NEWS///SHEPARD FAIREY IN THE NY TIMES
As the once underground world of “street art” continues its triumphant march through the public consciousness as the aesthetic zeitgeist of our times, mainstream media has played the enabler, documenting the phenomenon’s rise at every turn. This week sees the NEW YORK TIMES’ astute MELENA RYZIK following Supertouch’s own SHEPARD FAIREY through his recent bombing run in San Francisco in support of his current “Duality of Humanity” show at WHITE WALLS gallery, chronicling the aging and undisputed king wheatpaster on what must be one of his last big city runs. READ ON:
CLOSER TO MAINSTREAM, STILL A BIT REBELLIOUS
By MELENA RYZIK
October 1, 2008 Source: NYTIMES
SAN FRANCISCO — The code word was “chill.” That’s what the crew with Shepard Fairey, the cult graphic artist known for his screen prints and stickers of the wrestler Andre the Giant, had been instructed to say if a police car rolled by as Mr. Fairey was wheat-pasting one recent night here, illegally tagging warehouse walls and empty billboards with his black-and-white images. Then Mr. Fairey and his helpers would know to make a run for it, to avoid yet another arrest.
But the law is not much of a deterrent for a self-styled populist culture jammer. Mr. Fairey had already spent nearly a week bombing the city’s streets. By midnight he and his crew of a half-dozen 20-something guys, most employees at Obey Giant, his company in Los Angeles, had finished prepping for another all-night run at the White Walls Gallery here, where Mr. Fairey’s solo show, “The Duality of Humanity,” runs through Saturday.
Dressed in torn jeans (Mr. Fairey) and hoodies (everybody), they packed up supplies — buckets of paste, scissors, rope, video camera — and gathered the art: 10-foot-long photocopies of Mr. Fairey’s work, neatly snipped in half. Then they piled into a rented minivan — “No one suspects a minivan,” said Derek Millner, the videographer — and went looking for real estate. They drove by one of Mr. Fairey’s Barack Obama posters, put up two nights before in a parking lot. It was already defaced — the “pe” in the slogan “Hope” had been torn off.
“Everything gets messed with,” Mr. Fairey said, using language more appropriate for a guerrilla graffitist. “It’s just the nature of street art. You can’t be too precious about it.”
Mr. Fairey, a boyish 38, occupies a rare position for an artist. A star in the world of street art for nearly two decades (the Andre stickers earned him an A on an assignment at the Rhode Island School of Design), he has parlayed his stark imagery and indie cred into a successful design and marketing company with corporate clients like Pepsi. His “Obey” images and slogans appear on T-shirts sold at Urban Outfitters, and he has created logos for the likes of Kobe Bryant.
This year Mr. Fairey has earned a new level of mainstream attention thanks to the much distributed and copied Obama poster, highly visible at the Democratic National Convention in Denver and, as a T-shirt or accessory, on a liberal body near you. The White Walls show, his third and largest there, sold out before it opened, with some pieces going for as much as $85,000. (On obeygiant.com, his prints go for $75; studio pieces are normally around $20,000.) He also has a new book, “E Pluribus Venom,” of work from his 2007 exhibition in New York, and in February the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston will host his first solo museum show, “Supply and Demand.”
Through it all he has continued scaling fences and clambering atop buildings to put up his purposefully simplistic, propagandistic images (his crew members serve as spotters and second hands). This despite changes in his health (he is diabetic, and wears an insulin drip under his shirt), family status — he is married with two young daughters — and the continued arrests. His 14th (or 15th, “if you count a brief detention in Japan,” he said, where he was asked to write a note of apology) came when he was wheat-pasting in an alley near the Denver convention center. Because the charge usually amounts to a misdemeanor, which is expunged after six months, Mr. Fairey typically pleads guilty and pays a fine.
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