graffiti thoughts

so, there’s a lot of shit going around about banksy right now.

i’m just going to say here that i’m not a graffiti artist. i very much enjoy graffiti but i don’t make graffiti art and these are simply my personal thoughts as an outside perspective.

first of all, i don’t think that tagging and what banksy does are even in the same league. tagging is a specific statement. it takes space, it is a nonviolent way to fight the legality and oppression of the government. it breaks the law in an artistic way where nobody gets hurt. it’s used to claim territory, to immortalize, and to fight against the powers at be. in most cases, its freestyled. it takes hours. the graffiti community is tight knit and exercises a good amount of respect for one another. graffiti is seen by most as a blemish, strange words or names written fantastically on walls that don’t belong to the artist, without permission, and are often covered up by street cleaners because they depreciate business/real estate value.

i do not find banksy as a graffiti artist because he doesn’t do these things. he’s not a radical and he’s not some kind of political revolutionary. he’s not claiming space for the oppressed, he’s just trying to make a buck on a scene he probably thought was cool.

EDIT: this doesn’t mean banksy isnt a street artist. i was simply addressing the misconception that his work is “graffiti”. street artists, like banksy, usually use stencils and make statements about social policies, war, racism, etc. street art is usually more widely accepted as art. however i meant to make it more clear that i disagree with people who specifically think he is a graffiti artist and rereading this post i see i didn’t really have the intended effect due to poor wording.

this would be fine with me, if it wasn’t for the inexcusable tragedy that was the years leading up to King Robbo’s death.

this piece was painted by King Robbo in 1985. It was located under the London Transport Police Headquarters in Camden, London. this place was only accessible by water. when most of Robbo’s other works had been covered up, this one remained. for a while it was the oldest piece in London.

by 2009, the piece had gone the way most tags go, everything is transient and every space is fair game for more people to make their marks. this is the nature of graffiti, and to it King Robbo took no offense.

that year, Banksy painted this. It is a wall painter, removing the piece from the walls. he took the oldest piece of graffiti in london, which was no longer even just King Robbo’s, but an impromptu collaboration between many london graffiti artists, and he disrespected it. if it wasn’t enough that they were getting jailed while banksy was making millions for the same work, he disrespected them. he spit on them. he decided his statement was worth more than the oldest piece of graffiti in london and on top of that, THIS IS A STENCIL. he couldn’t even free-hand it! he decided his LITERAL cookie-cutter street art was more important that Robbo’s only surviving legacy.

EDIT: tumblr user sixtypizzas explained to me that this was supposed to be a wall painter putting up King Robbo’s piece, which is somehow more insulting to me. this is just my opinion and you’re welcome to draw your own conclusions but depicting somebody paste up King Robbo’s most famous work seems to cheapen it.

insulted, King Robbo replied. he was quoted saying  “I was at a place called the Dragon Bar on Old Street. I was introduced to a couple of guys who were like ‘whoa it’s nice to meet you!’. When I was introduced to Banksy, I went 'Oh yeah I’ve heard of you mate, how you doing?’ and he went 'well I’ve never heard of you’…he dismissed me as a nobody, as nothing. So with that I slapped him and went 'oh what you ain’t heard of me? you won’t forget me now will you?’ and with that he picked up his glasses and ran off.” obviously this was an insulting display to King Robbo, who had managed what most graffiti artists can never pull off, he had a timeless piece. he gained some fame, some notoriety. this piece, of all the pieces in london, banksy covered up with a stencil. EVEN SO, Robbo left banksy’s work, whereas banksy deliberately covered his up.

banksy replied. as you can see, very thought provoking. quite profound.

King Robbo corrected the piece.

at this point, an unknown third part covers the wall.

it wasn’t over, as this had become very personal for King Robbo. He painted this work. At this point, many other graffiti artists had already started tagging the streets with “TEAM ROBBO”.  many of banksy’s works were being tagged over, like he did to King Robbo’s, in an effort to send a message. Mainstream media called these “defacement” and “vandalism” of banksy Originals, where the travesty against King Robbo went mostly unnoticed outside london and the graffiti community.

as you can see, Team Robbo exploded, giving many of banksy’s pieces the same respect he gave King Robbo’s long-standing artwork. 

after being blacked out again, banksy painted this piece. the meaning is lost on me, if you know what it means, let me know. it’s strange and confusing.

EDIT: tumblr user inthebellyofaelephant explained the meaning of the piece as thus:  “The meaning about what bansky did with the weird living room mural is he is calling king robbo a fish out of water thus why a fish is jumping out of the bowl. Kinda saying that they are not I’m the same league in a very banksy style.”

this had gone on into 2011, when King Robbo fell into a coma. It was only 5 days before his exhibition, “Team Robbo - The Sellout Tour”. he unfortunately never got to attend his exhibition, and never again woke up. he died in july 2014.

banksy, supposedly making a memorial, made sure he got the last word:

RIP King Robbo.

  1. Banksy’s Changes to a Robbo Original, 2009
  2. The Original
  3. Robbo’s Retaliation 

“The elusive aerosol painter, [Banksy] has caused outrage by covering up a piece of graffiti that had remained untouched since it was painted in 1985.
Its creator, Robbo, a hugely respected graffiti artist, immediately retaliated by spraying his name over Banksy’s painting of a workman on a wall in North London.

Covering over someone else’s graffiti is seen as the ultimate mark of disrespect within the street art community.

Robbo, whose real name is unknown, promptly reclaimed his space and covered over the exposed part of the wall with a new painting declaring ‘King Robbo’ in 3ft high silver letters.” -Daily Mail

(images via 1, 2, 3)