Exhibit Highlight: Banksy at Keszler Gallery
BY ALEXANDER ADLER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JUSTIN SUTCLIFFE
Robin Barton and Stephan Keszler in front of “Stop and Search”
|Banksy murals being installed at the old power plant in Southampton|
On August 20, Banksy, the pseudonymous Brit, was the talk of the East End as the subject of gallerist Stephan Keszler’s visionary exhibition of recontextualized, site-specific stencils and works on paper. The exhibition itself showcased some of Banksy’s most highly controversial graffiti, including “Wet Dog” (2007), originally installed on the West Bank. Riddled with bullet holes and other remnants of conflict, “Stop and Search” (2007) was salvaged from a butcher shop in Bethlehem and retains actual tiles en verso. Other pieces relocated from Brighton, London, New Orleans and Los Angeles filled the former Southampton power plant, integrating perfectly into the paintsplashed, exposed brick walls and raw concrete floors illuminated by industrial sconces. Artworks weighing up to several tons, including “Out of Bed Rat” (2006), were crowd favorites alongside the vintage prints also on display.
Known as one of England’s most notorious and elusive tricksters, Banksy’s highly politicized yet sweetly satirical work has popped up across the globe, from the streets of Brighton, where his “Kissing Coppers” made a splash, to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, auction rooms in New York and London and, finally, the silver screen, as part of the critically acclaimed Exit Through the Gift Shop.
Since the early ’80s, Banksy has utilized a stenciling technique—emphasizing that “efficiency is the key”—to wreak havoc on city walls throughout the UK, much to the dismay of authorities. The Westminster City Council went so far as to declare he “had no more right to paint graffiti than a child” and painted over a 2008 epigram, “One Nation Under CCTV.” Legality aside, the work has proved influential with its keen social awareness, reminiscent of Warholian discourse.
“Banksy’s work is very democratic, very smart and ironic yet accessible,” says Robin Barton, the proprietor of Bankrobber Gallery in London and who, alongside Keszler, assembled the six wall works featured in the show. “Children appreciate the aesthetics as much as grown men get the humor.”