Connoisseur Rat

When people think about street art, they probably think about Banksy and his crew of graffiti rapscallions – hooded figures scuffling under the cover of night. They hear the clinking of spray paint cans and delight in its chemical perfume. But there's a lot that's unglamorous. Though we live in a city that makes us expert in hopscotching over broken glass, garbage, and questionable puddles, we don't equate this reality with street art, even though we should. So when Xavier Prou, a Frenchman better known as Blek le Rat, a pioneer in the form, is finally recognized for 30 years of nose-to-piss service, we take notice. Without Prou, street art wouldn’t be half as popular. Prou has created serene, purposed images that, though transient, helped open visual art to the 99 percent. Prou was dubbed the “godfather of stencil art” because his revolutionary use of the tool encouraged easier, faster, and more precise duplication — a necessity given the not-so-legal nature of the form. Beyond innovation in method, Prou was an important influence in subject. His work examines disregard and consecration, conformity and individuality. It pushes the boundaries of street art beyond property damage into the realms of pop and contemporary art. In “60/30, New Work from Blek le Rat,” his largest show to date, the 60-year-old artist unveils a new, anthologized collection. The show corresponds to the release of a book documenting people, art, and events that have shaped the artist’s life — complete with private family photos, more than 200 images, and the usual stuff published when artists turn retrospective.
Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: Nov. 19. Continues through Jan. 7, 2011

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