subvertising refers to the practice of making parodies of recognizable advertising imagery by creating an illusion of recognition only to be followed by the realization that one has been duped. it relies on cognitive dissonance as an effective tool for promoting critical thought. by altering already existing billboards or even purchasing space for subverts, adbusters act towards creating a more media and corporate literate world.
much of the world’s artwork can be read through political glasses. as of late, and increasing number of artists have taken a keen interest in the marketing industry and many refer to corporate efforts in their politically inclined works. the true subvertising pomo artist is the anonymous high culture appreciated graffiti ninja, like the uk’s own banksy whose satirical artwork is a mixture of naturalistic painting, graffiti and political commentary. he’s smuggled and hung his art in notable galleries, but is perhaps best known for painting the israeli west bank barrier with ladders and children digging through the wall. banksy’s identity is unknown although speculations are vast.
while banksy uses publicly owned ”canvas” for his expression, there are other artists who target advertising, but differ from your average graffito by their explicit political commentary. new york city has "poster boy". he’s the graffiti adbuster who transforms subway advertizing into political commentary. while remaining anonymous for years, he was arrested two weeks ago for vandalism and his identity is still up for question.
another way to comment on advertising and current affairs without risking being sued for destruction of public property is to work the insights into more traditional artwork. hank willis thomas makes compelling images which comment on the use of racial images in advertizing, especially the presentation of the african-american male body.
his two series b®anded and unbranded explore the imagery of commercialization and americans of african descent. giving 'corporate slave' a whole new meaning, willis uses a familiar language for us all, advertising, to talk about race and the historical pains of modern america and has exhibited his work in spaces reserved for adverts.
banksy’s artwork can be purchased at no cost from his online store. poster boy’s flickr page holds his artwork which obviously gets cleaned promptly -- sometimes even while he’s still working on them. hank willis thomas is currently showing at jack shainman gallery in nyc.