept it brief.

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What’s different about hanging the work in a gallery than taking over an ad in the street?
Heart rate. So strange to get up in a cool calm manner.

This being your first show, do you plan on taking the campaign further? More galleries? More street work?
There wasn’t a plan for any of this and it has been a great ride. Just keep having fun and go where that leads, probably phone booths. I want to meet Clint soME day, probably cry when I do.

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(Photos: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)