Shepard Fairey, American (1970 - )
Frank Shepard Fairey (born February 15, 1970) is an American contemporary street artist, graphic designer activist and illustrator who emerged from the skateboarding scene.
He first became known for his "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" (…OBEY…) sticker campaign, in which he appropriated images from the comedic supermarket tabloid Weekly World News.
He became widely known during the 2008 U.S. presidential election for his Barack Obama "Hope" poster. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston calls him one of today's best known and most influential street artists.
His work is included in the collections at The Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Shepard Fairey was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Strait Fairey, is a doctor, and his mother, Charlotte, a realtor. Fairey became involved with art in 1984, when he started to place his drawings on skateboards and T-shirts.
In 1988 he graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy in California. In 1992 he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design.
Fairey's first art museum exhibition, entitled Supply & Demand (as was his earlier book), was held in Boston at the Institute of Contemporary Art during the summer of 2009. The exhibition featured more than 250 works in a wide variety of media: screen prints, stencils, stickers, rubylith illustrations, collages, and works on wood, metal and canvas. As a complement to the ICA exhibition, Fairey created public art works around Boston. The artist explains his driving motivation: "The real message behind most of my work is 'question everything'."
Fairey sits on the advisory board of Reaching to Embrace the Arts, a nonprofit organization that provides art supplies to disadvantaged schools and students. In May 2006, Fairey became a board member of the Music Is Revolution Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports music education for students in public schools.
Fairey created the "André the Giant Has a Posse" sticker campaign in 1989, while attending the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). This later evolved into the "Obey Giant" campaign, which has grown via an international network of collaborators replicating Fairey's original designs. As with most street artists, the Obey Giant was intended to inspire curiosity and cause the masses to question their relationship with their surroundings.
"André the Giant has a Posse" sticker on a stop sign
The Obey Giant website says: "The sticker has no meaning but exists only to cause people to react, to contemplate and search for meaning in the sticker". The website later goes on to contradict this statement however by saying that those who are familiar with the sticker simply find humor and enjoyment from its presence and that those who try to look deeper into its meaning only burden themselves and often, end up condemning the art as an act of vandalism from an evil, underground cult.
Originally intended to garner fame amongst his classmates and college peers, Fairey states "At first I was only thinking about the response from my clique of art school and skateboard friends. The fact that a larger segment of the public would not only notice, but investigate, the unexplained appearance of the stickers was something I had not contemplated. When I started to see reactions and consider the sociological forces at work surrounding the use of public space and the insertion of a very eye-catching but ambiguous image, I began to think there was the potential to create a phenomenon."
In a manifesto he wrote in 1990, and since posted on his website, he links his work with Heidegger's concept of phenomenology. His "Obey" Campaign draws from the John Carpenter movie They Live which starred pro wrestler Roddy Piper, taking a number of its slogans, including the "Obey" slogan, as well as the "This is Your God" slogan. Fairey has also spun off the OBEY clothing line from the original sticker campaign. He also uses the slogan "The Medium is the Message" borrowed from Marshall McLuhan. Shepard Fairey has also stated in an interview that part of his work is inspired by other street artists.
After graduation, he founded a small printing business in Providence, Rhode Island, called Alternate Graphics, specializing in t-shirt and sticker silkscreens, which afforded Fairey the ability to continue pursuing his own artwork. While residing in Providence in 1994, Fairey met American filmmaker Helen Stickler, who had also attended RISD and graduated with a film degree. The following spring, Stickler completed a short documentary film about Shepard and his work, titled "Andre the Giant has a Posse". The film premiered in the 1995 New York Underground Film Festival, and went on to play at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. It has been seen in more than 70 festivals and museums internationally.
Fairey was a founding partner, along with Dave Kinsey and Phillip DeWolff, of the design studio BLK/MRKT Inc. from 1997 to 2003, which specialised in guerrilla marketing, and "the development of high-impact marketing campaigns".
Clients included Pepsi, Hasbro and Netscape (for whom Fairey designed the red dinosaur version of mozilla.org's logo and mascot).
OBEY Giant clothing sold at a Nordstrom department store
In 2003 he founded the Studio Number One design agency with his wife Amanda Fairey. The agency produced the cover work for The Black Eyed Peas' album Monkey Business and the poster for the film Walk the Line. Fairey has also designed the covers for The Smashing Pumpkins' album Zeitgeist, Flogging Molly's CD/DVD Whiskey on a Sunday, Led Zeppelin's compilation Mothership and movie Celebration Day, and Anthrax's The Greater Of Two Evils. Along with Banksy, Dmote, and others Fairey also created work at a warehouse exhibition in Alexandria, Sydney, for Semi-Permanent in 2003. Approximately 1,500 people attended.
In 2004, Fairey joined artists Robbie Conal and Mear One to create a series of "anti-war, anti-Bush" posters for a street art campaign called "Be the Revolution" for the art collective "Post Gen". "Be the Revolution" kicked off with a night of performances featuring Z-Trip, Ozomatli and David J at the Avalon in Hollywood. Fairey also co-founded Swindle Magazine along with Roger Gastman.
In 2005 he collaborated for a second time with Z-Trip on a limited edition 12-inch featuring Chuck D entitled "Shock and Awe". In 2005 Fairey also collaborated with DJ Shadow on a box set, with t-shirts, stickers, prints, and a mix CD by Shadow. In 2005 he showed abroad, for instance in Paris at the Magda Danysz Gallery. In 2005 also, he was a resident artist at the Contemporary Museum, Honolulu. Also in 2005, Fairey contributed the artwork for the posters, cover art, and graphics for Walk The Line the Johnny Cash biopic. In 2006, Fairey contributed eight vinyl etchings to a limited-edition series of 12" singles by post-punk band Mission of Burma, and has also done work for the musical group Interpol.
The book Supply and Demand: The Art of Shepard Fairey was released in 2006. In 2008, Philosophy of Obey (Obey Giant): The Formative Years (1989–2008), edited by Sarah Jaye Williams, was published by Nerve Books UK, and praised by Fairey.
Fairey working with Hawaii-themed art at an official installation at the Makiki, Honolulu Skate Park
In June 2007, Fairey opened his one man show entitled "E Pluribus Venom", at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery. The show made the arts section front page in the New York Times.
Fairey donated original cover art to the 2008 album Body of War: Songs That Inspired an Iraq War Veteran, produced for Iraq War documentary Body of War. Proceeds from the album benefit non-profit organization Iraq Veterans Against the War.
In 2008 Fairey teamed up again with Z-Trip to do a series of shows in support of then presidential candidate Barack Obama entitled Party For Change. Fairey also designed posters for the British goth band Bauhaus.
In September 2008, Shepard opened his solo show titled "Duality of Humanity" at The Shooting Gallery in San Francisco. His third solo show with the gallery featured one hundred and fifty works, including the largest collection of canvases pieces in one show that he's done.
Fairey was arrested on February 7, 2009, on his way to the premiere of his show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Massachusetts, on two outstanding warrants related to graffiti. He was charged with damage to property for having postered two Boston area locations with graffiti, a Boston Police Department spokesman said. His arrest was announced to party goers by longtime friend Z-Trip who had been performing at the ICA premiere at Shepard Fairey's request.
On April 27, 2009, Fairey put three signed copies of his Obama inauguration posters up on eBay, with the proceeds of the auction going to the One Love For Chi foundation, founded by the family of Deftones bassist Chi Cheng following a car accident in November 2008 that nearly claimed Cheng's life.
Lance Armstrong rode a Trek Madone styled by Fairey in the 2009 Giro d'Italia, starting on May 9, 2009, in Venice, Italy.
In 2011 Time Magazine commissioned Fairey to design its cover to honor "The Protester" as Person of the Year in the wake of the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and other social movements around the world. This was Fairey's second Person of the Year cover for Time, his first being of Barack Obama in 2008.