Stephen J. Powers, born in Philadelphia in 1968, is a New York-based artist. He made a name first as a graffiti artist in New York during the 1990s, under the name ESPO (Exterior Surface Painting Outreach). In the early 2000s he began working in his studio and exhibited at Deitch Projects, until the closure of the gallery in 2010. During the last eight years he has mainly been creating public works.
His work has been shown at the Venice and Liverpool Biennials in 2001 and 2002, respectively, and in 2008 Powers painted a love story in the streets of Dublin and Belfast. In August 2008, teaming up with Creative Time, he opened The Waterboard Thrill Ride, an animatronic depiction of waterboarding in Coney Island.
In 2010 Powers worked on a large-scale mural project in Philadelphia, entitled « A Love Letter For You » in partnership with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. This work involved painting 50 murals in West Philadelphia and it attracted positive reviews from The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Powers told the New York Times that he was « taking the form of the murals, which are powerful for all the wrong reasons, and trying to retain some of the power and use it in a really good way ». In the same year, Powers first solo museum exhibition was at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.