Shepard Fairey at a book signing for Supply & Demand: The Art of Shepard Fairey
|Birth name||Shepard Fairey|
|Born||February 15, 1970
Charleston, South Carolina
|Training||Rhode Island School of Design|
|Works||Andre the Giant has a Posse
Rock the Vote
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. 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.
Fairey graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in illustration. After graduation, he founded a small printing business in Providence, RI called Alternate Graphics, specializing in tshirt 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 1997-2003 which specialised in guerilla 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).
In 2003 he founded the Studio Number One design agency.The agency produced the cover work for the Black Eyed Peas‘s album Monkey Business and the poster for the film Walk the Line. The Smashing Pumpkins‘ album Zeitgeist, Flogging Molly‘s CD/DVD Whiskey on a Sunday, and the Led Zeppelin compilation Mothership.
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. In 2005 Fairey collaborated with DJ Shadow on a box set, with t-shirts, stickers, prints, and a mix CD by Shadow. In 2005 also, he was a resident artist at the Contemporary Museum, Honolulu. In 2006, Fairey contributed eight vinyl etchings to a limited-edition series of 12″ singles by alternative rock band Mission of Burma, and has also done work for Interpol.
In 2004, Shepard Fairey co-founded Swindle Magazine with Roger Gastman.
“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.
In June 2007, Fairey opened his one man show entitled “E Pluribus Venom,” at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery. The overtly political nature of Fairey’s work in the show led to a bomb scare in which the thousands of gallery-goers had to be evacuated from the space. The show made the arts section front page in the The New York Times.
In addition to his successful graphic design career Shepard Fairey also DJ’s at many clubs under the name DJ Diabetic and Emcee Insulin, as he has diabetes.
According to Erick Lyle, Fairey has cynically turned graffiti culture into a self-promoting ad campaign, turning street art into a cheap hustle that is no different from corporate advertising. On the other hand, San Diego Union-Tribune art critic Robert L. Pincus says Fairey’s, “is political art with a strong sense of visual style and emotional authenticity. Even in times when political art has ebbed, Fairey’s has just the right balance of seriousness, irony and wit to fit the mood of the moment.” “Following the example set by gallery art, some street art is more about the concept than the art,” writes The Walrus (magazine) contributor Nick Mount. “’Fuck Bush’ isn’t an aesthetic; it’s an ethic. Shepard Fairey’s Obey Giant stickers and Akay’s Akayism posters are clever children of Duchamp, ironic conceptual art.”
Fairey created a series of posters supporting Barack Obama‘s candidacy for President in 2008, including the iconic “HOPE” portrait. He also created an exclusive design for Rock the Vote. On November 5, 2008, the city of Chicago posted street banners throughout the downtown Loop business district featuring Fairey’s Obama “HOPE” portrait. The banners say “Congratulations Chicago’s Own Barack Obama, President-Elect of the United States of America.” . Fairey created two distinct images, “Change” and “Vote”, for use by the official Obama Campaign, since his original image, which bore the word “Hope,” could not be seen to have any official affiliation with the presidential campaign since it had been “perpetuated illegally”, independently by the graffiti/street artist. Fairey distributed a staggering 300,000 stickers and 500,000 posters during the election campaign, funding his grassroots electioneering through poster and fine art sales.”I just put all that money back into making more stuff, so I didn’t keep any of the Obama money,” said Fariey in a December 2008 interview. Fairy received a formal letter of thanks from Barack Obama for his contribution to his 2008 presidential campaign. The letter stated:
|“||I would like to thank you for using your talent in support of my campaign. The political messages involved in your work have encouraged Americans to believe they can change the status-quo. Your images have a profound affect on people, whether seen in a gallery or on a stop sign. I am privileged to be a part of your artwork and proud to have your support. – Barack Obama, February 22, 2008||”|
Fairey currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with his wife Amanda and daughters Vivienne and Madeline.
- Official Obey Giant Website
- Interview on Huffington Post
- Studio Number One website
- Interview with Format Mag
- “The Duality of Humanity“. San Francisco: WhiteWalls. Retrieved on 2008-09-21.
- Interview with Manuel Bello