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Banksy, conceptual art, graffiti, novels, The Trilogy of Remembrance, Sid Vicious, art, Marcel Duchamp

Sid Vicious, Banksy [courtesy of artsy.net]

I first published this post in October 2012 about the graffiti artist Banksy. The ideas raised by Banksy’s art caught my attention because they reminded me greatly of a those of a character, Rinaldo, the conceptual artist, found in The Trilogy of Remembrance. I’m just on the point of publishing the third novel in that trilogy, Night Crossing, where that character seems to be turning away from conceptual art. The question poses itself–what would make a conceptual artist turn–well–to representational painting?

Artists like Banksy [and Rinaldo] raise the question–what is art? Certainly, the granddaddy of conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp, set the art world on its head and inundated it with such questions. The image below “Bicycle Wheel” is one of Duchamp’s “found objects” presented to the world as art. While we may doubt that a bicycle wheel “chosen” by Duchamp is art, we cannot deny that he caused us to think hard about what quality a work must have in order to be considered art. In the early part of the twentieth century, the issue was fiercely debated.

Duchamp, Banksy, graffiti art, conceptual art, The Trilogy of Remembrance, novels, artists,

Bicycle Wheel, Duchamp courtesy of Artsy.net

Several days ago, I received an email from Fahad Jamal of artsy.net drawing my attention to the October 2012 post. He suggested I add the artsy website and the link to their Banksy page to my post, which I was very happy to do. While you visit this great site, take a look at all the ART– artists’ work of almost every conceivable “school”or genre. Something for everyone’s taste. If you enjoy having your preconceptions [whatever they may be] challenged by art, a visit to this site is well worth it   Artsy Home Page  and official Banksy page

But here’s that POST from October 2012

My friend, Marjolyn, was reading The Drawing Lesson when she received the following in the mail from Canadian painter Robert Genn. It captures his interaction with the audience at a speaking engagement. He has graciously given me permission to reproduce it here.

It’s entitled My state of confusion  August 3, 2010

Dear Marjolyn,  [Genn wrote recounting a talk he had given.] Robert Genn

[In the audience,] a tall, acerbic gentleman rustled a chocolate wrapper as he spoke. He had the full attention of the auditorium.

“”You don’t understand, Mr. Genn, Art is not about light and shade any more, or drawing, or composition, or little pictures of landscapes. That’s dead,” he said. “Art is now about shock and awe and protest and making a statement. The greatest artist living today is Banksy. Have you heard of Banksy, Mr. Genn?”

I allowed sufficient time so he might begin to think he had me. The audience sat nervously, as if an IED was about to go off. Then I said I knew Banksy’s work and had been following his career. Banksy, RInaldo, Art, street art, novels about artists, Rinaldo, Alexander Wainwright, The Trilogy of Remembrance, novels, suspense, mystery, literary. Michael Israel, art criticism.








“Who’s Banksy?” whispered a small woman in the front row.

Since the question was directed at me, and I was the one who had the mike, I told them Banksy is the guy who arrives quietly by night in various big cities and puts up fresh graffiti, generally in the form of life-sized stencils such as a valise-carrying businessman with a sign that says, “Will work for idiots.” Another of Banksy’s images is a stern policeman leading a muzzled dog that happens to be made of pink balloons.

The gentleman sat down, giving me the look of one prepared to take on new knowledge.

“Some property owners get upset when they arrive in the morning and see what’s been done to their wall,”

I said. “Some will have someone come and paint over the Banksy art. On the other hand, some Banksys are put under Plexi to protect them from defacement. Some are put under 24-hour paramilitary guard. One property owner reportedly took down his Banksyed wall and sold it to an art gallery for a couple of hundred grand.”

The audience was now noticeably squirming.

A guy said, “It’s bullshit.” He said it just loud enough for everyone to hear. Scattered laughter rippled.

“But is it art?” asked a girl in a yellow frock.

“The world of art,” I said, “is big enough for all flags to fly.” I decided to invite another mind into the discussion: “Andy Warhol said, ‘Art is anything you can get away with.'”

The acerbic gentleman stood to his feet. This was good, I thought. It would be nice to give him the last word on the subject.

“What you are encouraging these people to do,” he said, “is to get away with making crap.”

I’m sure there were some people who had to agree.

Best regards, Robert

P.S.: “Art! Who comprehends her? With whom can one consult concerning this great goddess?” (Ludwig van Beethoven) Esoterica: So much of the art that many of us like to make is “skilled” (for lack of a better word) art. For most, it’s difficult to do. Sure it can be done, but it’s difficult to do well. Skilled art may take a few years of private effort, studentship, technique development and maybe even apprenticeship. Shock and awe art takes imagination and courage. More Banksy

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