I've been waiting to write this blog for some time. I heard of Banksy several years ago from a friend. Like most people I was pretty freaking amazed by the images I saw of his work online. A couple years ago I watched "Exit Through The Gift Shop"... a kind of documentary, most likely a fake one. And every so often I look up Banksy videos on You Tube to see what he's been up to, especially with his "fine art" exhibitions in gallery spaces and museums.
As probably many of you know Banksy has been in NYC for the month of October of this year. While visiting New York to straighten out some things with the city I tried to see a few Banksy's before they're all tagged over, washed off, or boarded up. His stay in NYC has been an unwelcoming one... pride and jealousy have overcame local street artists and they haven't spared anytime to piggyback on all the attention he's getting by tagging up their names in attempt to gain some recognition. Oddly, while I was taking some pics of the dog and hydrant stencil (above photo) an older guy came along and started taking cell phone pics... but not because of the Banksy, because of "RD" who tagged the Banksy hydrant. According to this guy "RD" is a legend and has a rep for hitting up hydrants in the city. At first I thought it was a joke, but this older fellow was so genuinely thrilled to see "RD"'s tag that it put a smile on my face as I thought: "this guy's for real yo!".
Here are some thoughts...
1. How the hell has no one taken a photo of Banksy or not come out with his true identity! That's amazing that he's pulled that off! Ok, maybe that pic in Jamaica of a dude cleaning off his stencils is Banksy but its not proven. Check it out http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1034538/Graffiti-artist-Banksy-unmasked---public-schoolboy-middle-class-suburbia.html
2. "Banksy" has to be a team of people... In order to not get caught he needs look out guys and also help with some of his stencil work, which can be very complex at times.
3. No doubt Bansky's "fine art" is reminiscent of Warhol and can be linked with "Bad Art" artists like Jeff Koons, The Chapman Brothers, and Paul McCarthy. His gallery work I've never seen in person but I don't like it... Especially his mechanical sculptures...It's manufactured art... Art that he has other people make. What's so attractive about his street art is that it's made by hand yet has mechanical precision... That's why people are awed by it. His "fine art" has no awe and just makes him look wealthy enough to make work expertly fabricated. Check it out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPxn5-ADFm8
4. Similarly, Bansky is a conceptual artist. He's a clever chap! Which is why his street art is so effective... He really utilizes the inherent characteristics of his surroundings and transforms them into biting political commentary. He's like an designer, illustrator, or political cartoonist... but again, when he ventures to sculptures and gallery shows his work looses that connection to his immediate surroundings and the audience is left without that transformative experience of space.
5. Banksy's "fine art" is very funny... that humor is what gives it some interest... at least he doesn't take himself seriously!
6. Banksy's New York work, coming to a closure this week, is pretty amateurish... at least his stenciling. Those lucky enough to see his Ronald McDonald sculpture and truck "installations" as they drove around the city might have had more of an effect on his audience... but I didn't see any of those pieces. The works that I did see, which I've posted on this blog, I wouldn't have cared about or taken photos of if I didn't know they were Banksys. They were not like the ones I've seen online and I wonder if photographs of his pieces are more interesting than the works themselves... in part because they crop the rest of the busy city context out of the frame. Maybe its just New York, but his pieces had no presence to them... they were swallowed up with all the other graffiti, rubbish, and urban decay that surrounded them.
7. This is a great link that maps Banksy's artwork across the city: http://www.villagevoice.com/microsites/banksy-nyc/
Good luck Banksy! I hope to see your work again sometime.