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I Smell a BLEK LE RAT!

Werdz by Trina Calderon / Shots by Jennifer Jasso

Something you may not know about graffiti is that many of the images being stenciled on the streets today were inspired by a French artist known as Blek Le Rat. He started his street statements in Paris in 1981. Ten years prior, he visited New York and saw the graf that most of us grew up with. Despite the influence that art had on him – the defiance, the politics, the urban canvas – he made a departure for his own style. Instead of tagging up his name, he stenciled images of small rats all over the streets of Paris. “…because rats are the only wild living animals in cities and only rats will survive when the human race will have disappeared and died out.�?

Blek Le RatBlek Le Rat

Twenty-seven years later, he is having his first ever solo show in the US. I asked him why it took so long and he told me that because his art is illegal it does not get that kind of attention, and that because of the successes of artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey and their support, his work is now able to be shown at this level.

After the rats, his stencils took a larger size and his first life size figure was taken from a photograph of an old Irish man in Belfast, Ireland. The man was confronting English soldiers in the street while they were trying to fire at members of the IRA. This man is probably the most well used image by Blek, he has been seen in many different countries. Blek’s image bank is stocked, and some you may have seen are the Russian Soldier, the man screaming, the woman and the child, Frances Mitterand (past President of France), Princess Di, the sheep, Florence Aubenas, or even Jesus Christ. I asked Blek where he got the sheep image from and he told me that in France, out in the country there are many abandoned castles that are filled with sheep. He visited one in particular - Le chateau de Sybille – and said the sheep inspired him to create the stencil and that the image is filled with many meanings. Depending on where in the world and what type of setting they are found in, his stencils can take on so many different definitions. His art is a catalyst for thought to those who dare to look.

Blek Le Rat Blek Le Rat

The title of the show – Art is Not Peace but War – fits. Graffiti artists put themselves at risk to express their opinion and to make a visual message that is bold enough to break into the consciousness of the passerby, the local, and the other graf artist on the street. Blek’s images have evolved into direct social messages to stir people up and hopefully incite change in our world. The world we commonly share – the world that Florence Aubenas lives in too. She is a Belgian journalist who was writing for a French newspaper and was kidnapped in Iraq in 2005. Blek posted her image all over Paris to remind and challenge politicians and aid her release. His art is a war on thinking and an attack on non-thinking too. His still images on the street are absolutely moving for the mind.

Subliminal Projects has its home in Studio Number One, the Shepard Fairey offices and studio, which resides in a historic building down the hill from Dodgers Stadium in Echo Park. The gallery space is cool and Blek’s show is a selection of large and small scale stencils on canvas, photographs of his stencils in various cities around the globe, collage silkscreens, and a fence installation that he and Shepard hit up on – bringing a bit of the street indoors. This is a show not to be missed – it is for the urban art lover, but is also important for those who want to be exposed to contemporary art that inspires change.

Blek Le Rat Photobucket


BLEK LE RAT                                               
First US Solo Show
On Exhibition:
April 5th - May 2nd, 2008
1331 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
E: info@subliminalprojects.com
P. 213.213.0078
F. 213.213.0077

Blek Le Rat

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