The art world took notice when Banksy began doing graffiti that did more than simply identify its creator — here was something new. But little in the art world is truly new, and you only had to scratch one of his stenciled figures to see he was following a trail that had been forged by a pioneering rodent, Blek le Rat. The original stencil revolutionary had been needling France since the '80s, first with rats that crawled out of the subway and took over the city, and then with figures like an old Irish fellow, Madonna and child, and Michelangelo’s David with an AK-47. For years he existed in the shadows, a street myth no one thought to investigate. But the rise of Banksy — as well as Banksy’s famous line, “Every time I think I’ve painted something original, I find out that Blek le Rat has done it as well, only 20 years earlier” — has lifted le Rat into a very public fame, complete with gallery shows. “Faces in the Mirror” features some of his legendary images next to more obscure work, like his Mona Lisa. It appears in conjunction with “Transitions” by the young stencil artist Above, who has agreed, thanks to the presence of le Rat, to his first show inside a building rather than on it. (Though, as with every big street-art show to arrive in the city, it’s best to keep one eye tuned to the cityscape for undocumented new work.)
May 1-June 5, 2010

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