Fuck Art, Let’s Art: Hanksy On Pop Culture Satire and New York’s Street Art Heavyweights
They say good things come to those who wait. Just shy of a week since street artist on the rise, Hanksy’s secret art show took place in an abandoned building on the lower east side of Manhattan, Mass Appeal gives you a first-hand encounter of the experience.
Hanksy introduces me to one of the participating artist’s by the name of “Wretched Beast.” Before I can trip over my own words, he beats me to it, anxiously expressing his excitement around Hanksy’s concept. “It’s one of those things you think happens, it’s like one of those movies about New York; there’s a party or a rave or some shit, or you hear about it happening in the ’80s and you’re like, ‘I wish I was around for that,’ and then here it actually is.”
I ask Hanksy about a reoccurring theme I notice on his Instagram and now throughout the building, this phrase, “Surplus Candy.” Like his work, Hanksy is armed with a clever and humorous response, “I mean the joke is, first of all, there are a bunch of artists, and candy’s so sweet, and I fucking love it [Laughs] and I always eat it, and before I know it, it’s gone. Just like this, it’s transitory. One night, and one night only, you’re either in the know, or you’re not. And that’s it.”
Hanksy gets pulled away by a friend for a moment, so I continue to wander. I am fixated on the only sculpture work in the show by 2013 New York Academy of Art fellow Nicholas Holiber. A guy is standing next to me, also fixated. Hanksy appears next to us. He stays just long enough to introduce the guy next to me as “Alex from Vice,” then disappears again. Alex volunteers he’s there “just kind of supporting the art movement going back to the Lower East Side.” I think he thinks I’m going to ask him for a job, so I quickly turn the conversation back to the subject we both are there for, Hanksy.
I ask Alex what he thinks of Hanksy and his work. “I mean, it makes me laugh every time. It’s so funny. I love the uproar that he causes, I love the hate that he gets. I love the hate that he gets almost as much as he loves the hate that he gets.” That makes me laugh and want to ask Alex a million more questions, so I follow him back down the terrifyingly unsafe staircase to the second floor.
We spot Hanksy. He’s in the center of the same room where our interview began, talking with, well more nodding and grinning awkwardly with a tall, fast-talking guy with his backpack slung over one arm, who looks vaguely familiar. The man is Bucky Turco. A writer of compelling pieces for Complex, Village Voice, Gawker, and more, and editor of New York based cultural digest, Animal. He’s apologizing to Hanksy, I think. His words are just shy of a yell, then again maybe he’s just really excited to be there? I walk up next to them and introduce myself.
I ask him what his thoughts on Hanksy are. “Well, like I was telling Hanksy, we’ve [Animal] kind of been mean about, kind of like this whole crop of like the Patrick Waldo’s of the world, ya know, the Hanksy’s, we always thought it was kind of corny. Of course, when you meet the person, and you kind of see what they’re about, I think it sometimes changes your perception, and I don’t know how comfortable I feel with that, because, right, you get a lot of that, ‘Oh, he might not be a great artist, but he’s a really nice guy.’ Um, but it is fucking humorous. He knows how to get press and he plays off of in the moment things. And I think he did a really good job curating this exhibit, you don’t get to walk through an abandoned building all the time and see art.”
And he’s right, to an extent. But Hanksy is different. He gets it. Bucky is still talking to me, but all I can think about is my favorite Warhol quote:
“The pop artists did images that anybody walking down Broadway could recognize in a split second — comics, picnic tables, men’s trousers, celebrities, shower curtains, refrigerators, Coke bottles. All the great modern things that the Abstract Expressionists tried not to notice at all.”
Except in the social media obsessed world of 2014, pretending not to notice is no longer an option.