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STREET ART WARS

STREET ART WARS

Splasher_3 The Vandalism Vandal:  Who’s been splashing the city’s most prized graffiti? The hunt for the radical, young—and possibly lovelorn—conceptual-Marxist street-art supervillain.

By Sam Anderson

I. MEDITATIONS ON A STREET-ART SKIRMISH:
Graff beef! Fetishized commodities! Counterrevolutionary fucktards!

The first good look I got at one of the Splasher’s actual splashes was at a place called the Candy Factory, an abandoned brick wall at the south end of Soho that’s become, over a couple of generations, one of the most important nodes of illegal art in the city—a shabby outdoor Louvre of wheatpasted posters, stencils, and stickers squeezed between a construction zone and a parking lot. The view changes almost daily: Its prime spots are probably fifteen layers thick. On the day I went, at the center of the mess stood a Technicolor poster of an anthropomorphic pickle-shaped rainbow; above him, there was a portrait of a little Swiss-looking girl innocently playing a flute. And above her, in the upper right corner of the wall, was a sad, frowning candy corn, looking even sadder because someone had flung white paint over its face—a ragged spray that covered one cheek and part of his nose. Near the splash was a poster-size manifesto, partially torn, apparently declaring the candy corn’s crimes against humanity. It was titled AVANT-GARDE: ADVANCE SCOUTS FOR CAPITAL, and it read, in part:

REVOLUTIONARY CREATIVITY DOES NOT SHOCK OR ENTERTAIN THE BOURGEOISIE, IT DESTROYS THEM. OUR STRUGGLE CANNOT BE HUNG ON WALLS. DESTROY THE MUSEUMS, IN THE STREETS AND EVERYWHERE.

The manifesto ended with a warning: THE REMOVAL OF THIS DOCUMENT COULD RESULT IN INJURY, AS WE HAVE MIXED THE WHEATPASTE WITH TINY SHARDS OF GLASS.

So began my tortuous descent into the curious case of the Splasher—a scandal that had gripped the city’s underground art scene for months. It was a tricky case, with triple-crossed motives, riddles nested in mysteries, and loops of self-devouring irony linked together in a gigantic chain stretching clear across the city, from the most expensive Soho boutiques to the Williamsburg waterfront to the industrial streets of Bushwick. Everyone was a suspect: cops, ex-students, anarchists, petty vandals, corporate marketing execs, self-made kings of the underground art scene, even some of the victims themselves.

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