Thursday, October 11, 2012

Banksy Graffiti in Palestine

Banksy, a quasi anonymous graffiti artist from Bristol England, has been making a name for himself on the British and international circuit. Some view his artwork merely as graffiti while others consider his work to be a comment on present-day society, politics, and life in general. Banksy graffiti in Palestine is the latest addition to his ever expanding global presence, and what a perfect place to make statements about political strife via urban work.

Israeli West Bank Wall

Since Israel became a nation, a constant state of unrest or even armed conflict has become the norm between Israel and Palestine. What better place could Banksy choose to offer societal and political statements than on one of the most famous walls in the world, the Palestinian Wall, more commonly called the Israeli West Bank Barrier? This wall serves as a political symbol and functions to separate the two conflicting opponents. Some Israelis claim that the wall gives protection against possible terrorism from Palestine, but even more see the wall as a separation between two cultures and religions. After a disagreement in 2002, Israel began construction of what will one day be a 430-mile long wall. Ninety percent of the wall consists of fence work and trenches, while the other 10 percent is concrete. The concrete portion of the wall on the Palestinian side is where Banksy chose to make his artistic statement.

Banksy Israeli Wall Art Work

In typical graffiti fashion, the work was discovered by passersby after the famous artist has left the scene. Bansky used the wall to paint his sometimes subversive artwork in 2005. The Palestinian art collection, a total of 9 pieces, was cataloged before counter graffiti artists began painting over the work. This made it difficult to account for all nine pieces by name and date of completion. Some of the paintings were never given official names but are merely described by the art content itself. Some want to include additional paintings on nearby Palestinian and Israeli walls and buildings as part of Banksy's Palestinian work. Whether there are simply nine or more, all serve the point of bringing notice to the often less than popular wall and its plight.

1) Armored Dove of Peace:
Although located on a building in Bethlehem, this piece of work is often included as part of the nine. This piece of urban art is accredited to Banksy and perhaps several other street artists. The dove, complete with an armored vest and bull's-eye heart target, makes a tongue-in-cheek comment about peace. What better way to display a political comment about the unstable peace in the area than to depict the bearer of peace"the dove"in a precarious situation?

2) West Bank Guard:
An innocent child is used to display the tension in the region. In this painting, a little girl, complete with pigtails, depicts the innocence of children everywhere, caught in the middle of strife and political discord. What makes this piece interesting is the willingness of the guard to submit to a search by the tyke. Perhaps he himself is making a statement about the innocence of children on both sides of the barrier.

3) Window on the West Bank:
Banksy's art is mostly black-and-white stencil paintings. However, occasionally, he ventures out of his safe monochrome world to paint in colors, especially to make a bold statement. This piece of urban art depicts two comfy chairs, each beside a colorful window, displaying a beautiful mountain vacation scenery. The statement in this picture is pretty clear. Who would want to vacation in a war-torn region such as the West Bank area?

4) Unwelcome Intervention:
This picture gives hope to what could be. Two boys are playing in what appears to be a beach area, complete with sand pail, all in the classic monochrome black and white, while on the other side a paradise awaits in colorful blues and palm trees. One can only hope that something better awaits on the other side.

5) Escapism: This graffiti masterpiece depicts a young lad with chalk in hand. The only means of escape from one side of the wall to the other that he could envision was his chalk-drawn ladder leading to the top. The lad is complete with a smile, perhaps not realizing the political statement that his ladder makes.

6) Balloon Debate: Painted totally in black, as if a silhouette or shadow, Balloon Debate shows a young girl, hoping for the other side but only able to do so by letting balloons take her away. Again, Banksy uses a child to depict innocence against the true hostility of the area and what the wall came from.

7) Cut It Out:
This is the simplest of all of Banksy's wall creations. A dotted line, as would appear on the back of a box, with scissors inserted for directions, begs those walking by to merely cut a piece out of the wall. If solving centuries-old issues was as simple as "cutting it out."

8) Art Attack: Art Attack provides a hint of what could be. A hole in the wall has been created, and on the other side is a boy, complete with his sand pail, merely waiting to play in the sand. This is one of the remaining pieces, and other artists have added both their artwork and comments along with Banksy's work.

9) Stable Conditions:
Residents often complain that the wall not only cuts them off from the other side but that everyday activities such as getting to farms and livestock become difficult. Farmers only hope that they find a break in the wall or that a guard shows pity and allows them to pass. This horse seems to be stuck also. All that is visible is his head through one small square and his feet through the other. Even Banksy's horse is trapped by the Israeli West Bank Wall.

Reaction to the Work

Many on the West Bank became upset and a little less than comfortable when Banksy's urban street art began appearing. Banksy graffiti in Palestine is seen as an intrusion by many, with one local even saying the work is pretty and the wall was not a pretty thing, so remove the art. Thus some have claimed that the art was merely art and should not be painted over, while others saw the graffiti as politically laced. The latter is probably true, as a majority of Banky's art makes a statement about society or creates a political conversation. Many Palestinian citizens viewed the wall as in incursion on their freedoms and further notification of the friction between Israel and the people in Palestine, and thus felt that the artwork only enhanced this feeling.

However, many note that the incident of suicide bombings and violent episodes have decreased since the summer of 2002, when the work began appearing on the wall. No one can know for sure if Banky's art can be accredited with the reduction in violence, but one can only hope. In the meantime, rest assured that Banksy's art will continue to pop up in unexpected areas, making bold political statements that might not be embraced with open arms by all.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Banksy Art in New York City

New York City rates as one of the world's top art meccas. With diverse ethnic areas of New York from the five boroughs to outlying suburbs, various art styles and artists abound in this largest city in the United States. Local museums, art shows, and art festivals boost many artistic selections, making this city of over 8 million people a prime location for eclectic art styles. Art genres run the gamut from pop art, to art deco, to modern art and even to graffiti art. A top graffiti artist who has recently taken New York by storm is Banksy. Now Banksy's art in New York City seems to be all the rage. However, who is this artist and what is so unique about his artwork?

Who is Banksy?

For years, people have been trying to figure out exactly who Banksy is. At first, he began his art career opting to be anonymous. Nothing is more intriguing, especially in the art word, than an artist who is an enigma. When a curious researcher or art aficionado thinks they have narrowed down the possibilities of who Banksy exactly is, they discover that they were either wrong or are on the wrong track. As the years go by, more is known about this creative artist, who grants few interviews and prefers it that way. Simon Hattenstone of the Guardian, an England publication, has been one of the few journalists to be granted an interview with Banksy. It seems that he maintains the anonymity partly due to the need to concentrate on his artistic talent and perhaps, also, to keep the mystery alive to increase interest in his art. What is now known about Bansky are some basic facts about his early beginnings.

Banksy was born in Bristol, England in 1974. He began his professional career as a butcher but quickly became caught up in the Bristol underground art scene and began creating graffiti art. He soon discovered that the use of stencils added a unique creative touch to what some were labeling subversive or punk street art. Gradually, his art style and popularity began to spread through Britain and later to other areas of Europe. Within a few years, his art has become known worldwide. As more is known about this British artist, some are claiming his notoriety has gone from anonymous to quasi anonymous.

Banksy's Art Style

As mentioned previously, Banksy's art style is categorized as graffiti art. Other names used for his art include street art, modern art, pop art or satirical street art. His graffiti art goes further than merely writing on walls and extends to using stencils to create unique, sometimes almost 3D effects in his pieces. Although his art quickly expanded from wall paintings to more traditional canvas art, he is still known for his impromptu artwork that often show up on walls and buildings in the Bristol and London area. Many of his art pieces make political or societal statements, with some being blatant while others less so. Certain objects or subjects make repeated appearances in Banksy's artwork, including rats and boys. He also has dabbled in art structures and statues.

Recently, Banksys artwork has shown up on the West Bank of Palestine. Some in the area are calling his artwork terrorist political art. Nine paintings have recently been discovered on the walls that separate the area from Israel. Many locals state they do not like his political statements painted on the walls, while others state it adds a bit of creativity to the otherwise boring structure. Banksy recorded a statement concerning his artwork on the wall, but as usual, he did now show his face.

With his art showing up around the world, it was only a matter of time before Banksys work began to show up in the United States mecca for artwork -- New York City.

Banksy Art in New York City

Banksy's art began to appear in New York City on walls, buildings, and subways years before the first United States tour of his artwork. The artist's work toured the United States during the spring of 2010, making a stop in New York during that May. Although the artist himself was never interviewed nor seen, there was an overnight street mural showing that he indeed had been in New York City. Local artists and newspapers noted that an I Love New York banner, complete with a doctor checking for New York's heartbeat, was painted on Cedar Street between Greenwich and Trinity. Since his first artwork appeared in New York years ago, others have claimed to see random graffiti credited to Banksy's creativity. Often, people take random pictures of the work, only to find it gone in a few weeks. Other works remain, in part due to his ever-increasing popularity. One such work in New York City can be seen at the corner of Grand and Wooster. There is nothing like a rat wearing an I Love New York t-shirt while creating his own artwork in crayon. It is apparent from the painting that Banksy's rat doesn't have the same knack for artwork that his creator has! He even promoted his movie by tagging the dumbo section in Brooklyn NY with a cunning stencil work.

Banksy's art is now known through most of the civilized world. Canvas and framed prints of his work are showing up in homes and offices everywhere. However, experts suggest ensuring that the work is indeed approved and not merely copycat products.

About the only thing left to know about this graffiti modern artist is his true identity. Who is the true man behind the graffiti art? Until we find out, enjoying Banksy art in New York City and elsewhere will have to fill our ever inquisitive minds.