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Bansky: Pranksy

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If you’re digging Lauren Collins’s story on Banksy this week (plus the slide show), you’ll also like this tale of a westward journey in pursuit of Banksy, by my colleague James Gaddy. Who and what did he find? A few more images from the elusive trickster are within. We’ve had a recent run of Beatles heds.
Lost in the hoopla and media coverage was serious consideration of the graphic power of Banksy’s work. His early images showcased drawing and stencil-cutting prowess with an added edge: his seemingly effortless wit. Using an engaging trompe l’oeil technique, he created a range of visual puns—rats taking photos of pedestrians, policemen kissing, the Mona Lisa with a rocket launcher—and expanded on the stencil-graffiti syntax established by Blek Le Rat, softening the hard edge of the stencil with clever takes on clichéd images of war, government, religion, and art.

His vandalism also interacted with the city’s urban furniture on a visceral level: Rats spilled toxic fluid off the wall and into the street, policemen spray-painted their own graffiti on the walls, a diver appeared from a public fountain holding a drain plug. The style reflects its environment, says Tristan Manco, the Bristol-based author of the book Stencil Graffiti, by blending elements of official signage with those of punk bands like Crass, who used stencils to make their logo. The pranks were a natural outgrowth of his sense of humor as well: A mixture of meta-graffiti and wry social commentary, they were a pie in the face of stuffy elitism. Read on.

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