Thursday, May 31, 2007

More Splasher

A lengthy piece in New York magazine this week about the Splasher, mentioned earlier here. Here's the set-up:

"Here at the beginning, then, why don’t we just lay out the mystery, the so-called facts, as plain as we can make them. In the fall, some anonymous figure started vandalizing the city’s most celebrated vandalism—by which I mean not traditional seventies-style spray-paint graffiti but a relatively new, gentrified outgrowth of that tradition that’s come to be called 'street art': multimedia works of astonishing polish and complexity and beauty, often created by artists without a 'street' bone in their bodies. Many went to art school and have grown-up jobs and lucrative gallery careers and are terrified of the cops and traditional graffiti crews. Over the past ten years, as street art has become big business—upscale art shows in London and Tokyo, advertising contracts, waves of positive media coverage, blogfuls of groupies—it’s generated exactly the kind of internal backlash you’d expect in a subculture conceived of as guerrilla warfare against consumer culture. The Splasher epitomizes this backlash. In the middle of the night, about six months ago, this vandalism vandal started hitting the scene’s most acclaimed masterpieces, works that might have gone for $10,000 or $20,000 or $30,000 in a gallery, with big sloppy splashes of housepaint—teal, white, purple, yellow, electric blue. Beneath the splash he—or she, or they, or (who knows?) us—would leave a manifesto ranting, in Marxist jargon, about commodification and fetishization and the author’s intention of 'euthanizing your bourgeois fad.' From November to March, the splashes arrived in bursts, busy weeks interspersed with long fallow periods. By the end of the campaign, observers counted nearly a hundred of them."

The story does note the "blinding irony" that "no matter how artful the best street art inarguably is, it’s still illegal—so the Splasher was only vandalizing vandalism." You can see some examples of the Splasher's work alongside the article.