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Before and After: Banksy v. the Gray Ghost

If you read my roundup of alternative graffiti, you know about satiric, prolific, and pseudo-anonymous British graffiti artist Banksy, and also about Fred Radtke, the Gray Ghost, who has been painting over graffiti throughout New Orleans with gray paint since 1997. Although I lumped them both into one category of "alternative graffiti," the motivation behind it for the two is not the same. For Bansky, the medium is a venue for making political, cultural, and ethical statements, while Radtke considers his graywashing more of a public service, referred to as "Operation Clean Sweep." Not only do they differ in the end to their means, but Banksy actually recently took it upon himself to battle the Gray Ghost on his home turf. Above is an image of a wall in New Orleans, which was painted over in gray by Radtke, as it had been marked with graffiti. Banksy's caption reads:

I came to New Orleans to do battle with the Gray Ghost, a notorious vigilante who's been systematically painting over any graffiti he can find with the same shade of grey paint since 1997. Consequently he's done more damage to the culture of the city than any section five hurricane could ever hope to achieve.

To see Banksy's response to the Gray Ghost, stenciled on the same brick wall,


I must say, I agree with Banksy. If you consider graffiti an art form or a statement, isn't Radtke wiping out something of cultural and communicational value? If you consider it vandalism, isn't he eliminating a measure of the city's state of being and health? How can the issues related to vandalism be solved without evidence of the vandalism itself? If a home's exterior is white and it is splotched with gray, doesn't it still look tarnished? Tell me your thoughts!

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