“A wall is a very big weapon. It’s one of the nastiest things you can hit someone with.” – Banksy
My best doodles wouldn’t make for good graffiti – a rocketship, a house, and a man playing guitar – but I also lack the courage to brazenly express my art in a public space, and the legal ramifications don’t help. That doesn’t mean when I’m having a jaunt around my favorite urban areas, in Pittsburgh or elsewhere, I don’t stop to appreciate the graffito. Done correctly, it is a work of art; a lesson I learned young, after watching the documentary Style Wars. Something about seeing it during my formative years left an impression on me (could it be the awesome imagery, hip hop soundtrack, and breakdancing?) that has stayed. This feeling was reawakened recently after viewing the superb “documentary” Exit Through the Gift Shop, by street artist Banksy.
Aside from being the best movie of the year, the film reminded me what I liked about street art, what I enjoyed about Banksy, and what it means to be a modern artist. The library helped with the rest, bringing me some more interesting titles about his work, the work of other street artists such as Shepard Fairey (known for the Obama “Hope” poster, and the “Obey” Andre the Giant), and some great titles on street art in general:
Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution – very well done work that traces graffiti art through time to the mainstream work it has become today, allowing that it is through this expression that some of the best artists have been discovered.
Trespass: A History of Uncommissioned Street Art – a “must-read” collection for fans of the work, or to those curious to see how art evolved to this point. This book takes a very broad but informative scope of how street art spread from generations, as well as featuring works and commentary from some of the best known names. It is clearly in favor of the freedom granted by public expression, but also takes into account the legal issues of stencil art and infringement that may occur.
WorldCat also has some intriguing titles that may be of interest to the street art scholar, such as Banksy’s Wall and Piece, or the award winning documentary Piece by Piece that can be found through the Interlibrary Loan Department.
And remember, the reference department is always able to help you with your art related questions. They have some awesome resources (some available on the website, some on archives you didn’t even know about) – they will astound you.
P.S. – A quick note on the sheer amazingness of Exit Through the Gift Shop. There’s a reason I put documentary in quotes up there. Yeah, it was nominated for a Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards this year, but it didn’t win because it’s unclassifiable. It is the real story of street art, captured in real time, as we watch the amateur filmmaker/spotter Thierry Guetta hang out with up and coming artists, as well as learn about his dream of meeting Banksy. But what comes after is where the story lies, and where the camera turns on Thierry and his improbable rise as a street artist, and how that reflects on the medium itself. That Thierry is a character stranger than fiction only sweetens the experience. See this movie!