Hyped Hypotheses about Mr. Brainwash

While it appears Mr. Brainwash, aka Thierry Guetta, became a success overnight, it didn’t exactly happen as such. Thierry began with Pop art in 1982-1993, before switching to filming street art.[i] He exploded on the art scene in 2008 with the release of the Banksy documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop. The premise of the documentary is Banksy turning the cameras on Thierry, making him an overnight art success.[ii] This marked the beginning of Mr. Brainwash as a full-fledged artist, with the opening of his first show titled appropriately, Life is Beautiful. Ads for the exhibition included a quote from Banksy calling Mr. Brainwash as “a force of nature… and I don’t mean that in a good way.”[iii]

Exit Through the Giftshop’s audience continues to be baffled. Is Mr. Brainwash for real? Is Banksy actually Mr. Brainwash? Is Shephard Fairey both Banksy and MBW (Mr. Brainwash)? Looking past the hype surrounding the hypotheses, it becomes clear that MBW is, in all fairness, creating art. Whether or not people like it is of little concern to him, and he intends to continue.[iv] It really doesn’t matter who is behind the MBW moniker. If they really are all one person, then this would be a trick pulled by the music industry, to generate both sales and interest. Rap artist Kool Keith even went as far as publicly killing off his first alias, Dr. Octagon, because he wasn’t receiving enough of the profits from record sales, due to what was probably a poor contract.

The style of Mr. Brainwash borrows from Pop artists also known for appropriation, such as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koonz, Richard Prince, and Sherrie Levine.[v] What he also has in common with them is being sued for violation of copyright protection (all but Prince were sued).[vi] Photographer Glen E. Friedman, friend of Shepard Fairey, sued Thierry Guetta for misuse of his well-known image of rap group Run DMC.[vii] Thierry Guetta was not victorious in pleading fair use of the image.[viii] Here’s what UK street artist Ben Eine has to say on the subject, “Street art is a culture of taking other works of art; appropriation feeds underground culture.”[ix]

The Mr. Brainwash Icons exhibit in New York, 2010 depicts people who followed their dreams and were successful in doing so.[x] These music legends are immortalized in mostly black and white portraits, adorned with pieces of broken records. Mr. Brainwash literally composed his images of the artists who have inspired him [to believe anything is possible] out of the tangible form of their own art, vinyl records. He is a visual remix artist of sorts and plans to continue the Icons exhibit series.[xi]

Mr. Brainwash’s art has caused uproar among the art community, exposing some of the darker underbelly of the culture. He tends to be plagued with an “Is that art?” reaction from many viewers. This is due, in part, to a majority of his work being appropriation-based. Perception is what you (the viewer) have to bring to a piece of work. Most artists are looking for a reaction, good or bad. Despite the strong reaction MBW is receiving, he seems to not be pushing any buttons with his work. Everything he puts out is somewhat safe and capable of being accepted by the masses. Pop art is like that, where the artist wants (almost) everyone to relate to it. To take an optimistic approach to the posed question, yes, directing art is still art. Actually, being an ‘Art Director’ could be considered one of the most coveted jobs in art out there, and that is exactly what MBW is.

Mr. Brainwash works with a close-knit team on his gallery installation projects and stresses that the work could not be possible any other way.[xii] Mr. Brainwash was commissioned for the cover art of Madonna’s Celebration Greatest Hits album.[xiii] He also completed twenty related works for press of Madonna’s release.[xiv] Thierry admittedly has a graphic design team that works under his direction, as well.[xv] While Thierry may be the man with the plan, it takes a lot of individuals to make big, bold art; such as is Mr. Brainwash, and his message. He makes promoting positivity the number one goal, and focuses on art for all ages.[xvi]

Mr. Brainwash has a theory which goes something like this. “Everyone has a diamond inside; it just needs to be polished. Believing in your self is like polishing the diamond, and so is practicing art. Eventually, the more you believe, and the more you polish, the diamond is going to shine… so bright that people will come to you to see the light.”[xvii]

It is clear that Mr. Brainwash confidently believes in himself. The large scale of his projects wouldn’t be possible otherwise. This kind of self love and awareness is what makes for success. The encouragement he provides for his audience is something that can’t be learned in any art school. Thierry did not receive any formal education in art, but his message is one of the most effective in the business. Life is beautiful, it’s true. However, if you don’t think so, then it may possibly be time to change your perception. Mr. Brainwash has a fantastic way of making people question themselves, and what they believe about art, popular culture, and the media. There are few celebrities who make anyone wonder ‘Are they really who they say they are?’ and even fewer who can cause people to ponder messages of positivity… It is time for society to take the MBW message to heart and create. Even if you think it is crap, still do it. The power lies in the process of creation, and MBW calls that aspect the polishing. So, in the words of Pink Floyd, go ahead and ‘shine on you crazy diamond.’

[i] Rebecca McQuigg Rigal, “Everything Has Meaning: A Q&A with Mr. Brainwash,” Good Worldwide, LLC., (April 20, 2010), http://good.is/post/everything-has-meaning-a-q-a-with-mr-brainwash/ (accessed March 30, 2012).

[ii] Michael Cuffe, “Mr. Brainwash Exposed – a review of his 2011 Art Basel Miami Beach exhibition – photos and review by Michael Cuffe for Warholian,” Warholian, (December 12, 2011), http://warholian.com/2011/12/12/mr-brainwash-exposed/ (accessed March 30, 2012).

[iii] Candace Jackson and Lauren A.E. Schuker, “Mr. Brainwash: For Real?: The street artist, friend and film cohort of graffiti artist Banksy is a master of enigma,” The Wall Street Journal, (February 12, 2010), http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704140104575057350802155846.html?KEYWORDS=mr+brainwash#printMode (accessed March 30, 2012).

[iv] Rebecca McQuigg Rigal, “Everything Has Meaning: A Q&A with Mr. Brainwash,” Good Worldwide, LLC., (April 20, 2010), http://good.is/post/everything-has-meaning-a-q-a-with-mr-brainwash/ (accessed March 30, 2012).

[v] Anny Shaw, “Street artist Mr Brainwash sued over “copied” image,” The Art Newspaper, Issue 222, (March 9, 2011), http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Street-artist-Mr-Brainwash-sued-over-copied-image/23237 (accessed March 30, 2012).

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Sean Bonner, “Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash sued for copyright infringement over Run DMC image,” Boing Boing, (January 26, 2011), http://boingboing.net/2011/1/26/thierry-guetta-aka-m.html#previouspost (accessed March 30, 2012).

[viii] David Ng, “Street artist Thierry Guetta faces copyright infringement suit,” Los Angeles Times, (March 10, 2011), http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/03/street-artist-thierry-guetta-sued-for-copyright-infringement.html (accessed March 30, 2012).

[ix] Anny Shaw, “Street artist Mr Brainwash sued over “copied” image,” The Art Newspaper, Issue 222, (March 9, 2011), http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Street-artist-Mr-Brainwash-sued-over-copied-image/23237 (accessed March 30, 2012).

[x] Sean Bonner, “Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash sued for copyright infringement over Run DMC image,” Boing Boing, (January 26, 2011), http://boingboing.net/2011/1/26/thierry-guetta-aka-m.html#previouspost (accessed March 30, 2012).

[xi] Rebecca McQuigg Rigal, “Everything Has Meaning: A Q&A with Mr. Brainwash,” Good Worldwide, LLC., (April 20, 2010), http://good.is/post/everything-has-meaning-a-q-a-with-mr-brainwash/ (accessed March 30, 2012).

[xii] A Day in the Life: Mr. Brainwash, Hulu Exclusive Series, Documentary, 2012, http://www.hulu.com/watch/280249/a-day-in-the-life-mr-brainwash#s-p2-so-i0, (accessed April 17, 2012).

[xiii] Candace Jackson and Lauren A.E. Schuker, “Mr. Brainwash: For Real?: The street artist, friend and film cohort of graffiti artist Banksy is a master of enigma,” The Wall Street Journal, (February 12, 2010), http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704140104575057350802155846.html?KEYWORDS=mr+brainwash#printMode (accessed March 30, 2012).

[xiv] Wikipedia, “Mr. Brainwash,” Last modified March 16, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Brainwash (accessed March 30, 2012).

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Jennifer Hadley, “Life is Beautiful,” Bunker Hill, The Magazine for Downtown Los Angeles, (May 2010), http://www.bunkerhillmagazine.com/features/05-2010/mrbrainwash_01.htm (accessed March 30, 2012).

[xvii] A Day in the Life: Mr. Brainwash, Hulu Exclusive Series, Documentary, 2012, http://www.hulu.com/watch/280249/a-day-in-the-life-mr-brainwash#s-p2-so-i0, (accessed April 17, 2012).

Bibliography

1. A Day in the Life: Mr. Brainwash. Hulu Exclusive Series, Documentary (2012): http://www.hulu.com/watch/280249/a-day-in-the-life-mr-brainwash#s-p2-so-i0, (accessed April 17, 2012)
2. Bonner, Sean. “Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash sued for copyright infringement over Run DMC image.” Boing Boing (January 26, 2011): http://boingboing.net/2011/1/26/thierry-guetta-aka-m.html#previouspost (accessed March 30, 2012).
3. Cuffe, Michael. “Mr. Brainwash Exposed – a review of his 2011 Art Basel Miami Beach exhibition – photos and review by Michael Cuffe for Warholian.” Warholian (December 12, 2011): http://warholian.com/2011/12/12/mr-brainwash-exposed/ (accessed March 30, 2012).
4. Hadley, Jennifer. “Life is Beautiful.” Bunker Hill, The Magazine for Downtown Los Angeles(May 2010): http://www.bunkerhillmagazine.com/features/05-2010/mrbrainwash_01.htm (accessed March 30, 2012).
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7. Ng, David. “Street artist Thierry Guetta faces copyright infringement suit.” Los Angeles Times (March 10, 2011): http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/03/street-artist-thierry-guetta-sued-for-copyright-infringement.html (accessed March 30, 2012).
8. Shaw, Anny. “Street artist Mr Brainwash sued over “copied” image.” The Art Newspaper, Issue 222 (March 9, 2011): http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Street-artist-Mr-Brainwash-sued-over-copied-image/23237 (accessed March 30, 2012).
9. Wikipedia. “Mr. Brainwash.” Last modified March 16, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Brainwash (accessed March 30, 2012).