Street art has long been considered an established art form since the hip-hop crews of Philadelphia and New York turned graffiti into an elaborate language encrypted with a unique range of styles. Its uncompromising and radical ethos has attracted clusters of followers and fervent supporters throughout the world. This international movement is led by individuals whose chief achievement has been the ability to gain international notoriety whilst bypassing the traditionally accepted themes established by bureaucracy and art institutions such as galleries and museums. Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat may have been the first to jump the curb into the gallery but their ability to transcend the graphic power of the art they learned on the streets and subways onto canvas has been followed by artists such as Banksy. A prolific British graffiti artist, political activist and painter, Banksy combines dark humor with graffiti done in a distinctive stenciling technique. His works of political and social commentary have been wildly dispersed on streets, walls and bridges of cities throughout the world. Much of what is stimulating about Banksy's output is its spontaneous, ephemeral and cryptic nature. In 2005 at a 12-day exhibition in Westbourne Grove, London, Banksy produced subverted paintings; one example is Monet's Water Lily Pond showing urban detritus such as litter and a shopping trolley floating in its reflective waters. Another salient work is Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, redrawn to show that the characters are looking at a British football hooligan, dressed only in his Union Flag underpants, who has just thrown an object through the glass window of the cafe. Not surprisingly, these works have stirred up attention and discussion around the world as the artist attempts to re-connect with the outside world by disavowing traditionally accepted themes, mediums and messages and creating a new voice in art that speaks directly to his generation.
Similar to his American predecessors, Banksy's satirical, anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-establishment passages cut through the mainstream culture whilst bridging the gap between the street and the traditional art space. One of the main elements of Banksy's style is its powerful and animated visual rendering. The artist was also deeply committed to depicting the satirical side of contemporary life, and his vision in the present work is amusing but also apocalyptic. Rendered in Banksy's distinctive combination of spraypainted stencils and printed text, Protect from All Elements is a highly charged image exhibiting a perfect rendering of the anti-war and anti-capitalist ethos which remains constant in the artist's oeuvre. The central figure of the elephant seems to have turned lethargic as a missile hovers over its back. By depicting an elephant carrying a missile with precarious wording stamped along the upper and lower edges, Protect from All Elements translates the artist's empathy of the elephant's unavoidable predicament into a compelling reality. Using uncompromising subject matter conveyed through the clandestine artist's iconic duo of images and text, Protect from All Elements retains a startling graphic immediacy which is critically balanced between personal expressionism and environmental activism.