Archive for the ‘Shepard Fairey’ Category

Shepard Fairey Reloaded

June 17, 2011

I started this blog by writing about Shepard Fairey. There hasn’t been much new on the Fairey front for a while, so I was pleased to find this. TMZ has a video of him churlishly admonishing his wife after she effectively tells someone that he no longer does his own wheatpasting. Does this surprise anyone? Fairey rakes in so much money, he can afford to hire a whole army of wheatpasters. Hell, I’m so desperate for work, I’d be willing to do it myself. (Shep, my hours are flexible.)

Mat Gleason, a critic for Coagula Art Journal, has a snarcky article about this in the Huffington Post. It begins:

    What is the difference between graffiti and paparazzi? Both are annoying invasions of public space. Whenever a cry to regulate either of these behaviors is heard, civil society acknowledges that it would take too much erosion of personal liberty to stop one or both. Therefore we tolerate and occasionally celebrate these rogue exercises on the fringes of free speech.

One should never criticize graffiti without also criticizing outdoor advertising. The latter is a far more pervasive and annoying invasion of public space. I’m no fan of Shepard Fairey, but I would rather look at one of his silly “Obey” signs than an advertisement for deodorant or toothpaste. When I lived in Los Angeles, I spent a large chunk of my time sitting in traffic with nothing to look at except enormous billboards urging me to watch Judge Judy (“Gotcha!”) or Dr. Phil (“You’ve Got Your Battles, He’s Got Your Back!”) or some other insipid TV show. So, no, you’re never going to hear me complaining about graffiti, not even when it’s done by a pompous fraud like Fairey.

Gleason ends his article with this:

    If cash-starved local governments look up their own old laws still on the books and, having seen Fairey’s own wife confirming on the record that the family fortune was based on advertising in these civic-controlled public spaces, will cities and counties all across America unite to collect fees from the Obey Empire with her admission as a pretext to write up an invoice? Imagining this were your empire, would you tell her to shut the fuck up?

This is high-minded talk coming from someone who writes for the Huffington Post, which is notorious for not paying people, while its owners get rich. People who live in glass houses…

Shepard Fairey – The Final Act

July 28, 2009

On July 10, The Boston Globe reported the denouement to Shepard Fairey’s legal troubles in Boston. You may recall that Fairey was facing 13 felony charges for doing graffiti in Beantown. The Globe reported:

    Fairey consented to a plea deal that will prohibit him from carrying stickers, posters, wheat paste, brushes, and other tools of the graffiti trade while in Suffolk County for the next two years. Under the arrangement, Fairey pleaded guilty to three vandalism charges and must pay a $2,000 fine to one of his adversaries, Graffiti NABBers for the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay.

Back Bay, as you may recall from my earlier post, is one of the richest neighborhoods in Boston. So, Fairey was forced to pay $2000 to a bunch of rich people just for putting up some ‘Obama’ and ‘Obey’ stickers. I think it worth repeating what I said in my earlier post on this matter:

    This strikes me as a peculiar form of capitalist alienation. It’s okay for companies to put their advertisements all over the place, but if someone unaffiliated with a corporation puts up signs or images, they are automatically considered eyesores, regardless of their content or aesthetic quality.

Reading the blog that accompanied the Globe article online (you can find it here) confirmed for me this observation. The hatred that some of these people showed for Fairey was just amazing. From what they wrote, you would think he was a child murderer. Here is one example:

    it is just graffiti and nothing more! He is a litterer and a public menace! I say lock the idiot up! He has no right putting that crap up on public space – I should not have to look at it!

However, most people either defended Fairey or said the whole business is silly (which is my own view.) It’s nice to see that some people have refused to buy into the hysteria whipped by some rich snobs in the Back Bay.

Shepard Fairey Again

March 14, 2009


Shepard Fairey is in the news again. Fairey was arrested on February 6 in Boston, because some of his images have been showing up in that city’s streets. He has been charged with one misdemeanor and with 13 felonies. (That’s right, felonies. Graffiti is apparently on the same moral level as robbing or killing somebody.) His attorney says that the Boston Police are pursuing 19 more charges.

These images apparently included his “Hope” image of Obama. The New York Times quotes Anne Swanson, of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Boston) as saying, “This is clearly just chronic vandalism. I voted for Obama, too, but I still don’t want to have to remove his face from 30 traffic signs.” This strikes me as a peculiar form of capitalist alienation. It’s okay for companies to put their advertisements all over the place, but if someone unaffiliated with a corporation puts up signs or images, they are automatically considered eyesores, regardless of their content or aesthetic quality. I don’t care much for Shepard Farey, for reasons I’ve explained earlier, but it seems to me that we should support him against the anal-retentive police in Boston.

Shepard Fairey

February 15, 2009


I suppose people have heard about Shepard Fairey. He is the graphic designer and street artist who designed the “Hope” image of Barack Obama, which is now ubiquitous. This image is said to have played a role in Obama’s election. One would think that the US ruling class would richly reward Fairey for the service he has done for them. Instead, Associated Press is suing Fairey, claiming copyright infringement. That’s gratitude for you.

Personally, I don’t think the AP has a case. Fairey does not actually use the AP photograph in his work. Rather, he constructed the image based on the photograph. If AP wins this case, it could have a chilling effect on artistic expression in this country.

I was all set to sympathize with Fairey until I read his biography in Wikipidia. There, I read this:

    Fairey has come under criticism for appropriating others’ artwork into his own while failing to provide attribution for the work used. However, he has threatened to sue artists for the same technique. Austin, Texas graphic designer Baxter Orr did his own take on Fairey’s work in a piece called Protect, with the iconic Obey Giant face covered by a respiratory mask. He started selling prints through his website marketed as his own work. On April 23, 2008 Orr received a signed cease-and-desist order from Fairey’s attorneys, telling him to pull Protect from sale because they alleged it violated Fairey’s trademark. Fairey threatened to sue, calling the designer a “parasite”.

Does the h-word come to mind here? Part of the aesthetic of street art is the free appropriation of imagery. Apparently, nobody explained this to Fairey. Not surprisingly, Wikipedia notes that some people don’t consider Fairey to be a street artist. The article includes a photograph of Fairey wearing a business suit.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine spray-painting graffiti while wearing a Brooks Brothers suit.