Rising street artist tags Philly

VINNY VELLA / DAILY NEWS STAFF Hanksy, a New York street artist, painted this nod to Philly's own Will Smith in Northern Liberties.
VINNY VELLA / DAILY NEWS STAFF Hanksy, a New York street artist, painted this nod to Philly's own Will Smith in Northern Liberties.
Posted: July 14, 2014

AN ENIGMATIC Brooklynite spent Thursday night painting Will Smith's face next to a taco on a wall in Northern Liberties.

Pictures of "The Fresh Prince of Taco Bel-Air" went viral on social media almost instantly - another success for the street artist who calls himself Hanksy.

"Philly was a toss-up. It was either going to be 'Boy Meets World' or 'Fresh Prince'-oriented; Big Willy won out I guess," Hanksy told the Daily News.

No, that's not a typo. The 30-year-old draws inspiration from the famous British artist and activist.

"I owe Banksy everything," he said. "He is the king, and I am just the silly fart-joke infused jester."

Whereas Banksy makes bold political statements, his similarly named counterpart, whose popularity has waxed tremendously since his start in 2011, focuses on tongue-in-cheek jokes about pop culture.

His other work includes a grizzly bear with the head of Stephen Colbert and a stairwell portrait of Macaulay Culkin that reads "Stairway to Kevin," as in McCallister, Culkin's character in the "Home Alone" movies.

"I describe my style as glorified notebook doodles blown up to a larger-than-life scale," he said. "It's immature and trivial, but I have a lot of fun with it."

Hanksy, the subject of a recent New York Times profile, stopped through the City of Brotherly Love as part of a summerlong jaunt through the country's major cities that he's using to document artists for an upcoming video project. Next up are Chicago and Austin, Texas, he said.

In addition to the "Taco" piece, Hanksy painted a few caricatures of actor Tom Hanks (his calling card) in South Philly and signed a discarded mattress with "under penalty of law, this tag not to be removed."

His brief stint in Philly set Twitter and Instagram ablaze, with his devoted fans following his every move.

"A lot of people have a message for their art, a reason to stand out," said Lee Thompson, a University of the Arts student. "He's just doing it because it makes him happy. He's doing it for the hell of it."

Thompson spent Thursday night, the night of his 22nd birthday, trying (unsuccessfully) to chase down and meet his artistic idol, stringing together clues using Hanksy's teasing posts on Instagram.

"I'm very proud he chose to come to Philly," Thompson said. "We love him here."


On Twitter: @Vellastrations

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