Thursday Salute to Originals: The Urban Art of Banksy

As the world of art well knows, definitions to describe pieces often vary from person to person. One’s art can be another’s waste of time. This finds few truer examples than the realm of street art or graffiti. While most won’t cite the attributes of gang signs, there exists a large subset of graffiti artists that use the streets, structures, and objects of the urban landscape to depict social or political commentary, inspiring ideas, or simple whim.   Few run the gamut and have aroused society’s interest the way that Banksy does.

Working with the urban infrastructure, he will often use previous graffiti, paint splotches, urban decay, or object interactions to spawn his artistic ideas and give a sense of place to his art. For example, a crumbling wall façade that reveals the stone work underneath will form the basis of a piece, as will pipes and conduits on the outside of a building.

From California, to New Orleans, the UK, and Palestine, his primarily stencil-based work inspires thought, provokes amusement, and draws both the ire and admiration of many. A great number of pieces have been painted over and most work takes place during the twilight hours to avoid the authorities and the threat of arrest. Conversely, an exhibit of his works in Bristol brought over 800,000 visitors during a twelve week period. This graffiti tagger has broken into the mainstream art community with shows in Los Angeles and auctions by Sotheby’s. When a couple sold their house featuring a Banksy mural they listed the home with art dealers instead of real estate agents. His directorial film debut, the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, has been featured at the Sundance Film Festival and nominated for an Academy Award.

Most who speculate about his origins agree that this primarily stencil-based artist originated in Bristol, though confirming that Banksy is a male or even one person has yet to be accomplished. Inherent with the nature of his medium and techniques, Banksy prefers to remain anonymous and uses a mask while tagging. Regardless of his identity, this artist has redefined what it means to make public art and increased awareness for the beautiful decay of the urban landscape.

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