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Bricksy: Unauthorized Underground Brick Street Art

friesen_bricksyLooking at the cover of Bricksy: Unauthorized Underground Brick Street Art (Skyhorse, August 2015), I wondered: why would anyone do this? Who would even think of doing this? What is the point of making a book dedicated to LEGO replicas of Banksy art, and why am I so glad that someone did? It’s such a bizarre pairing: the gritty, social commentary of street artist Banksy and the orderly, inherently goofy building blocks of our childhood are maybe the most different things that anyone could have thought to smash together. Happily, artist/author Jeff Friesen knows this, calling it a “madcap mash-up” in his introduction.

The adaptations are funny. They have to be, whether they like it or not — that’s just what LEGOs do, especially when they’re put right next to something so serious. And these two are literally put right next to each other, because at the bottom corner of each page is a thumbnail of the original Banksy artwork. One thing this does is prove just how much street art relies on the actual signs and structures around it to make the piece work. Banksy uses heaps of rubble, street signs, and the actual locations of the buildings he paints on to give his artwork context. Friesen doesn’t have this advantage, but he does a very clever job of fixing that problem. Most times, he doesn’t just adapt the art piece, but also imagines the chunk of London surrounding it. He creates his own context, and because of that creates his own art with its own message. He’s not trying to be Banksy — Banksy is just the inspiration.

The whole book comments on how bougie the street-art world has become. My favorite LEGO replica is of a piece that’s just a spray painted sign reading, “THIS WALL IS A DESIGNATED GRAFFITI AREA.” Friesen takes that idea and goes nuts with it. Sure, his adaptation has the sign “DESIGNATED GRAFFITI AREA,” but tacked onto the sign is a little bit more: “GALLERY HOURS OR BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.” The sign is hung up on the wall of a white, pristine LEGO building with a line of punks waiting outside. You can see inside the windows a little bit, just enough to see posh men looking at art that says “TO HECK WITH THE SYSTEM.” A little on the nose? Maybe…but then so is Banksy.

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