just got back from the banksy show downtown. it was a show that wound up being a lesson to me in the power of context when it comes to art and messages of dissent. at dinner with a friend, M, a few nights ago, i mentioned i was going to see this show. he said he didnt like banksy. found him too obvious, M said. i replied that he was just being an art snob. banksys 'art' is obvious. he is a graffiti artist i said. his works are messages of dissent. they are meant to speak with directness like a statement. not obliquely like a poem. they are not meant to subtly imply, nudge or allude to the intangible part of our lives in the way that my favorite "fine" art does. so there. that was the other night.
we now move forward to this afternoon. i am standing in the middle of this big open multi-roomed warehouse space. banksys stenciled graffiti are reproduced on canvases, and other surfaces that hang like canvases, around the room on the walls like art. like Art. gone is the boldness to it all. the boldness that i most appreciate and find exciting about his public work. the boldness now seems really juvenile. precocious but simple. simple like slogans. but because of the context they are in now, it is all preachy and uninteresting. if you put a guantanamo detainee at disneyland (like banksy did do) it is an exciting piece of dissent and its very existence is bold. it is bold even before you think of the content. then as you combine those two thoughts 'how did he get it done' with ' its a guantanamo detainee in disneyland' a third undefined relationship happens and that good click of recognition happens that makes you recognize something being good in art. but on a wall at an art show, both those supports are missing and you are simply left with his object of art. no depth. got it. next.
now all that being said, the fact that he is doing bold work like he does in the present political and social climate is not lost on me. i will continue to be charmed by the outrageousness of what he is able to pull off. i will continue to look for and appreciate the work he does about our world ON the world. but next time i might skip the gallery show. viva la revolucion.