Exhibition: (R)Evolution of Urban Art, Warrington Museum and Art Gallery, Warrington, November 21 2009 – March 2010
For a show which has persuaded Banksy to star among a graffiti yard's worth of urban artists, it's not a huge surprise to find the role of the subversive underdog providing the recurrent characteristic of (R)Evolution.
The crew take to their theme relentlessly and unselfconsciously. Ron English proffers the student bedroom bluster that "advertising is vandalism, subvertising is art", Gavin Turk revisits the style of Andy Warhol and Adam Neate is too cool to even come up with a suitably right-on thesis ("I don't feel words will add any benefit towards helping a picture hang on a wall.")
Banksy's screenprint of supermodel Kate Moss sold for £96,000 at auction last year
Blek le Rat, the reclusive Parisian "Godfather of stencil", is probably the show's greatest coup, largely because of the influence he's had on his fellow participants.
The 50-something-year-old remains chiefly concerned with the streets where he invented the life-size stencil 20 years ago, depicting an impoverished infant in the city suburbs.
"Our society reacts to people who smoke but not to a child who is begging," he suggests. "A child begging in the cities embodies the apogee of the unbearable."
Le Rat has been credited with inventing stencilling
Le Rat likens Banksy to a son, and his Bristol protégé admits his surrogate French father has consistently forced him to rethink his ideas.
"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," he wrote in his biography.
The Gallery admits the show (above) is something of a coup for Warrington
Le Rat puts his work in hallowed company. "Banksy's Christ is different to mine, and mine is different to Dali's and so on," he muses, discussing Jesus Shopping, Banksy's juxtaposition of seasonal gluttony and religious magnitude in this exhibition.
"Nowadays we wear a t-shirt emblazoned with the image of Guevara instead of being revolutionaries ourselves, and we justify the commercial excesses of Christmas with the image of Christ," reckons Banksy, who's added his 2008 screenprint of Kate Moss and multinational take on children fleeing the Vietnam war to the roster here.
"We don't need any more heroes, we just need someone to take out the recycling."
(Above) Lorraine Robbins focuses on Venus, the Roman Goddess of love, beauty and fertility
He's not the only one with holy designs. English has made Last Supper, asking whether the Passion scene would use corporate mascots as "the new deities" if it was held today, inspired by the idea of adding a McDonald's to the moonlit countryside in Van Gogh's 1889 Starry Night painting.
(Above) More than a dozen artists are taking part
Neate uses layered card, aerosols, acrylic, gloss paints and marker pens in The Tea Drinker, Lorraine Robbins presents a bleach-blonde Roman Goddess of love, beauty and fertility as Venus rises imperiously from the shore, and Candice Tripp elongates limbs and contorts figures in Drop Kick ("someone bigger than you who will derive pleasure from kicking you around.")
(Above) Interviews secured by the Gallery with some of the artists will be on display
Swoon, the New York street artist and wheatpaste specialist, documents social struggle in rural Mexico via the strength of women battling for their right to earn a living while being paid pennies to sew footballs, Sam Taylor-Wood blurs the line between appearance and reality by suspending herself in mid-air for self-portraits, and David Choe gives Edward Hopper's famous Nighthawks painting a modern twist.
(Above) (R)Evolution opens at the Gallery tomorrow (November 21)
Elsewhere there are paintings by José Parlá, pop art pieces by Faile, "face studies" by Antony Micallef and work by Brian Adams Douglas.
There will also be a chance to read exclusive interviews carried out by the Gallery with some of the artists.