Friday, June 29, 2007

Lower East Side, June 2007

James asked me yesterday about the so-called Splasher. Here’s the story.

The Splasher - whether a person or group of people - has been destroying street art in New York. They hurl and splatter paint all over the piece and post a sort of collegiate, nonsensical manifesto next to it about the commercialization of art. This has been going on for several months now, with the attacks coming in waves.

The Splasher seems to target big, prominent pieces - like the work of Banksy, which they demolished, and Obey (Shepard Fairey), above.

Needless to say, this pisses people off.

Some have argued that by splattering street art the Splasher is creating his own artistic statement. But I don’t buy it. I’m not sure wanton destruction of someone else’s art can really be called art in itself. Was it art when that crazy guy threw acid on the Mona Lisa years ago?

Lately, the Splasher has been getting media attention - this article in yesterday’s New York Times and a recent piece in New York magazine. As the Times article explains, he may have just been caught. But that won’t stop copycat splashings and other mischief, so no one’s really sure what will happen from this point on.

Still, keep your fingers crossed that the Splasher’s splashing has come to a halt.


  1. Thank you for the explanation. I was reading the article more shocked that the perpetrators of the street art were named in the paper, and praised no less. Now I think their work is quite talented, but, forgive me for being old fashioned, isn't it all just graffiti? How is it termed a mural so that Angelina Jolie can purchase it?
    This is what I just don't understand about large street art. It's obviously very talented but the large pieces must take a good deal of time, unlike the stencil work, or the usual stylistic nonsense bubble calligraphy (term unknown) on subways....does the street artist come to an arrangement with the owner of the building/wall in advance?
    How is he not caught himself during these long paint'd take me a week just to chicken scratch a person half the size...

    The article mentioned the art as part of gentrification...and then showed the splasher in button down and slacks! What type of hipster wars are going down here? Very confused.
    Again, thanks for the post, this has been quite illuminating.

  2. Is the splasher an artist? Well least he/she/they are newsmakers, meriting articles in the Times and on your blog. I'm somewhat of the same mind as James. I like a clean, plain wall any day over street art, unless it's really good street art. Banksy is awesome, as was the late great Keith Haring, Basquiat and others.

    In a way, street art is like blogging - a democratic forum in which to self-express. But no one can get on someone else's blog to throw paint on the posts. It's an interesting dilemma. Thank you for writing about it.

  3. This pisses me off too. I am at a loss to understand how someone can wantonly deface someone's art.

    I guess I understand, but don't condone, defacing something to make a political statement, if that something is somehow relevant to the cause. This is just malicious vandalism.

  4. James: There's a difference between illegal street art and a legal mural, which is painted with a property owner's approval. Street art goes up with no one's permission and generally has to be done pretty quickly. Even large pieces like the Obey on this wall can be pasted up pretty fast. Carefully detailed painted murals, meanwhile, are another matter and are usually legal (and even paid for!).

    The only street artist I know of who's been publicly named in Splasher articles is Shepard Fairey. Most of the others use their street names. There's still a veil of secrecy over many identities - very few people know who Banksy really is, for example.

    Is it all just graffiti? Well, sure. But I think it really livens up the streets and makes the city a heck of a lot more interesting.

  5. again, thank you for that.

  6. thanks for the links. we were just talking about the very beginnings of keith harring, and how later people cut chunks out of walls to get his art.

    i love grafitti in all forms, it tells a story.

  7. yes, i love it too - though i agree with james that its hard to draw lines (haha) and distinguish what is/isn't - when its so much a matter of personal self-expression and subjective appreciation

    blahdiblah, its too early for thinking so much.....

    thanks tho, this is really interesting