I Fought The Law Banksy
I Fought the Law is an early Banksy screen print on wove paper that was released in 2004 by Pictures on Walls of London as an edition of just 150 I Fought The Law signed prints and 500 unsigned prints. Banksy also created 32 artist’s proofs, eight each of the four colours: orange, pink, yellow and red. I Fought the Law is based on actual video footage of John Hinckley’s 1981 failed assassination attempt on U.S. President Ronald Reagan and is a three-colour screen print depicting five black and white stencilled figures.
In a violent struggle, one man is being pinned down by three other men, whilst a fourth onlooker watches the scene from the right. The man on the ground has just dropped a paintbrush, with which he has just scrawled the words “I Fought The Law And I Won” in bright orange paint on the wall behind. The four characters on the left depict the members of President Reagan’s private security team tackling John Hinckley, a delusional schizophrenic who fired five bullets at President Reagan on 30 March 1981. But with true Banksy irony, the criminal in I Fought the Law is a graffiti artist, instead of a killer.
The text references the title of the song I Fought The Law (and The Law Won) by The Clash from 1979. A second instance of the British rock band’s influence on Banksy’s work can also be seen in his graffiti tag portraying a punk smashing an office chair, appropriating the cover artwork from their 1979 album, London Calling.
I Fought the Law is controversial and overtly anti-authoritarian, condemning the violence of the authorities and calling for acts of rebellion. It clearly suggests that Street Artists are considered to be serious criminals in the eyes of the law, and are treated as such. The artist arguably positions himself in place of Hinckley on the ground, substituting his firearm for a paintbrush.
In this way, I Fought the Law also resembles Banksy's Highway Man mural in London, which presents a knight like a Robin Hood character armed with simply a paintbrush.
With total disregard for authority, the very act of graffiti in itself defies the law. I Fought the Law is a powerful image that serves to remind us that freedom of speech in art is a powerful weapon in its own right, a message that continues to dominate Banksy’s artistic identity.