Deconstructing the Art and Allure of Hanksy

Posted on: November 6th, 2014 at 10:22 am by
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Hanksy, Hanksy, Hanksy! The clever street artist is becoming a household name faster than Ferrell cats can make kittens. His pun-driven campaign, built on the facades of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and beyond, have engaged the ardent, the ambivalent, and the annoyed passerby. His increased popularity is applaudable and undeniable – what was once shooting the shit with a cool street artist has now become a pretty significant talking point for the creative pundits of the city. It’s also become fodder for a new web series called “Surplus Candy,” which was recently acquired by The Hundreds.

Yet with a newfound glory also comes a bucket of questions. How are we, the ubiquitous public, to respond to such a phenom, one who has derived such volatile outcries? Will society accept such mockery? Can he survive the backlash from his adversaries?

There is one certainty, and it’s this: Hanksy’s name will inevitably come up at a party, and you’re going to need to figure out your position. We can help. May we present a subjective breakdown to mull over…

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[Photo: Jared Soule]Aesthetical Allure
A Hanksy wheatpaste is a fine balance of cartoon, cleverness, and color.  His body of work is a delicate animal, though often appears in the supernatural, robotic, or mythical form.

The colors speak to a wide audience, capturing bright glitzy hues of celebrity, while the more subdued pastels introduce a palette widely acceptable to the masses. His thoughtfully crafted caricatures aren’t all that intrusive to the public eye; rather, they beckon to join in the reindeer games.

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Intellectual Appeal

Hanksy is humble, often self-deprecating in his acknowledgement of bad puns (is any pun really a bad pun?), and the wit behind his creations is usually two-fold. His risky depiction of celebrities shape-shifting into what can best be classified as their “spirit animal” is a pioneering vision. Sure, we can all rag on actors’ twitter accounts or read US Weekly, but it takes a stroke of genius from a creative madman to breathe life into a facet of culture often overlooked and over-saturated with meaningless labels. A Hanksy is a thoughtful wisecrack suspended in time. His double-entendres capitalize on namesakes and pop culture – an appeal that is seemingly universal. To fully appreciate his levity, one must stutter their step on the street and allow it to truly sink in.

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Social Involvement

Hanksy is shrouded in anonymity – his identity has sparked much speculation from media outlets. People claim to know who he is, but people also claim that Shakespeare was just one guy, and that Elvis is dead. He has to be covert, does he not? His moniker and masked face are obviously attributed in part to the infamously secretive Banksy, who took over our streets last October. Hanksy’s not above the law, so he’s probably not going to divulge anything… unless you want to date him.

His identity may be isolated from the public, but his pieces are becoming well known throughout the country. He’s even being taught in schools! He’s often likened to a real-world version of an internet meme, but the comparison shortchanges his uniqueness; we’ve yet to come across any wannabes who can pull off this level of hilarity on the streets.

 

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Commercial Success

Hanksy’s current limelight is hotly debated: is he caving by participating in exhibits at the Krause Gallery? Is he too brazen in publicly announcing and hosting an indoor graf party in a tenement being demo’ed ? Should we blame him for capitalizing on Banksy’s NYC moment, by drawing national attention in a lengthy segment on The Colbert Report? Is it his fault that a Ben and Jerry’s flavor has been built around his name? Should we be crying “sell out!” because his snowballing success landed him a feature piece in the Sunday Metro section of the NYT?

The answer to all of the above is no. Street art is, of course, a form of rebellion; a way of visually damning the man, saving the empire. But the bottom line is no artist in their right mind would (or should) pass on opportunities to spread their passion through as many outlets as possible. Besides, pushing his work through non-traditional graffiti circuits is a risk in and of itself. In the gallery realm, he risks his identity and faces criticism up front. Hanksy primarily maintains an outdoor campaign, and hasn’t yet censored his creative expression. He’s also smart enough to know how to engage our social media driven society, with references to celebrity, cult television and films, mockery, bad jokes. Why not use that to your advantage if you have the creative capacity to expound on it?

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[Photo: @peterkaramitas]Conclusion

Hanksy is like your favorite indie band that is going to hit it big in the mainstream. You keep telling your friends “just watch: this music is going to be all over the radio in a few months,” and then it is. You undoubtedly love the tunes, and you’re certainly happy that the band has achieved a measure of success for their art. That being said, there will always be a little part of you that wishes it was an artist to which you still felt privy.

Hanksy, keep up the good work.

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