Banksy's Barely Legal
6

  • Los Angeles
  • United States
  • 2006-09-15

This three day escapade was riddled by a plethora of eccentricities: a stranglehold of imagery, ironies, gluttony, vice and vanity. Knowing Banksy, and having experienced or heard about his previous exhibitions, you would not find it surprising that his debut in Los Angeles incited many absurdisms, most notably — as you’ve probably already heard — a painted, roaming Indian elephant. Yes, Banksy once again has served us with an animal as metaphor, and this time it’s subject matter is the insoucience of the Western middle class.

As expected, animal rights activists eventually succeeded in stripping the elephant of paint, thanks to Los Angeles city officials adhering to their pleas. Introducing an animal to a voyeur state is forever contested, and usually for good reason. Especially in the case of Banksy, who had apparently stated that the metaphor itself was powerful enough to defend the decision to make choices for Tai, the stage veteran elephant on display. If this truly was an official Banksy statement, it’s wonderfully amusing, and it does quite alot to deplete a full scale admiration for his mindset. However, the palpable position of this metaphor is still somewhat respectable, in so far as that Banky’s aesthetic has now embedded itself far beyond the ‘urban’ genus it was restricted to; the enigmatic street artist has entered the residence of older generations. After this exhibition, and the press coverage of it, a twenty something UK Hip Hop fan can now find artistic affinity with a middle aged surburban high school teacher.

…Not only is there a nexus depicted between corporatism and war, but also a depiction of the Western obsession for charming, fictive and indiosycratic icons

With the political notion of Banksy’s work — which is typically based on an anti-consumerist point of view — being so clearly delectable and real, we should be quite excited at the awareness and pedagogy that it provides to the public who acquire its myriad of metaphors. These aesthetic allegories and messages are clearly existent in the stencilled symbols and satire of his work. For example, in “Water Lillies” — a ‘re-mastering’ Of Monet’s impressionist oils — he painted the deterimental aesthetic of urban litter over the algae infested water of Monet’s impressionist oil painting. This quite clearly can be taken as some form of dissaproval that Banksy has for the ugliness evident in the environment we usually ignore, or may even be a disdain for art that fails to recognise the brutal repugnance of this world. A more robust example is the stencil featuring Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald, and the young, naked Vietnamese girl famously photographed in a napalm attack during the Vietnam war. Not only is there a nexus depicted between corporatism and war, but also a depiction of the Western obsession for charming, fictive and indiosycratic icons — an array that has blinded our youth from the torture and horror of our world’s reality. In fact, the imagery is so powerful and unequivocal, that it could indeed provide a proselytical legacy — thus benefitting a public that is clearly losing its identity, as it finalises a metamorphoses into a completely apathetic mileu.

Although this examination of Banky’s political ideology is indeed worthy and real, it is no doubt comical when considering the often light-heartedness and humour of his work. There was an omnipotent resonance of laughter filling the exhibition, as viewers enjoyed the sometimes genius wit of Banky’s work. The vivacious colour and simplicity of his form allows the viewer to notice the obvious humour involved in most of his works, and even with his monotone pieces, like “Two Policeman Kissing”, he retains a sharp and colourful comedy in his work. His ‘live art’ is no doubt the most entertaining, with such acts as the recent Disneyland stunt being documented in a film played on a continous loop in the venue.

…with every quasi-beat in town gallovanting on a exhibition of their own

What casts a shadow on the exhibition, and the work of Banksy himself, was the incongruity of the aggregate, and the contrariness of many of the artists actions himself. For example, and in regards to the comment made about many of the exhibition’s attendees, the Paris Hilton piece was more a mockery of those who viewed it than those who would usually be foreign to such an exhibition. What worried me was that like Paris Hilton, who is a large piece of the detritus of the gluttony, materialism and innanity of Western consumerism, many of the people who attended the show were stifled by the same inept vices. The pathway by the long line that gathered to wait for entrance on the final day was like a runway, with every quasi-beat in town gallovanting on a exhibition of their own. It was hilarious, and what was more ridiculous was that many people inside spent more time looking at each other than the artwork on display.

Surely anyone who puts on a show in Los Angeles is aware of the impending demographic, and Banksy no doubt was. He wouldn’t have had a live, painted elephant roaming around an exhibition of his anywhere else in the world! Regardless, he still has an omnious contradiction that is often present in his work, and that is his own failure to avert materialism and consumerism. With his work and prints being so expensive, one wonders about the potency of the virtue Banksy no doubt takes pride in. Then of course is his failure to escape the serried ranks of social conformity, for example in enhancing the human notion that we decide the fate of animals. Banksy is far from perfect, and although he is usually immune, he fails to be credited as untouchable thanks to numerous contradictory infections he has allowed within his membrane.

…an artist creating proselytical works on a mass scale

Banksy’s work is often insanely hilarious, and although it’s far from dissolving more complicated issues, it still does appeals to the general collective leftist opinion on capitalism and apathy. With that, Banksy is and will forever be one of the most prominent creators of a political aesthetic, and with that role he is an informer of the masses, and as mentioned before an artist creating proselytical works on a mass scale. What I like most about Banksy is his capability to retain a large part of his covert identity, and his dedication to spreading a very important and real message in as many parts of the world as he can.

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