Saturday, February 3, 2007


my thoughts on graffiti can go either way. much like my thoughts on art in general. any simpleton with a can a spray paint can scrawl his illegible tag wherever he or she wants. its not about creativity, its about rebellion. for that reason, this sort of thing is usually found in dark places. under bridges or on dumpsters in dark alleys. to be categorized as art, there are requirements. something needs to be expressed. an idea needs to be present. it needs to be about more than breaking the law.

there are two artist really taking advantage of the form:
Banksy and Alexandre Orion.

Banksy (a pseudonym) has been making stenciled graffiti for sometime, mostly in Britain, his native country, but his footprints can be seen in parts of L.A., New York, Palestine, & Mexico as well. his images deal with political, ethical and cultural issues, often doing so with a twist of humor. usually anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-establishment, pro-freedom. he has gained a bit of notoriety with his many "art stunts". for instance: he has broken into the penguin enclosure at the London zoo and wrote "WE"RE BORED OF FISH" in letters seven feet tall. then, in the elephant pen in the zoo in Bristol, he wrote "I WANT OUT. THIS PLACE IS TOO COLD. KEEPER SMELLS. BORING, BORING, BORING." he's painted 9 images on the Israeli west bank wall separating Israel and Palestine, such as a ladder going up and over and kids digging a hole though it. In 2006, Banksy secretly replaced approximately 500 copies of paris hilton's debut CD in UK record stores with his own version, including new album art and remixes by Danger Mouse. titles such as "why am i famous?", "what have i done?" and "what am i for?". The art depicted paris topless, with a dog's head, and stepping out of a luxury car, edited to include a group of homeless people, which included the caption "90% of success is just showing up". i have a copy of the music. its really only one song, 40 minutes long. a repetitive, simple beat with paris saying "that's hot" every so often. people bought a lot of them. he's also made "subverted" paintings, or re-imaginings of classic works of art. he then covertly added these to walls in the MET, the MoMA, the Tate, and the Brooklyn Museum of fine art without them knowing.

currently, graffiti artist seem to be getting awfully clever. there are a few artists emerging in the street art underground who are making their mark on signs, tunnels and walls. anywhere that's dirty enough. reverse graffiti. instead of adding paint to create their image, they're removing dirt. authorities are confounded as to how to deal with the burgeoning new wave of cleaning vandals. one such artist is Alexandre Orion. he is a brazilian painter and photographer, usually integrating the two. he first creates his image, then photographs the interaction with it and passers-by. the picture is his final goal. it wasn't until recently that he replaced his paint with soap. armed with only a scrub brush, some rags and detergents, he'd clean dirt and soot away from surfaces to create an image. the inspiration was originally the finger inscribed "wash me" on dirty car windows. his biggest and most well known of these was a highway tunnel. there he made a vast mural of skulls spanning the length of one side by wiping away layers of exhaust. police arrived but as he wasn't actually breaking any laws, they couldn't do anything. their response: they dispatched sanitation workers to clean the wall. a victory in his eyes, so Orion returned later to do the other side.

1 comment:

Monica said...

This Alexandre Orion kid was in my dream last night ... not cleaning