BANKSY EXHIBITION-GENIUS OR VANDAL? Unauthorised Exhibition of artworks by BANKSY
BANKSY – GENIUS OR VANDAL?Banksy is one of the best known and most controversial artists on the contemporary scene. He has been shrouded in mystery, and by either choice or necessity has perpetuated this to the point of establishing the very traits of a myth of our time: ambiguous yet deeply rooted in urban reality as experienced the world over, speaking to the problems, contradictions and great subjects of the current situation with a language that is both simply and ironic, inviting us to reflect on them and address them head on. The subjects Banksy deals with, by means of his provocatively irreverent subject matter, are satire, politics, culture, ethics and war. In sending out his messages he always uses a full set of recurring characters, like monkeys, rats, policemen and members of the royal family, which he represents using the stencil technique; he had initially adopted this method as it was a way to act quickly and avoid being surprised by the police. Over time, with his stencil technique he has been able to create a language that is simple and immediately recognisable, allowing in turn for interminable reproductions.His visual protests, which have reached a vast, heterogeneous public, have turned him into one of the world’s better-known artists and one of the preferred creators of younger generations. If art is a synthesis of form and content, for Banksy what really counts is the latter: his works are messages. As explained by street artist Shepard Fairey: “His works are full of metaphors that transcend language barriers. The images are entertaining and witty, and yet so simple and accessible: even six-year old children who have no concept of cultural conflict, have no problem seeing that there is something not quite right when they see the Mona Lisa with a rocket launcher.”His art is derived from those so-called “writers” from the early 1970s who emerged on the New York scene. These “writers”, then known as graffiti artists, came out of the Afro-American borough of Harlem, the Puerto Rican community in the Bronx and the small Italian hamlet in the Lower East Village, always working in groups and setting up “schools”, which were clearly nothing more than an artistic derivation of 1950s street gangs. It was, historically, a tough art, always working against things; it was by nature illegal and tended to want to standardise style as a way of indicating belonging, in terms of identity. Banksy’s bonds with those graffiti artists comes from his strong feeling of belonging to a community, while his provocative attitude leads to the idea that works of art should be finished in a given setting in space and time, driven by countercultural notions. “I love graffiti. I love that word,” Banksy has written. “For me, graffiti is synonymous with marvel. In comparison, any other artistic genre is, without a doubt, a step backwards. If you work outside of this world, you are working on a lower level. Other art has less to offer, it has less meaning and is weaker.” The rebel vocation of writers and self-taught artists has been gradually lost over the decades: street artists of today are young people who have studied, they come out of academies and art schools, and their work quite frequently demonstrates extraordinary painting technique, similar to what we see with works on canvas. This is why one of Banksy’s virtues is to have revived this spirit in the content and messages of his work. Apart from the influence of graffiti culture and hip hop, in his work we also see the strongly aggressive, underground attitude of punk, with its anti-intellectual connotations and subculture, referencing a world of “minor players” and “beautiful losers” (history is “not made by great men,” sang punk band Gang of Four). The punk movement gave rise to visual protest codes that had an impact on a worldwide level. The visual legacy of punk is vast, and its graphic codes symbolise struggle and resistance, to which might be added a complex, subcultural visual vocabulary of a deeply anti-authoritarian bent, which Banksy is fully bound up in. “Like most people, I have a fantasy that all the little powerless losers will gang up together. That all the vermin will get some good equipment and then the underground will go overground and tear this city apart.”
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