Before I Die


I think graffiti is the work of criminals, not artists. And Banksy doesn't get a pass on this. Am I the only one who is wildly unimpressed with his whole schtick? If he personally hosted a show at a gallery full of his "street art" would anyone consider him the revolutionary figure that he is; or does his work somehow get elevated because he does it anonymously, on other people's property and without their permission? If it's the latter, why?

[End of rant]

Fortunately, this is not graffiti. If it were, I'd be bending over backwards trying to justify its existence. Instead, we get this reassurance from the artist that the work was "Made with primer, chalkboard paint, stencils, spray paint, chalk, people. Self-initiated with permission from the property owner, residents of the block, the neighborhood association’s blight committee, the Historic District Landmarks Commission, the Arts Council, and the City Planning Commission"

Now that's street art! Or, I'm a low-brow/philistine/cranky old man (take your pick). Maybe it's both.

The fact that this public installation also has a gallery-based antecedent helps prove my point about Banksy: put this black stenciled wall indoors, and you have a rather antiseptic but clever piece of interactive design. I'm sure it also reveals surprising (if frightening) truths about the darkest corners and brightest hopes of the human condition, thereby uniting us in our common struggle to find meaning in a fractured, post-ironic society. Or generic and interchangeable words of art criticism to that effect.

On the other hand, if you use the same concept to liven up a blighted block and simultaneously cover the work of all the scoundrels who tagged the wall before you, and you've got something that really matters. Or, at least makes a difference in a lot of peoples' days.

Related works, by the same artist:

I Wish This Was

The Sexy Trees of the Maringy ( a calendar)