Does advertising become art as it decays? Such an argument can be made based on Richard Sargent's photographs. The images from the California cities of Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, and Richmond, collected in the East Bay Billboards Calendar 2012, depict dilapidated urban billboards that resemble abstract collages. In a way, they're more in tune with their gritty, graffiti-tagged surroundings than when they were gaudy and new. The "onion" effect is especially intriguing: Peel away the layers of ad messages, and you're ultimately left with … nothing. Talk about truth in advertising! For me, the images bear witness to the folly (they're faded, unreadable) and fortitude (they survive, transformed and defiant) of modern commerce and commercialization. They're surely signs of the times, open to any number of interpretations. All images © 2011 by Richard Sargent. More images after the jump, and at ArtsJournal, which has info on how to order the calendar.