Blek le Rat is a pioneer of street art, whose innovative spirit paved the way for all subsequent street artists who have, and continue to, follow in his path.The rise of street art has been seen internationally, gaining a fame and importance that many of its first followers could have never expected. Cities all over the world (San Francisco, New York, Melbourne, Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, Beijing and many, many more) are happy hosts to its vibrant and dynamic appeal. Thirty years ago, when Blek le Rat first started to paint his local streets, this was certainly not the case. Unaware of the eventual prominence his style would gain and motivated by the idea of using art to spread ideas of social consciousness, Blek’s first major move was the flooding of Paris with his signature piece, the silhouette of a rat. These vermin spread from the subways of the Périphérique to alleyways of Montmartre and could be seen all throughout the city and soon thereafter, in surrounding cities as well. The travelling plague was a warning and also a call to awareness- rats are one of the last wild animals that thrive in the city, and even though they may not be seen rest assured- the city is filled with them. “It is about uprising, a signal of rebellion. It's our revolution," Blek once explained in an interview.
Blek recognized the great ability of street art to address the populace in ways other art could not. Through stencils often centered on social observation, Blek involved his viewers in a guerrilla war against complacency and conformity, highlighting the strength of the individual and inspiring a reflection upon the status quo. The guerrilla art we are familiar with now has much to thank Blek le Rat for, a point driven home with impact when looking at the work of notorious British-graffiti artist Banksy, whose style is not only based on that of Blek but whose subject matter (including soldiers, rebels and even rats taking over the streets) is inarguably influenced by Blek as well.
Born Xavier Prou in 1951, Prou lives in Paris.