Anti-Establishment Graffiti: America’s Answer to Banksy?

Graffiti is nothing new in the United States or indeed other parts of the world.  While much of it involves senseless scribbles, some graffiti is more creative in nature, blurring the distinction between art and vandalism.  Here’s one stenciled depiction in Washington, D.C. that brings to mind the work of Banksy in the UK.  But who’s the culprit?

The spray painted image shows what looks like an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) beneath the caption “Extrajudicial”, meaning beyond the action or authority of a court.  (A Predator UAV is shown below.)  The image appeared on Easter Sunday on a billboard in Rosslyn, Virginia, immediately adjacent to the Key Bridge stretching from Arlington to Washington, D.C.

Image via U.S. Navy

The Predator image brings to mind the controversial work of British graffiti artist Banksy, who is loved and vilified in seemingly equal measure.  New graffiti is added to this particular billboard on a regular basis.  Interestingly, this 2005 article in the DCist suggests its use is not a new phenomenon.

Previous Washington, D.C. Graffiti

Images by Ben Schumin

(Image (left) licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 GenericImage (right) licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

The DCist article poses the question, “Who is Borf?”, a name some say refers to a specific individual while others maintain is a collective.  Borf is said to have been a graffiti campaign in and around Washington, D.C. during 2004 and 2005.  The images above portray Borf seemingly at odds with both sides of the political establishment, or vice versa, according to the artist.  The image below shows the “Borf head”, a stenciled visage that appeared all over the capital.

Image by Michael Shields

Assuming the work of Borf – whoever or whatever Borf might be – quietened down after 2005, does the return to this reported old-Borf-haunt at a Virginia billboard suggest a copycat artist is on the loose?  Who knows, but the more artistic nature of the design (and its apparent subsertiveness) reminds us of the work of Banksy.  The question, however, remains: who is reponsible?

Banksy’s Graffiti

(All images in public domain.  Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

These graffitied depictions show a tiny amount of the mysterious Banksy’s work throughout the UK.  To this day, the enigmatic graffiti artist’s identity has not been revealed, although he has said:

I am unable to comment on who may or may not be Banksy, but anyone described as being ‘good at drawing’ doesn’t sound like Banksy to me.

His real name has been reported as Robert or Robin Banks, while in 2008 and 2009, the Mail on Sunday claimed it to be Robert Gunningham.  Reuters recently reported that Banksy-style graffiti had also hit the streets of Kabul.  The mystery continues, as does the art!  Check out this great article from WebUrbanist.

Related Article: Reverse Graffiti: Environmentally Friendly Urban Spray Art


About the author: Tom





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