On a simple, beige, brick wall in the heart of the Upper West Side lies “Hammer Boy”, one of Banksy’s marks on the city. Specifically, “Hammer Boy” is on the outer wall of a DSW on 79th street and Broadway, one of the nicer areas of Manhattan. The fact that there is graffiti in an upper class part of the city could slightly take away from the pleasant atmosphere of the area, but Banksy’s piece is almost a classier type of graffiti, more closely resembling artwork than graffiti.
The piece was completed on October 24, 2013, and still stands today. The owner of the DSW that it is painted on placed a glass case on the painting to protect it and preserve it, further adding to its standing as an artwork rather than graffiti. Additionally, Banksy’s name and fame gives the painting justification as street art, elevating it from other graffiti.
Since Banksy never explained the intended meaning behind his works, everything that exists is pure speculation; it’s interesting that some of his artwork may not have a meaning at all, but only serve the purpose of aesthetic. In this piece a boy is holding a hammer, one that is similar to the high striker carnival game hammer. Once the viewer recognizes the hammer as the carnival game hammer, the pole extending upwards from the fire extinguisher becomes a part of the carnival game, in which the different “point levels” are the signs next to the pole which read “Siamese connection for the fire dept.” and “Sprinklers throughout building”. Banksy’s purpose could have been to take something ordinary, serious, and necessary and to make light of it, comparing it to a carnival game.
The piece is simply made from black paint, cast against a light, clean, beige wall. This contrast, as well as the clean, simple look of the painting, keeps the attention on what the painting is of and on its meaning. It resembles a shadow or a silhouette, which probably draws attention as people might glance quickly and think it is a real boy. This makes it readily visible.
Since technically, “Hammer Boy” is graffiti on a building, it’s not meant to last since it’s not even supposed to be there. However, someone putting a glass case around it shows that people want to preserve it as a piece of artwork rather than leave it as normal graffiti which normally either fades away over time, or gives way to more modern graffiti.
“Hammer Boy” adds character and art culture to a quiet part of the city, and its response has shown that it is more than welcome to stay.
By: Preeya Ninan