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BAN Photo Credit: google images

Banksy’s Flower Thrower


Photo Credit: google images

When Robert Clarke first caught sight of the then unknown Banksy in a New York flophouse in 1995, it was like one of those revelatory occasions in Hollywood biblical epics when the shadow of the saviour, whose face we are not permitted to glimpse, falls onto the ungodly. “Lo and behold,” says the quivering Clarke, “he was framed in the office door and a radiant light was coming off him.” “No, no really!” he adds, but the disclaimer doesn’t dispel the religiosity of the encounter. Clarke rises and follows this nondescript fellow from Bristol, who dematerialises so mysteriously and leaves behind him only prophetic daubs on the sides of buildings – anti-capitalist slogans, stencilled caricatures of greedy corporate rats, the Mona Lisa wielding a bazooka and Queen Victoria being orally pleasured by a lesbian attendant. The first writing on the wall, inscribed by a bodiless hand at Belshazzar’s feast, announced the imminent fall of a city. Banksy too, for his disciple Clarke, is prophetic or “prescient”, foretelling an apocalyptic future that “manifests through the walls”. Will Ellsworth-Jones is a less worshipful follower, but even he attributes a “redemptive power” to Banksy: teaching the low-born and oppressed how to assert themselves with cans of spray paint, he gives them a sense of what therapists call self-worth. EllsworthJones interviews a Banksy wannabe who “explains the call of graffiti in an almost messianic way”. The apostolic Clarke is content to scamper along behind Banksy, but Ellsworth-Jones’s sacred narrative takes a sinister turn when Banksy sells his soul to an agent called Steve Lazarides. EllsworthJones explains their association, now ended, “in biblical terms”. Like Satan offering Christ the kingdoms of this world, “Lazarides took Banksy

KSY Photo Credit: Shutter Stock

Photo Credit: Shutter Stock Photo Credit: google images

3 up to the mountain top, tempted him with … fame, money, success”, and even threw in the alluring incentive of Angelina Jolie, a customer and a devout fan. Banksy, who sends the credulous Clarke off to march against global commerce and the wars it foments, is shown by Ellsworth-Jones to be as capitalistic as his hero Damien Hirst. Banksy once wondered whether an artist should make money from work that was intended to draw attention to world poverty, and solved the problem by calling it ironic. He was wearing what Clarke calls his “invisibility cloak” at the time, but I can imagine lips curling in a devilish smirk as he contemplated the credulity of those who pay a premium for ephemera that were meant to mock the notion that art can be valued, traded, treated as wealth. Clarke has the advantage of a casual acquaintance with Banksy. Together they tramp through the mud at Glastonbury, go skateboarding in Manhattan, invade London Zoo under cover of dark. But Banksy takes care to say nothing of significance and to do nothing memorable. Mostly he appears to Clarke in dreams, like Christ after his disappearance from the tomb: in one woozy reverie Banksy “writes an oath with his finger on the sacred ancestral stones” of a monument like Stonehenge. Clarke is forever regressing from the urban jungle to the rustic homeland of Merrie England, so it’s good to be reminded by Ellsworth-Jones that Banksy doesn’t share this new-age nostalgia. His own reconstruction of the circle of boulders on Salisbury Plain is called Boghenge, and consists of portable toilets arranged in a formation that has no astrological puzzle behind it. Using aliases and accomplices while he remains out of sight, Banksy is a control freak. Ellsworth-Jones demystifies him by identifying the intermediaries who work on his behalf – the PR firm that publicises him by misleading the media, the organisation that authenticates his work and exposes fakes. Ellsworth-Jones also exposes his image as something of a fallacy. Clarke subscribes to the myth of Banksy’s working-class roots; Ellsworth-Jones


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has ascertained that he attended Bristol Cathedral Choir School, which makes him a faux-prole. Banksy’s first name, according to Clarke, is Robin – hardly an appellation favoured by families on council estates. Breaking the promise of its subtitle, EllsworthJones’s book catches no glimpse of the man behind the wall. All he can do is contribute to his mystique. Having never been photographed – or only from behind, by Clarke’s mum – Banksy has a thousand faces. He is sometimes described as a latter-day Robin Hood, though it’s not clear that he’s redistributing wealth as the sylvan bandit did; he is more aptly likened to the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel. But as in the case of Father Christmas, the legend, as Ellsworth-Jones says, is “better than the real thing”. Ellsworth-Jones writes perceptively about the “ethical dilemmas” created by Banksy’s marketing techniques, yet still communicates the excitement of a “treasure hunt” for traces of his work in the scruffier purlieus of London. Clarke can’t compete. His most eloquent tribute to Banksy’s work is to call it “cool-as-fuck”. Whatever you think of the aerosol guerrilla, he deserves better than that.


Photo Credit: google images

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Fairey: Guerilla Art Frank Shepard Fairey, born Frank Shepard

Fairey, February 15, 1970, in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1992, while still an illustration student at RISD, Fairey started his first business venture, Alternate Graphics, to showcase his emerging design and silkscreen printing talents. He created stickers, t-shirts, skateboards, and posters which were all available via black and white mail order catalogs that he distributed. He also did small commercial printing jobs for clients to help cover some of his expenses. In 1994, Helen Stickler created a documentary film, Andre the Giant Has a Posse, that

focused on Fairey and the growing phenomenon of his subversive stickers and posters. By 1995, Fairey had two or three full time employees, two of whom were long time friends from Charleston, whom he had known through his many years of skateboarding. During this time, he also created a small sister brand, Subliminal Projects, with Blaize Blouin, and released several skateboard and poster designs using this moniker. Fairey created a skateboard video, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), that showcased the small group of skateboarders that he sponsored via Alternate Graphics. In 1996, Fairey moved from Providence,


Photo Credit: google images

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One of Shepard Fairey’s famous Obey Gaint variations

RI, to San Diego, CA, to partner with Andy Howell in Giant Distribution. Shortly thereafter, Fairey partnered up with Dave Kinsey, Philli p De Wolff, and Howell to form First Bureau of Imagery, FBI, a branding, marketing and design firm targeting the emerging action sports market. In 1999, FBI was dissolved and Fairey, Kinsey, and De Wolff formed BLK/MRKT, another branding, marketing, and design firm. During this time, Fairey met his future wife, Amanda Ayala, who began working with him. In 2001, the BLK/MRKT offices were moved from San Diego to Los Angeles and expanded to include a small art gallery. De Wolff’s partnershi p was purchased by Fairey and Kinsey, who became the sole propietors of the operation, now doing business from an office in the historic Wiltern building located in Koreatown. In 2003, Fairey and Kinsey decided to make a professional split; Fairey kept the location and most of the employees, renamed his agency Studio Number One [1], and renamed the art Photo Credit: google images

gallery Subliminal Projects [2]. Kinsey took the name BLK/MRKT and its gallery, and relocated it to Culver City, CA, where it is still in operation. In 2004, Fairey teamed up with long time friend Roger Gastman to create a quarterly publication, Swindle. The magazine documents pop culture, fashion, and music, and each issue is released in both soft cover and hard cover. In 2006, Fairey released a comprehensive, hard cover monograph, Supply and Demand, that documents much of his personal and professional design work. The entire book was designed in-house at Studio Number One and it is published by Ginko Press. It is currently in its third edition. Fairey married Amanda Ayala in December of 2001 in Charleston, SC. In June 2005 Amanda gave birth to their first child, daughter Vivienne, named after punk fashion icon, Vivienne Westwood. In January of 2008, their second daughter, Madeline, was born.


Photo Credit: google images

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Magazine Project 1  

First magazine Project

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