Category Archives: Shepard Fairey

Sad Times July 23rd 2014

It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
I never thought it come to this but desperate times call for desperate measures. Thanks for reading, and to any who used my work for term papers and such. I hope you got good grades.

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Lower East Side (Slight Return)-April 24th 2010

 Today is bright and will be warm and I sit and munch half a bran muffin washed down with a decaf coffee on the train to New York City while I listen to a young couple dote over their three-year old boy, he’s a cute kid in a baseball cap who stands on the seat and marvels at everything, looking around in wonder and asks questions, lots of questions. There is three young girls sitting diagonally across from me speaking French, I am shy to go and talk to them I don’t want to make a fool of myself, but I push shyness aside and walk over asking if they were from France, which they confirm.  I excitedly talk about my love for France and everything French, my ambition to cook French food and to be a tour guide in NYC and to someday ex-pat to France after Mom and Dad are gone and Chris is moved to Vegas or Canada whichever he chooses. They are here for five months and are doing work/study programs although they don’t seem to want to share the details or even talk that much too me. The dark-haired girl is friendly and the redhead too I guess, but the mousey girl sitting closest to me looks petrified or at least uncomfortable. They assure me that they are meeting friends who live in the city and will not need my services but I explain that I am not licensed yet so cannot guide them anyway, although I could do it for free… that is not illegal in New York but give them time. So I decide to wish them well and head back to my seat and they talk amongst themselves, laughing occasionally at the  older guy who just wanted to meet some people from France, but now I feel like a fool who should have kept his mouth shut. When will I ever learn. 

 I know I have a tendency to be too excited when I talk about my passions, but I’m not the only one and I remember Drew Barrymore, the actress talking on Late Night about how she scares people with her enthusiasm for a new project, so I can really identify with her, I guess I do too but at least I’m in good company. So I get out at Penn Station and make my way to the blue A,C,E subway line and check my old tickets for credit left on rides, I swipe my old cards and see that I have plenty. While doing so the three girls come up behind me and are busily engaged in trying to use the ticket machine, I say a quick hello again but don’t even try to help them, I would have helped them in any way I could just to be nice.  But their snobbery being what was I move off quickly to get the next train to West 4th St station and make sure I’m in a forward car so I don’t run into them again. It’s a quick ride on the subway, whoosh! and your there almost before you know it, I get out and almost immediately I am asked for help by a woman and her daughters from Queens who are looking for the Washington Arch and NYU University, I whip out my flip map and tell them to follow me and we walk up to the 8 Th Ave exit. 

 It’s a beautiful day turning warm as I lead them to the Arch, they walk fast and it’s hard for me too keep up, I’m guessing they are looking at the school for the girls to attend after they graduate high school and after we walk past the fountain, still dry. Not in operation yet as I see excited kids running around inside its shallow bowl that will soon be cooling off visitors who brave the (clean?) water to cool off in the heat. I part company with the family on the other side of the park pointing out the NYU buildings to my left and with a few Thank You’s they are off to see the wizard and I go to towards the Lower East Side starting point for my tour. I am stopped on my way by a young Asian girl who is lost, looking for an address. She is staring right at a map mounted inside a frame for the students looking for certain buildings in the area but this girl cannot find it and she cannot be late, she’s going for an audition! I tell her to follow me and I tell her also that I’m a tour guide in training and it can be very confusing especially with all the construction going on with closed streets and all. We walk a few blocks and a few turns later and I’m beginning to think I screwed this girl up but she turns to her left and says “Here it is!” with glee and with a shake of my hand we wish each other good luck and I continue on my merry way, the triumph of making a difference for two people putting a swagger in my step as I continue on my way. I give a homeless man the other half on my Bran muffin and says God Bless You as I pass him by and a little further on I see a youngish couple looking around in confusion so I stop to help. They are also from France and I tell them how much I love their country and using my flip map show them exactly how to get to the West 4th St Station, and also what train to take to get to 42nd St which is where they want to go next, they also thank me profusely and with smiling “Au Revoir’s!” they move off and I holster my map like a smoking gun in its holster ready for the next time. My starting point is a few blocks away but I am in need of nourishment now and I spot an old-looking place just ahead. 

 I stop in the Cafe Colonial, a Brazilian eatery with a brunch menu and a simple atmosphere with white metal bistro tables and chairs, and a pay phone in the back corner. I order a simple meal of warm steak over field greens and a decaf coffee and after a wash up in the loo begin to make notes on the trip so far, I feel a real optimism about today as my food arrives and that is made more apparent by the delicious food I get. This is the way I should eat at home, no starches just meat and greens with a little whole grain thrown in too. So I pay the bill and start walking down the street when I see a familiar face standing in chefs gear smoking a cigarette, I don’t know his name but I recognize his face from the food network Iron Chef show, he was one of the contestants to be the next Iron Chef! I stop and say “Hey I know you from the food network!” “That’s right, that was me.” he says casually but visibly happy to be recognized. I look at the building , “Is this where your working now?” I ask not being able to see the sign up ahead. “Yeah. you should come in and eat, it’s the best!” But I explain I just ate at Cafe Colonial and he suggests I get a paper menu, so I move off to do so and them after I get it I can’t resist going back and saying “Dude can I be a real tourist and have you sign this?” as I offer a permanent marker and the menu. He signs it without hesitation and I explain that I’m studying to be a tour guide and will be back to eat here the next time I come to the Bowery to study and eat. I shake hands agin and start walking towards the starting point again. This is shaping up to be a great day! I might just have made my first contact in New York! 

 (Footnote: I would find out later that he’s only been there since February when it opened and on April 4th he was arrested for carrying a two-inch knife on a chain he uses to cut boxes at work as he was walking home between shifts at his restaurant Pulino’s Bar and Pizzeria, he was surrounded by three police cars! Nice going New York’s finest, way to keep us safe from 2 inch knife wielding chefs, I know I feel a lot safer now!) 

Best place for a bagel and a smear in New York City!

 

So I begin my tour stopping first at the Famous Russ & Daughters Deli appetizers since 1914, it is said to have the best bagels, Nova & Caviar cream cheese in New York, it is packed so I walk down and back getting glimpses of fantastic food in flashes as the space between bodies is small and closes quickly, people are ordering bagels by the bagfull! I leave promising myself that I will have a bagel next time around, next I take a few minutes to photograph the famous Katz’s Deli, I wish I was hungry because this place serves up beef brisket or pastrami sandwiches that need their own Zip Code! I peeked in once at this place at night right before the Anya Marina show in 2008, (see Anya Marina Concert Parts 1&2) but didn’t want to eat so much as this place gives you between two slices of bread. I move off turning on Norfolk and take it down to Rivington & Orchard, but needing a loo I stop in Nooy’s Bar for a cold beer but first a wash up, this is actually the bar for the Kampuchea restaurant, a mix of Cambodian and French Cusine I find out from the young friendly bartender who is cutting and squeezing dozens of limes to fill a Magnum for drink-making. I sip my cold Hennepin Ale and we talk the interesting menu, travels abroad and N.Y.C. He is a Californian studying graphic design who works 50 hours a week and pays $1200 a month for a studio apartment! I find him a great source of info for food and wine, he has re-done the drink menu for the restaurant himself and added his own spin to them. He is smart, friendly, hipster, cool and I admire his ability to multitask and still be a great conversationalist. I can’t resist ordering the Chicken Rillettes and another beer, they come with small greens and pickled Rhubarb with toasted slices of Baguette. It is superb, I needed this so bad! I haven’t been this relaxed and happy in a long while. I could sit here all afternoon, but I can’t eat or drink anymore. I pay the tab and shake my bartenders hand and thank him for his kindness and move on. I walk down the street taking it all in, the sun, the breeze,  the easy feeling of being able to do whatever I want with no one telling me what to do or where to stand while I do it. 

 I move through Chinatown and enter another world where I am the minority and don’t speak the language. I sit on a low wall on the corner of Bowery & Canal St and write, cool from the breeze yet warm from the sun. I watch the kids play on a clay soccer field while parents sit on benches and talk on the sidelines. The little park is surrounded on two sides by a grass field about ten feet wide where a young woman sleeps peacefully with a cell phone on her chest while a young hipster lies on his back with his knees up talking on his phone a few yards away. I realize how lucky I am to have a piece of land I can call my own, this is all the nature they get in this urban sprawl of concrete, stone, and the ever-present sound of traffic and machinery. It makes me appreciate the ease with which I walk out my back door and step into nature. I move on into the heart of Chinatown where stalls of fresh fish (some still flipping around) crowd the sidewalks that flow with the runoff of melting ice in a constant stream to the street. The foods here are endless, dried mushrooms, dried fish, and strange vegetables are displayed and in butchers windows whole roasted Peking Ducks and chickens. The crowd is a mix of tourists but mostly natives that live in this enclave and shop here all their lives, vendors hawk their wares and shoppers argue loudly over prices and freshness, at least that’s what I think they’re saying  but who knows. The bucket of still moving blue crabs from some far off place the subject of this particular debate. I pass into Little Italy and the mix of Chinese and Italian turns all Italian as I make my way up Elizabeth St where I see a familiar figure sitting outside his butcher shop, Moe is still going strong at 83, he sits with his son enjoying a Perrier water and enjoys the day. I promise to come back and get a “Got Cha Steak” his trademark aged beef steaks as soon as i fix or replace my grill. 

 Well, the tour was done a while back on Grand Street and now I am back on the corner of East Houston Street and Elizabeth Street, the Cafe Colonial is a few steps away, across the street is a big mural on the wall of a building painted with the cities permission by Shepard Fairey of Obey giant fame ( see What is Obey Giant Parts 1,2,3,&4 for more) the last time he was in New York, right next to that is Billy’s Antiques and Props. My brother and I have plans to cook over the open fire tonight so I better head back to Penn Station, I walk towards 6Th Ave as the strong late afternoon sun burns a little as I pass familiar sights, the basketball park and street vendors on West Houston and easily find my way back to the West 4Th Street subway station. It’s an easy ride to Penn and easily grab an express train to Hicksville, three stops to home! 

 I sit on the train and think about what might have happened if I had a camera crew with me shooting my fun day. Somehow I think it’s just possible that I too could have a hit show on the Travel Channel, so what if I’m not tall dark and handsome. I don’t have to be a hipster twenty-something with a face full of scruff and a half tucked shirt with vest. I can just be who I am in all my aging hipster, latter-day bohemian, over enthusiastic glory! Those French girls missed out, they could have spent the day with me being shown the ropes, while listening to a good storyteller who knows a few good places to eat and drink. It was a great day nonetheless, and I managed to make a difference for a few people who let me into their life for a few minutes, all in a days work for The Guide Boheme. 

Bonsoir 

Glen

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What Is Obey Giant ?- Part 4-November 2008

 In 2006, Shepard would publish “Supply & Demand” the quintessential book on his art, a coffee table tome with huge pictures covering all aspects of the man and his manifesto, now in it’s second printing. He would go on to have a big show at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery that year in October but he was just getting started, and the next eight months would find him working on his breakthrough pieces.

 In June of 2007 he would open for the first time in New York City at the Johnathan Levine Gallery, his new show featured his most groundbreaking art to date. The show was titled “E Pluribus Venom” and was every bit a critical look at nationalism, the blind ambition of capitalism, and the ease with which we still go to war. The images were stunning, the print “Proud Parents” features a couple, dressed in early sixties attire holding a new baby ( but the baby is a bomb!) and the captions U.S. Treasurey-Bringing Dreams To Life, No Cents at the bottom and also has the phrases More Milliterry, Less Skools on the left hand and right hand sides respectively, the whole image looks like an old stamp from my parents younger days. The same couple are also featured standing on shore looking across the water at the city with it’s factories belching smoke into the air, and the caption at the bottom “These Sunsets Are To Die For!” also there was a second installation in Brooklyn, in DUMBO where the largest pieces were housed. It is said that South Park’s Matt Stone purchased a sixteen foot mural and another was bought by a German collector, in fact the show was sold out! During the remainder of 2007 Shepard would have his first London exhibit in November, called Nineteeneightyphoria and focusing on the culture of surveillance and in December he would be back at Merry Karnowsky’s to finish the year in Los Angeles.

 But 2008 would prove to go beyond these previous triumphs and place him in the pages of history beyond art. When he got word from the Obama campaign people that they would welcome his input he decided to create a phenomenon. He started making posters featuring a portrait of Barack Obama with the words HOPE and CHANGE and PROGRESS at the bottom, done in his classic style with cool blues and vibrant reds and black they remind me of Andy Warhol’s portrait work. Shepard would make over 80,000 posters and 150,000 stickers for the campaign, and his print “Rock the Vote” certainly did. Then after winning the election, Barrack Obama himself would send Fairey a hand written letter thanking him for all his work and saying that his art” has a profound effect on people whether in a gallery or on the back of a stop sign.” In Setember of this year he also had a solo show in San Francisco’s WhiteWalls Gallery, entitled “The Duality of Humanity” featuring work in collaboration with legendary photographer Al Rockoff, and his images of the Vietnam War.

 While he looks forward to the future, Shepard who has work in numerous collections including The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, New Castle, UK; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, can look back on his life and work with satisfaction. Since his beginnings in RISD to the sticker campaign, and the early struggle in skateborad shops silkscreening his original t-shirts. To being a founding member of BLK/MKT design studio in which he worked from 1997 to 2003 along with Dave Kinsey and Phillip DeWolff, to his Time interview in 2005, the triumph of his 2007 shows to his direct impact on the 2008 election, Shepard (who hasn’t made a dime off the Obama campaign) has done what few artists have done in the past.

 What started out as an experiment in what the German Philosopher, Martin Heidegger called Phenomenology (the process of letting things manifest themselves) has evolved into a case study of a man and his art, and the world at large. I am happy to say that after starting my internet search for some hand signed art to invest in two years ago, I too have been able to make a nice collection of works by Shepard Fairey and I have stuck a few stickers up too. But most of all I have seen what art can do for an individuals sense of self, and I have learned many important lessons from Shepard that I can use in my own work. One of Shepards motto’s is “The Medium Is The Message,” but his message is and always will be-Keep your eyes and mind open…and question everything.

Peace
Glen
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What Is Obey Giant ?- Part 3-November 2008

 In 2001 Shepard and Amanda were married and soon would have their first child, this changed the way he approached his art. While still maintaining a punk approach, Shepard had to recognize that he was a parent now, he started to see how everything was connected. From our foreign policy to the environment, to the danger of accepting our governments actions like sheep about to be made into lamb chops.  He made sure he was home by seven so he could spend time with his daughter, and his work became more politically questioning and socially conscious. I personally think at the heart of it all was this, what kind of world are we going to leave to our children?

 During this time Shepard and Jason Fillipow, his high school friend and head assistant, work in Fairey’s two-car garage making stencils, and silk-screening images, producing a huge amount of finished work for the gallery shows he did about twice a year.  Amanda and Shepard also co-founded Studio Number One, creating bold graphic media and brand identity for Virgin Megastores, The Henry Rollins Show (whose set was decorated by Shepard, who would later be a guest on the show), Indie 103.1 logo, the L.A. D-fenders basketball team, and many others. They would go on to build a small empire that includes an Obey clothing line, and with friend Rodger Gastman, they would publish Swindle Magazine, a socially conscious art and culture magazine. But he was still stickering and pasting up his iconic Obey face image and others almost every day, sticking to private property and to spaces that were either abandoned or already tagged by graffiti.

 In 2001 he stopped to give a water tower a re-application (of a huge Obey paster ) that he had “bombed” as they call it, years before. But on his way down the owner of the property told him to stay put, the police were on their way. Shepard did his best to talk his way out of it, it could be seen from the highways nearby-a perfect spot! He was arrested and later, after posting bail, he went back to see the man and it worked! He showed the owner of the property and his kids some stuff about himself on the computer, and gave the kids some stickers and shirts, then paid the man 300 bucks to have the face removed, and the owner let it stay up for three months and dropped the charges against Fairey.

 By this time he also had made posters using such figures in history as Mao, Nixon, Che Guerava, Lenin, and Stalin. Believing that by making Obey art with these faces from history, he could in essence, make a statement about the use of imagery by leaders to manipulate the people, and at the same time tell people to be wary, and to question everything. This tendancy to bring about debate is intentional, and is at the heart of his philosophy on life, stimulating thought and provocative debate is more desireable than keeping quiet for the sake of people’s feelings.

 Being a child of the punk era  hasn’t stopped him from being a advocate of  sixties radical Angela Davis or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. he seems to have an affinity for figures like Patty Hearst, he is fascinated by her story and the idea that people are the products of their environments. Shepard has also used worker’s rights activist Noam Chomsky in his art, as well as the leader of the Zapatista’s, Subcomandante Marcos, who fights the Mexican government on behalf of the people of the state of Chiapas, suffering unfairly treatment from Mexico’s leaders. The Black Panthers and all Muselims are represented too, as well as Bob Marley and Joe Strummer of The Clash are all part of Shepard’s paradigm of equality and civil liberty, he also believes strongly in women’s rights, and in the value of the female psyche in the world at large. All of these belief’s will give him a power in the future to influence the world in his own small artistic way, but at this point he is coming to his first big move into the spotlight. In the years to come he will find himself at the crossroads in ways he could not imagine, when he was up on that water tower in Chicago, trying to talk his way down.
Peace
Glen
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What Is Obey Giant ? – Part 2-November 2008

 The reaction that first summer in Providence was very motivating to Shepard, people were talking about the Andre stickers on line at the store, and it was written up in the local paper. Shepard began to see that there was a psychological component to this whole process…people needed to interpret the image in a way that meant something to them. He was very fascinated by the reactions he was getting. Then he began making large paper paste ups of his images, the old Andre face was replaced with a more stylized version, a “Big Brother” kind of face. The iconic face also got a tag line added to it “OBEY”….inspired by the the Sci-Fi movie “They Live” in which aliens have taken over the planet and use subliminal messages to keep us in line. But also exposure to Barbera Krueger’s use of words in her art was a driving force in his idea that art with words could affect social change, a theme that would be used to this day.

 During his many out of town art trips he stopped to paste up his iconic image everywhere, he even went so far as to climb an eight story water tower to paste up an eight foot high Obey face! Nobody would risk life and limb to make a statement on art and provoke thought…unless your an obsessed artist that can’t help from doing what he believes is his right-the walls, wheresoever they may be, belong to all of us. The objection is that it’s not making anyone any money, and that’s where the capitalist piggies put their cloven foot down. You see it’s okay for posters to be pasted up on every square inch of available space in “Any City, USA-as long as some money has been made off the people who put it there. So with that being the case, Fairey has been arrested 13 times, often being kept from his medication (he has Type 1 diabetes) in retaliation. He has been very straight forward about taking responsibility for his work, admitting that any of his images seen out there…might have been done by him. But he also has some fanatic fans who go to the trouble of making their own copies of his images and pasting them up themselves. Shepard however, has his standards, he never pastes up over another artists work, he always uses fresh clean walls.

 But although Shepard had achieved a real status in the punk world of indie artists living on the edge, he was sleeping in his car when he did art shows out of town, he couldn’t even afford a cheap room! So, after much soul searching, he decided to move to San Diego intending to work in his beloved skate industry, but instead he went into graphic design and started to do some commercial work, he co-founded BLK/MKT Design Studio with Dave Kinsey and Phillip DeWolff where he would spend six years before going out on his own. Selling out was what some felt he was doing, but to Shepard it was stayin alive. It was after all, Paris (the center of the art world in the old days) that was covered in paste up advertising way back in the late 1800’s, Fairey figured he was in no way encouraging street art tactics to be used to sell products, it had all been done before….long ago.

 Things started to happen for him, he was asked to make some posters to advertise “Man on the Moon”, the Andy Kaufman biopic in 1999, and he would also create brand logos. But it was also in 1999 that he met his future wife Amanda, who proved her love for the guerilla artist by being the lookout for him on paste up nights, even to the point of having to convince the police she wasn’t a prostitute waiting for a John on the street corner! 

 Fairey would go on to design album covers and movie posters, as well as many concert posters, sometimes the buildings where his meetings with ad reps were taking place by day, would also be the next target for a paste up attack by night, even if he had gotten the commission!  Shepard has found a way to get the most “street” into his commercial work without letting it become about the money, often passing up lucrative deals because there was no creative juice in it to make the job attractive. But it was a slow and painful process, that still had not come to the fruition that would come, a few hundred paste ups later.
Peace
Glen
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What Is Obey Giant ?- Part 1-November 2008

 In 2006 I was searching on Ebay for some hand signed artwork to purchase, inspired by my late friend Harvey Ellner’s art collection, I had been buying art for years and putting it in storage to be sold for my retirement. I didn’t think that I could expect alot of return on my investment at my level (which is small) but hoped that I could at least realize a profit to finance some travel in my older age. One particular day I was searching for something unusual in hand signed prints and found the words “Obey Giant” attached to auctions, page after page of unique images unlike any I had seen before now began to appear. I started to research what this was and who made this art and why, and will share a little of what I found with you.

 The artist who made the images is Shepard Fairey and he is now considered the father of the modern street art movement, he inspired a generation of street artists, pasters (artists who use wheat paste to put up paper images), and stencil spray paint artists like England’s “Banksy” and he has the scars to prove it-literally. But before he became the icon of social consciousness in modern graffiti art he was just Frank Fairey, a South Carolina boy who as he puts it just “faded into the woodwork”…that is until he discovered ( in 1984) the two things that would change his life and ultimately the art world forever, punk rock and skateboarding. 

 In conservative Charleston, S.C. some young people would get into skateboarding and the collecting and pasting up of stickers associated with the skateboarding culture as a passing phase, stickers were not abundantly available but the few that he would see advertising skateboarding were gold  and he would buy all he could get, but punk band stickers were another matter, not available in Fairey’s experience so far. So he learned to draw all his favorite band logos, and copied them out on sticker paper at his parents business (when they were out of the office) and soon he was stickering to his hearts content. In 1988, Fairey began attending the Rhode Island School of Design and it was here while he was working on an art degree, when he decided to major in Illustration, his life would be changed forever.

 One night when a friend asked him to teach him how to cut paper stencils he found a picture of Andre the Giant and suggested to his friend that this would make a great stencil, and they should make it and be Andre’s “posse”.   The friend gave up cutting the stencil after a while saying that it was stupid, and Fairey finished the stencil himself, adding the wrestlers height and weight to the stencil as well as the tag line “Andre the Giant has a posse”. Then after making a silkscreen of the stencil, Fairey began to spread these paper stickers all over Providence that summer, and later switched to vinyl inked stickers that would last longer. He is said to have made over a million hand cut stickers between `89 and `96 and after moving to California, he switched to getting them made professionally to save his last few brain cells from the toxic vinyl sticker ink. What started out as a joke and attention getting would later become a full fledged phenomenon, as Shepard (his middle name) would eventually take these stickers to New York and Boston by car, and begin to send them to friends all over the country that had been bitten by the sticker bug-thus sending the image he had created out into the world, where it would find an unsuspecting public that would question the meaning of the image. Speculating that it was somehow tied to a band, a cult of some sorts, and generally something to be mis-trusted and even feared, many people began to ask themselves and others…What is this Obey Giant thing?
Peace
Glen
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