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Boundless Banksy

He’s everywhere and he’s nowhere. Few know who he actually is, but to street artists, collectors, pedestrians and police worldwide, his name speaks for itself: Banksy. In the early ’90s, Banksy’s moniker began popping up on walls all over Bristol, England. Armed with a can of spray paint and the mentality that if advertisers could accost your eyes without your permission then he could too, he covered the city in images touting his own messages. He just didn’t pay to do it.

The spectrum of Banksy’s unsolicited public art ranges from whimsical sculptures (such as shark fins poking out of a Victoria Park pond in London) to sensitive political commentary (like the escape ladder he painted on the segregation wall in Palestine). But whatever his message—be it anti-government, anti-consumerism, anti-war or just funny—Banksy has a knack for positioning his work in such a way that directly plays with its environment. Sometimes his work is clever, like a stencil that asks, “What are you looking at?” painted in front of a surveillance camera, or simply blatant, like the gigantic bright pink declaration he sprayed onto a windowless concrete office building that reads “BORING.”

Mashing up icons is also a part of what makes Banksy so recognizable. He re-imagines popular images in a way that is quick for people to comprehend, but ultimately has a deeper meaning. He even does it utilizing hair. Slapping a mohawk on top of Winston Churchill’s portrait is immediately comical, but also forces people to think about the national hero as anti-establishment punk rock. The painting points out how shallow it is to draw conclusions about people based solely on hair design, but that’s exactly what we do. The mohawk is funny because it doesn’t belong. But maybe it could. Maybe it should.

Banksy also incorporates tresses into a piece he stenciled of the fairytale character Rapunzel. In the image she’s leaning from her window as a hooded character hangs from her hair, having just sprayed “Vandalism” on the building, with a heart shape in place of a “V.” Rapunzel’s long braid is what makes the scene possible—a scene that simultaneously celebrates graffiti art through fable while challenging the notions of vandalism itself.

Before Banksy, not many street artists could start a conversation with the same magnitude as they can today. With limitless ambition and rebellious courage, Banksy has mixed up popular imagery in such a way that leaves nothing in this world sacred. Nothing except for you.


- ELEANOR PERRY-SMITH
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