Blek Le Rat
One of the godfathers of the European street art movement, Blek le Rat inspired hundreds of artists around the world with his stenciled style. He is frequently cited as a major influence of artists like Banksy and Space Invader, and through his work in Paris he established a style of urban art that quickly spread through Europe and eventually the United States.
Despite the enormous role he played in 1980s and 1990s street art, Blek le Rat kept a low profile through most of his career to avoid prison time, fines and public harassment. He struggled years before urban art was a somewhat acceptable genre, documenting his own works and trying to find ways to make a living as a professional artist. He set the stage for an artistic revolution through years of absolute obscurity.
It is difficult to mention Blek le Rat without mentioning Banksy, the faceless guerrilla art icon who has made a major impact on the mainstream art community with stenciled works of graffiti. Critics and street artists often note the similarities in Blek le Rat and Banksy’s respective styles. Blek certainly started creating street art before Banksy and is undoubtedly responsible for more major innovations in stenciled graffiti. However, Banksy is more well known for his confrontational style and creative staging, and many newcomers to the world of street art assume that le Rat copies Banksy’s style.