Each day in October, the street artist Banksy will unveil a piece in his New York City-wide installation, “Better Out Than In.” His colloquial title pairs nicely with his often wry critique of the ordinary and the expected. The quippish title also toys with that linguistic meeting of the popular and the fringe: if Britons excuse themselves with “better out than in,” graffiti artists “throw up” their works. In a perfectly inappropriate pun, Banksy’s title claims both cliche and subculture. And self-referentially gestures towards Banky’s fondness for subjects that spew the unexpected.
Like so many New Yorkers now chasing after Banksy, I’m a fan. As a San Diegan, I’d long smiled at Shepard Fairey’s Andre the Giant “Obey” stickers. But street art caught more than my eye when I saw it played out in a theatre: I fell for graffiti via playwright Oliver Mayer’s “The Road To L.A.,” which stages a contemporary tagger’s interactions with the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueros, who appears in the play as a contemporary – and still relevant – artist. After the play, I paid more attention to San Diego’s street art. I pilgrimaged to Mexico City to see Siqueiros’s work. I get what Mayer means about public art being at once a youthful immediacy and a legacy. Continue reading