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BY WICKHAM BOYLE | The most unyippified street in the currently very ungritty Tribeca, is Staple St. A scant three-block North-South street running between buildings with barely enough room for a massive modern SUV to squeeze through, and demarcated by a covered pedestrian bridge formerly used as a connector between hospital buildings in days gone by. The street has been a sort of erstwhile graffiti gallery attracting figurative drawing, bubble words and colorful murals, which morph graciously or are covered angrily. As of Monday night Oct. 14, the super star of street art, Banksy, installed an homage to Sept. 11th.
At the mid-point on Staple St., on the north wall just below Jay St., there is a small painting of the Twin Towers in scratchy black adorned with a fall toned actual chrysanthemum. See Banksy’s own picture on instagram, showing the work as it was at the get-go http://instagram.com/p/ffjgFuK-3z/) By Tuesday morning the street and the art installation had become a sort of mecca and the crowds swelled and swished throughout the night and back into daylight.
For those you don’t follow the trends in street art, Banksy is the pseudonym for an England-based graffiti artist, painter, writer and film director, (Exit Through The Gift Shop and The Antics Roadshow). His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humor with graffiti done in a distinctive stenciling and spray paint technique. Banksy’s works are often annotated, or readorned by other artists or defaced and ripped down for their high resale value. For instance the work on Staple Staple St. was quickly marked in hot pink with the words “It’s an Inside Job.” Banksy has managed to add to his considerable cachet by never being photographed or identified other than by his artistic moniker.
Banksy is giving New Yorkers an al fresco serial art show that he is calling Better Out Than In and it features works in the Lower East Side, Red Hook, Brooklyn, drawings sold in Central Park and sites still to be revealed. According to Bucky Turco the founder of a blog site called Animal New York , “The aftermath to this graffiti is as interesting as the drawing itself. I’m here to cover what happens after the image goes up.” And it seems as if there were many Downtowners who were doing exactly that, snapping pictures and sharing a public art event.
Ozzie Ramos who lives nearby was showing the work to his daughter Nicky, 9 and son, Andy 7. Andy mentioned that he thought it was, “ Cool the way he used so much black paint and then put a flower where the bomb burst.” Nicky said that “This kind of art makes people notice and pay attention to things that so many people don’t see.” It was heartening to this reporter to see that for a younger crowd public art, street art, holds a power that is perhaps ignored in museums, thus bolstering the argument for its importance in the lexicon.
The crowd on a Tuesday evening, assisted by balmy temperatures and crepuscular light seemed buoyant and excited. Tim Birnbaum a young sartorially exacting lawyer said, “I may not know much about art, but I know Banksy and I like him.” stopped by on his way home from work. Other folks brought dogs, artsy friends from Uptown and older visitors to gawk and gossip.
In the end most viewers agree that the value of public art is that is provides something beyond its intrinsic value. According to Joe Carini, of Carini Lang Carpets, a store around the corner from the site, “For me the real art was in how it affected people. There were hundreds of people that had a sense of community and reverence and maybe it is the subject matter that turned this small piece of art into a poignant little hiku.” Carni is curating a show in April 2014 called Back Against The Wall, a collection of 20 different street artists’ work envisioned in carpets, hand-woven in Nepal. “Street art is important because it provokes you, it makes you think, it’s in your face and multitudes of people can experience it. Banksy is a poetic, political and whimsical master at the medium. He is a sign of the individual against the system.”
Unfortunately the piece was spray-painted over Thursday night — such is the ephemeral nature of street art. Already the magenta INSIDE JOB has been covered over and long time artist and denizen of Downtown Robert Janz’ “Bull Men” may not last long. This is a work that is changing and evolving right before our very eyes, like the neighborhood, our children, ourselves.