All image rights reserved to Thierry Guetta (AKA Mr. Brainwash) or their respective owner.
“Mr. Brainwash is an enigma. I want to hug him one second and smack him the next. He is awesome, infuriating, almost impossible to define, but if an artist is defined by relentless, obsessive passion, then MBW is definitely an artist. Which kind of artist though?” – Shepard Fairey
To conclude Ballista Magazine’s first themed GRAFFITI WEEK, we will feature one of the most controversial street artists in recent history, Thierry Guetta (a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash). This 44-year old Frenchmen began his street art career as a videographer for the recently-released mockumentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop. The cousin of famed street artist Invader, Guetta was the fortunate beneficiary of a slew of incredible contacts within the underground art world. After spending eight years documenting these maestros of alleys and underpasses, Thierry was encouraged (by Banksy, no less) to pursue his new-found passion for graffiti as a practicing artist.
Guetta is the artistic equivalent of an iconoclast, destroying politically and/or culturally significant icons and removing their perceived meaning; however, the meaning instilled throughout this seemingly destructive process re-enlivens the bastardized icon into an arguably enlightened product. Andy Warhol was the pioneer of implanting meaning into meaningless items and Mr. Brainwash undoubtedly followed suit; the difference is that Mr. Brainwash is almost returning the newly-meaningful back into their meaningless state. There is a great deal of debate over whether Mr. Brainwash’s artwork warrants the acclaim it has received, but we at Ballista Magazine are still on the fence about the matter. The graphics are visually-jarring and seem signicant, but it can be argued that the products are regurgitations of previous art.
If you were to mix nitroglycerine, Banksy, Warhol, sawdust, and a touch of insanity, the resulting pop-art explosion would be Mr. Brainwash. These overtly obvious references to his predecessors warrant skepticism regarding whether or not his artistic identity is a hoax, but he has seemed to fool the majority of the commercial art world. As posited by the film (which may or may not be a legitimate source), MBW’s work has become some of the most sought-after work among distinguished private collectors. According to his film (Exit Through the Gift Shop), his opening show “Life Is Beautiful” cleared over $1.0 million in sales in the first week and the success was such that his show was extended for 2-1/2 additional months.
In any case, Thierry (as Mr. Brainwash) has become wildly successful despite the public’s uncertainty of his identity and talent. We encourage you to give us your verdict after checking out his portfolio of work on his website by posting your opinions on the comment board. We at Ballista are just as unsure, but his meteoric rise to stardom is worthy of discussion nonetheless. Make sure to check out MBW’s Facebook and Twitter accounts as well! Have a great weekend, fans!