A cocktail-drinking Mickey Mouse and pyromaniac Charlie Brown have cropped up on Hollywood's walls and billboards. Banksy, Britain's best-loved — and most notorious — street artist, is thought to be behind these works, lurking somewhere in Los Angeles, in anticipation of this weekend's Academy Awards ceremony at which his film "Exit through the Gift Shop" is a contender in the best documentary category.[content:shareblock]
Coming on the heels of Tate Modern's blockbuster 2008 "Street Art" show — which had the likes of Faile, Blu, and JR taking over the museum's façade to create monumental works — and the staggering prices that "Street Art" (or, rather, its derivative products) now commands at auction, Banksy's nomination is another sign that what was once a subversive, guerrilla practice has fully entered the mainstream. His every maneuver is scrutinized by tabloids, and as we speak, the man from Bristol is trying to convince the Oscar authorities that a mask is a perfectly acceptable ceremony outfit — as if that would save him from the curse of being overexposed.[link:view-slideshow]
But not every UK street artist is quite so well-known. The same graffiti scene that produced the Banksy phenomenon is also cradle to hundreds of other worthy figures. So, in the spirit of introducing the vast public that has been turned on to street art by "Exit Through the Gift Shop" and its Oscar buzz to some of the brighter lights of this scene, here is ARTINFO UK's shortlist of figures to watch. And the nominees are...[content:advertisement-center]
Born in 1970 in Sidcup, U.K.
For his magnum opus "Alphabet Street" in London's Shoreditch, Eine convinced 26 Middlesex Street shop owners to let him spray-paint their shutters with a colorful letter, turning the dull greyness of closed shop windows into an over-sized learning book. Eine's letterings have appeared all over London but also in Paris, Stockholm, and Tokyo. Sometimes letters stand alone, sometimes they self-reflexively spell words like "exciting," "scary," or "vandalism" — Eine's art is both formal and brainy. President Obama himself may agree: Prime minister David Cameron gave him an Eine work recently to radicalize the White House's art collection.
Born in 1971 in South East England
Paul Insect hit the headlines in 2007 when Damien Hirst bought his entire show at Lazarides Gallery the day before it opened. Then again, these were sculptures of gold bars made to look as if bites had been taken out of them — fun but not exactly radical. Like most street artists, it's outdoors that Paul Insect is at his best. His moody baby faces, foreheads cracked open to reveal abstracted maps or the grim reaper, are always exciting to come across — particularly when they replace a kid's head in a "be careful school nearby" street sign.
Born in Northern England
Before moving to London a few years ago, Sickboy had, like Banksy before him, been a mainstay of the Bristol scene — and he was tipped as one of the most bankable street artists as soon as he reached the capital. A "Save the Youth" tag and the repeated image of a yellow-and-gold bulb-domed temple are his signatures, but most of his compositions are far more complex. Sickboy's 3D depictions of robot-like, cut-up humanoids give a frantic, dark twist to his source materials, which range from early cartoons to Roald Dahl's whimsical "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Sickboy also made a splash by protesting the commercialization of street art by dropping an installation featuring a caged heart outside Tate London.
Born circa 1978 in London, U.K
A former illustrator who has taken his magic markers to the streets, D*Face has described his stickers and stencils as "a Pandora's box of bittersweet delights — sweet and sugary on the surface, but with an unfamiliar, uncomfortable taste beneath." Some samples of his memorable street graphics: a dog peeing D*Face's signature, a corporate-looking globe inscribed with the motto "going nowhere fast," or an Oscar statue melting away to show off its bloody flesh and bones. (He also, incidentally, did the cover art for Christina Aguilera's "Bionic" album.)
Born in 1979 in Devon, U.K.
When so much street art is about spectacular effects, Slinkachu has chosen to go the other way. Since 2006, he has set up miniature scenes of tiny figures in the streets of the capital and elsewhere. Recent interventions comprise a Lilliputian woman pulling a kid on a sleigh across a snow of white road markings, minuscule pin-ups paddling in a beer bottle top, or a skater riding an orange peel. For "Inner City Snail" — described as "a slow moving street art project" — Slinkachu adorned the shell of a few London snails with graffiti-like paintings. Small is the new big.
Click on the slide show at the left to see images of work by Eine, Insect, Sickboy, D*Face, and Slinkachu.