The Great Los Angeles Brainwash

There was a rumor going around the Mr Brainwash private preview in Hollywood last night that the whole thing was, in fact, a hoax.
"Someone told me this is all a big joke," said my informant in hushed tones. "We're all being filmed, and then in a week they'll reveal that Mr Brainwash isn't who he says he is, and everyone will know just how stupid L.A. is for falling for it."
This was whispered to me as I hovered around a graffiti'd urinal, à la Duchamp, just one of many jarringly literal interpretations on display in the former CBS studio on Sunset Blvd.
Whatever the truth, Mr Brainwash is definitely real, at least: he's Thierry Guetta, a French filmmaker who became so obsessed with the street artists he was filming, he decided to become one himself, wheat-pasting stretches of L.A.'s La Brea corridor with black and white Banksy-style stencils.
And if Guetta is indeed out to insult test L.A.'s intelligence, then he's doing an audacious job of it—in this super-sized solo show, his first ever, Mr Brainwash manages to rip off pretty much every important artist of the last 500 years. The DuChamp urinal, the Van Gogh self portrait and a whole series of Warhol Marilyns, all tweaked, ad-busted and given the Brainwash treatment. (The only thing he hasn't re-worked, as far as I could tell, was the Mona Lisa.)
But that's not to say there weren't any original ideas inside this cavern of re-purposed greatness.
His larger installations were, for example, very striking--former editing bays filled with books and taped off, graffiti'd with the words "not finish"; a dog sculpture made from old telephones; a 15 feet high take-out bag, complete with receipt taped to the side; and a 30 foot high robot built entirely from (working) vintage TVs. "Look, that's totally L.A.," said a friend, pointing to a cage filled with film reels and car tires. She was right.
I asked Roger Gastman, publisher of street art magazine "Swindle", whether he thought the Mr Brainwash thing was an elaborate J.T. Leroy-esque hoax. "Um, no, I don't think so," he shrugged. "I mean, he exists. He's outside right now, riding a tricycle with a cast on his leg."
The next morning I asked Shepard Fairey, arguably the best-known graffiti artist in America, his thoughts on the conspiracy theory. "He's not a hoaxer," said Fairey. "He is, however, crazy."
Go see for yourselves.
Mr Brainwash, "Life Is Beautiful", opens today, June 18th at 7pm at 6121 W Sunset Blvd @ El Centro, Hollywood, CA, 90028.