Guilty as charged; up until I read about him in Juxtapoz magazine (Somewhere early 2007, it was a cloudy day), I had never heard of this guy who -more recently-helped Obama to become US president. Which is both a bit strange (since his imagery was already very familiar to me) as to be expected; street artists generally don’t sign with their name, address and phone number, for obvious reasons. I am guessing that still most of you will never have heard of him either (even though his works have been added to the collections of, for example, MOMA and the Smithsonian), but there’s quite a good change you have seen his work somewhere. Actually, if you have never seen a sticker of André the Giant (‘Obey Giant’ to avoid confusion with the WWF legend) or any other ‘Obey’ signed work before, you must have been living on the moon.
The Obey sticker campaign can be seen as an Phenomenology experiment, Phenomenology being “the process of letting things manifest themselves. Ever since Shepard first drew the Obey Giant (While attending the Rhode Island School of Design, he was teaching a friend how to make a stencil and saw André the giant’s face in the paper. His friend said something like “no way, that’s stupid” to which Shepard replied with “What are you talking about? André’s posse is the new shit.” The rest is history.) the estimate that over a million stickers with his image have been produced. The bulk of these can be found on walls and in toilets around the globe. The stickers can be ordered through his website and so you can easily become a part of this still emerging André the Giant craze.
Even though the Obey Giant may be his most known claim to fame, in my humble opinion, it is nowhere near his best work. In the works he does now you can still clearly see that it’s made by a king of streetart. On the streets an image gets very little time indeed to make an impression, it has to grab you in a second. That’s just what his works do, they grab you straight away, lure you in and then.. erm… ‘sprinkle you eyes and imagination with visual magic. Even though the works can now be viewed and bought in respected art galleries, you may still find them on the streets around the world, put there by Fairey himself. The works seem to be made to get a message, or a worldview across, not merely to be pleasing. The fact that they’re beautiful to look at it is just a plus.
Taking the streets online
As can be expected, Shepard works a lot with aerosols and stencils. The way he then limits himself in the use of colours and still get a lot of visual power is intimidating. His works show depth, urgency and intelligence, which is something a lot of other ‘gallery artists’ unfortunately miss. If you want to see Shepard’s works; go outside. If you want to buy some to be able to look at it ll the time, early 2008 he’ll open up his own gallery in LA. If that’s a bit too far; he sells new works online every week and you can also get you Obey Giant sticker there. Start posting!
(never over other people’s work though, it’s against his street ethos….)
More Fairey on Flickr
Can’t get enough of Shepard’s works? There’s a whole lot of them on this Flickr page…
An interview with Shephard Fairey I appreciated can be found though this link, even though I have to take points off for the title (‘still obeying after all these years‘ Ouch!). And, in all honesty, I am not too taken with mr. Fairey’s reply on why he -apparently- works for so many big corporations. The interviewer ushered him towards an easy, but unsatisfying, way out by asking him specifically if that was the ‘Robin Hood’ effect. Shephard chose to say ‘yes’. We want our street-artists tot have hoods… not be them darnit. Well, nobody’s perfect.
Fairey at the White House
Added, may 2009:
When I wrote this post I didn’t really expect Shephard’s work to play such an important role in the presidential campaign for Barrack Obama. But I am definitely glad he did. I for one believe that it’s helped Obama’s credibility and provided just that little extra cool he needed. And mr. president has not forgotten. I just read (may 12th) on his Twitter stream that Shepard is going to DC to visit the White House.
Some really nice images of Fairey’s show at Scope, Miami, can be found on the Arrested Motion art blog. Photos taken at the opening.
I’d say: check it out!
Fairey in Amsterdam
Added, september 2009:
Today as I strolled out of Amsterdam Central Station, a familiar sight caught my eyes, could it be… no way.. is it you Shep? Is it? Is it?
Some more images can be found on the official project site (in Dutch). Scroll down for photos.
Fairey at Deitz
Added, may 2010:
Fairey recently had a grand opening at Deitz that, acoording to those who were there, was a great success. For those of us that weren’t…
You can find a cool photo-impression of it on the Juxtapoz site. Click here.
Fairey at East End
Added, may 2010:
I actually took this picture over a year ago when I was in London. As I recall it’s in East End, near Brick Lane. I agree that we do not need a new world odor.