Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bank on This

I was in France recently, perusing a book store, when I came upon a whole slew of incredibly awesome graffiti books. You see, graffiti makes me happy. Happy like it's-my-birthday-and-I-got-the-pony-I've-been-asking-for-my-entire-life kind of happy. I really, truly love it. I'm picky though, it has to be the real deal, not the random junk that gets sprawled all over the place. I'm talking about the artistic ones that make you stop and just think, wonder, question what it's all about. The ones that tell some kind of a story. The ones that make you feel...something.

One of the books I found was Banksy Wall and Piece, a book about a graffiti artist whose unique stencil graffiti has shown up all around the world. His art is always questioning the rules, the government, society in general and while other graffiti artists may reveal who they are, Banksy remains a mysterious unknown individual, which just makes him that much more interesting. The book is excellent if not for the art but also for what he says about each piece. It makes you want to go on a scavenger hunt all over town for his work.
After my trip I was pretty enthralled with all of this graffiti business and came across a movie called Exit Through the Gift Shop. The whole thing is about graffiti artists, but more specifically about the guy who was supposed to be making a documentary on them, Thierry Guetta, AKA Mr. Brainwash. He was obsessed with filming EVERYTHING (I do mean everything) and one day became hooked on filming street art. He started following street artists around and ended up telling them he was going to do a documentary on their work, except that he had no actual intention of doing that. He just had an obsession with filming it. He becomes friends with all the street art clan and finally meets Banksy who befriends him and, breaking all his own personal rules, lets him in on his life as a graffiti artist.

This guy, Mr. Brainwash, then decides he wants to be a graffiti artist but he goes about it an entirely different way and ends up hiring people to make his art for him. Yep. He gets the ideas and they do the work. Then, get this, he makes it big. Madonna big, as in she hired him to do an album cover. I'm not going to lie, he has some good work, but the way he went about "making it" just seems off. I prefer my street artists to be in the street, for a while, earning their name. I guess I wouldn't really call him a street artist at all. I really don't know what the heck to call him actually. I don't want to totally diss the guy since you have to give him credit for being creative and risking a lot of things, but at the same time he kind of cheapened street art, and that just...sucks.

I must say the movie is excellent. It made me open my eyes a little wider to the world of graffiti. Now I look for it everywhere. Now I understand it a little better. I guess what really got me about all of it is how Banksy views the criticism of street art. In his book he writes, "Despite what they say graffiti is not the lowest form of art...it exhibits on the best walls a town has to offer and nobody is put off by the price of admission. The people who truly deface our neighborhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. They expect to be able to shout their message in your face from every available surface but you're never allowed to answer back."
I never thought of it that way but he's right. I would much rather look at graffiti, the artistic version, than advertisements. So yeah, I'm a fan. Street art just makes the streets more interesting. It's intriguing and beautiful. In fact, I secretly (yet clearly non-secretly) hope he reads this and decides to come here and mark our city up a little. I'll even be the lookout and I promise not to go all Mr. Brainwash crazy.

Want to see more of his work? Go here:
80+ Beautiful Street Crimes by Banksy

Are you a fan of graffiti? Hate it? Have any cools pics you've taken? Or have you possibly seen a Banksy work of art, up close and personal? Which means I'll be jealous...

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