Mr. Brainwash, the pseudonym of French filmmaker and street pop artist Thierry Guetta, rose to international fame after his feature in the 2010 Bansksy-directed film Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary profiling popular contemporary graffiti artists. Conspiracies that he himself was Banksy, or that he was a fictional character invented by Bansky as performance art, have since surrounded his persona. Nonetheless, the 1966-born artist has continued his career with great success, and he is known for his prints and street art that amalgamate historic pop visuals and modern cultural iconography.
Using techniques of screen printing and stencilling, he evokes urban graffiti imagery and inserts past and contemporary idols (Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Mohammed Ali etc) into his dynamic aesthetic. He also gives art historical figures a modern twist, with one work displaying the Mona Lisa standing in front of a graffitied wall holding a Jeff Koon’s balloon doll sculpture. His vibrant palette, juxtaposition of past and present, and crude humour has garnered him mainstream success. He signs all his works with his thumbprint and the phrase “Life is Beautiful” and assigns each of his works with a distinct dollar bill number sequence as his unique form of authentication.
His raw, textured, and splattered application of paint has been described as gestural and fearless, and just as with pop figures such as Andy Warhol, his persona is equally a part of his oeuvre. While the authenticity of his work as well as his personality have been debated, it is clear that his compositions aim to be witty and optimistic, even if a bit unrefined. His bold and unapologetic approach has led him to navigate the worlds of fine art, celebrity, music and sports.