Blek le Rat: Grandfather of Stencilled Graffiti
Blek le Rat is the pioneer of stenciled graffiti art. Not wanting to imitate common American graffiti, he took his own take on the matter and started stencilling black rats all over the streets of Paris in 1981.
His images are sometimes recreations of paintings and photos, other times they are replications of already existing people (a president, a soldier, Tom Waits, Andy Warhol). Stencils of self-portraits, couples dancing, sheep, robots, Jesus, astronauts, Mona Lisa, the list goes on.
Now known as the Grandfather behind this particular type of graffiti, Blek continues to spray his paint in order to bring art to the people-walkers of the streets. Wikipedia tells me that his main motivation is ‘social consciousness’, which is vague, but relatively interesting when one stops to think about what we relate to graffiti art: social deviants, youth, mohawks, messy tags, big bright colors with very little ‘staying inside the lines’. These are the types of associations tied into city graffiti. So when someone comes along and decides to shake things up a bit by giving us not only a very particular image to look at, but a rather realistic one at that, the mind does go in and try to rearrange our stereotypes to slide this art style into a labeled slot. Which, really, is the foundation to any truly life-altering art.