Street Artist Hanksy Talks Fairy Dust, Grilled Lamb, and Graffiti

Hanksy took a break from setting up his pop-up graffiti art show to discuss life’s most pressing questions

Hansky would like you to know that he does not take himself too seriously.

The New York-based street artist is famous for creating pieces that spoof the art and celebrity world, and he became Internet-famous in 2011 after posting an image of Banksy’s rat superimposed with Tom Hanks’ head (a piece from which he also took his street name).

But Hanksy’s career is definitely not a joke. That first image, thrown up on a wall in Manhattan at the corner of Mulberry and Kenmare, was posted to the Wooster Collective and went viral. Real art world fame followed almost immediately; Hanksy has since sold out gallery shows, made fistfuls of money off his work, and even met Tom Hanks in person.

This weekend, Hanksy is showing up in Los Angeles. On Saturday afternoon, he’s putting up a one-day-only graffiti art installation at an abandoned mansion in West Adams. The show is called Surplus Candy and features dozens of street artists and muralists, including Look At and MDMN, Craola, MDMN, Steiner, and Annie Preece. It’s the second show in the Surplus Candy series; in February of 2014, Hanksy et al took over an abandoned brownstone in New York’s East Village.

The satirist-cum-graffiti-artist took some time out to talk to us about grilled lamb, fairy dust, and baby aspirin. Oh—and also the point of his work.

Your work is more theoretical than technical. How does that fit in Los Angeles, especially given the city’s long and storied (and contentious) relationship with street art?
My work tends to not pierce the surface very much at all. It’s very topical, and while it might slap you in the face, the pain is relieved quite quickly. Nothing a baby aspirin won’t cure.

We reached out to Tom Hanks for comment, but sadly, he declined. You met him in 2013, though—did he say anything about your work that resonated?
Not quite. Unfortunately/fortunately I brought along my Greek friend, and probably due to Tom being Grecian by-way-of marriage, the two ended up jabbing about Mykonos and grilled lamb. Better off, I supposed. I probably would’ve stumbled over my words and simply ended up spitting the rap from Big.

A lot of your work is L.A. or Hollywood-inspired; you’ve spoofed celebrities like Seth Rogen and Miley Cyrus as well as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. But you also reference West Coast rap pretty consistently: Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, Snoop, Eazy-E and Tupac. Is that deliberate? 
Pop-culture and all the shitty fairy dust that came with it had a massive impact on me growing up. I was a very impressionable kid. I wanted to be a Battletoad decked out in floor to toe L.A. Raiders. Also rap is hip. It’s also quite hop.

Why did you pick the neighborhood that you did (West Adams) to have this show? 
For the majority of those who conduct not-quite-legal activities, their surroundings impacts action. I’m not quite sure if the house chose me or if I chose the house. But it’s basically The Money Pit IRL.

Other very high-profile artists have spoofed the art world; most famously, Andy Warhol. What would you say to a comparison to him or someone like him?
Sometimes the finger needs to be pointed back. Everybody doesn’t have to be so damn serious all the time.

You have a pretty wide variety of artists represented in this show, from Look At and MDMN, to Steiner, Craola, and Annie Preece. Were you looking for anything in particular in the artists, or just casting as wide a net as possible?
In my mind it’s the best way to represent the artists who are actively putting art in the streets. We’re not simply showcasing the top tier. On any given wall you’ll see veterans painting alongside newcomers. Surplus Candy isn’t about the artists who sit atop the scene. It’s about those who make up the scene.

Where are you headed next with Surplus Candy?
The artists are donating both their time and money to participate. I had friends fly in on their own dime. It’d be nice to take it international, but damn does it get expensive. What I need is someone to come in and invest a bunch of money with a zero percent chance of return. “Yeah. And for monkeys to fly out of my butt.” -Wayne Campbell from Wayne’s World (1992).

Surplus Candy will take place at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 10, at 2200 S. Harvard Street, 90018