Much of contemporary art, as we had begun to notice, deals itself with new mediums and materials, not just new styles. The shift of focus toward popular culture did not end in the 1960s with the Pop Art movement. In the same way that Roy Lichenstein borrowed from comic books to create some of his most famous paintings, artists today blend mediums with cultural phenomena and challenge the community by daring to label their creations art. Some of these recent, controversial trends have gravitated closely to what could be considered pornography, while others border the limits of ethics and legality with other approaches. One such growing area is the street art genre, which consists largely of graffiti art and mural-making. In this field, one of the most culturally prominent figures today is the graffiti artist who goes by the name Banksy.
He insists on anonymity as part of his theatricality and overall statement to the public. Elusive and totally independent, he makes his own itinerary of locations and images to produce whenever he likes, and many of the walls on which he spray-paints have since been torn down and sold at art auctions for thousands, even millions, of dollars. This dive-bombing graffiti artist is, among other things, a political activist, author, and filmmaker—and yet no one claims to ever have seen him in the act of tagging buildings (or, at least, certainly his true identity has not been revealed).
This is still a touchy subject; is all of this legal? Banksy's graffiti art has frequently made a home for itself on public as well as privately owned property, and many critics of the artist's work have qualified this as vandalism. And, according to most state laws in the U.S. (and Banksy has not exclusively worked in the U.S.), by now the artist should have risen to the level of felon given how many murals he has produced without the consent of property owners. But what do you think; is this graffiti painter a criminal or an artist? Does his creative ingenuity validate his medium, or has his art gone too far?