In Miami, New Work from Hijack, the Street Artist Son of Mr. Brainwash
“Is Hijack the new Banksy?” asked the Huffington Post UK after Hijack’s London debut in 2013. One work in particular seemed to invite the comparison. It was a familiar-looking piece: stencil, spray paint, and oil on canvas, depicting a child holding a pail of sidewalk chalk and scrawling words, graffiti-style, onto a blank wall. In dripping red, the words spell out the painting’s title: You’re Never Too Young to Dream Big.
Certainly the style is reminiscent of Banksy’s. And there’s an unavoidable connection between the young artist and the subversive street art icon. Hijack—alter ego of Jacques Guetta (b. 1992)—is the son of Thierry Guetta, a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash, the French filmmaker-turned–street artist who was the subject of Banksy’s 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.
With connections like these, you might expect a youthful artist like Hijack to coast into the London gallery scene. But he built his practice as any street artist would: on the street. The streets of Los Angeles, to be precise, with its stretches of grit and glamour. At night, he’d head out with his tools, adding his stencils to some of the city’s most heavily trafficked areas, like Melrose Avenue and the hiking trails of Runyon Canyon.
Some of those stencils were short-lived, quickly covered up. Others were photographed by passersby and shared on social media. Their messages—grappling, Banksy-like, with themes of police authority, personal autonomy, conformity, and the status quo—resonated with a curious public. Those middle-of-the-night creations laid the groundwork for a blossoming career that has taken the artist to Guadalajara, Mexico, for a special joint exhibition with Mr. Brainwash in 2013, and onto solo shows in Paris and Japan in 2014.
This past week marked Hijack’s debut at Art Miami, where Contessa Gallery showed a selection of his works. Like the small but attention-grabbing stencils he put up around L.A., his newer paintings are bracing and vivid. Some have a graphic, illustration-like feel, as in Bubble Gum Girl (2016), while others, like the “Beating Heart” series (2016) on shattered glass, are loaded with meaning. And, at less than 25 years old, Hijack surely has plenty more in store.
Hijack’s work was on view at Contessa Gallery’s booth at Art Miami, Nov. 29–Dec. 4, 2016.