Tag Archives: Street Art

Soho Revisited-Oct 22nd 2011

The air is cool today as I ride the train to New York, heading in today to repeat a self guided tour I did a year ago as well as do a photo shoot. I have cast a critical eye over my pictures from the last photo-shoots in New York. So armed with a little new knowledge and a more focused purpose I hope to come home with better pictures than ever. What I figure is the best pictures come from focusing on one area and working that completely. This will be better than walking from one side of Manhattan to the other, and will save my feet from a forced march. I also want to check out Vesuvios Bakery, part of the green bakery project in NYC. The new owner Maurey Rubin has taken a huge step in preserving the past by keeping the 1920’s storefront but updating the old wood fired ovens to make the business safe. I have it on good authority that the Maple Bacon Scone is to die for and a popular breakfast item. I also intend to check out Yakitori Taisho, a place that has a great reputation for Yakitori, the grilled meat on a stick that is the mainstay of Chinese lunch and happy hour. But I’m also thinking that a slice of pizza at Rivoli’s is in order, since the triumph of my painting of their storefront. I think it’s only right that I go and have a slice to see the place and say yes…I ate there. The weather is turning cooler fast and although I say I won’t let the winter keep me in, if it’s anything like last winter-I will  be.

I come up from Penn Station on the NE corner of W.33rd & 7th Ave and walk east passing lines of out-of-townees waiting for tour buses, along the way I pass a series of pubs and public houses. The traffic is backed-up as the garbage is noisily collected by crews who sweep clean as they pass, anything that’s dropped must be picked up. The sounds of the trucks echo down the glass walls of the canyon like building as I come up to Greely square. I make it to 6th Ave and head south, this is a busy area in the low thirties through the twenties. There are busy shops, hotels and souring structures of glass and steel. I hear a snippet of conversation behind me. One young guy relating a story of trying to get a cab and an older woman with a southern accent asks if she can have it first saying “I’m so tired, can you let me take this one?” He did the thing that gives New Yorker’s a bad reputation. He ignored her and got in the cab. He laughingly tells his friend “Hey lady…this isn’t the south!” They both chuckle and I really wanted to tell him what I thought of him, but at almost 50 I can’t risk a beating by two guys in their twenties. Besides the evil that you do comes back to you threefold, so they will get theirs one way or another. A street fair is being held so the police barricades block off traffic and I walk freely down 6th Ave past dozens of vendors. They are selling sunglasses, jewelery, scarves, hats, clothing, and food of all kinds. It’s just getting set up this early but later these streets will be teeming with people buying  early xmas gifts or just trying on some hats as I do in my quest for the right hat. Finding none that I like I move on into the village proper, I notice more than ever the homeless today. They seem to be out in force and it pains me to walk on by, but the sad fact is that if I helped them all I would be standing right next to them shaking my own empty coffee cup. I hear Blue Jays echo though the streets as I pass the Spring St subway station, looking for a loo and wishing I had a hat it’s a little cold.

So after using the loo at Starbucks, the travelers friend. I make my way to my breakfast destination, Vesuvio’s is very small and quaint with pictures of the old ovens in the basement on the wall above the milk and sugar bar. The friendly staff serves me my Maple bacon scone and coffee, they don’t make faces when I ask for some hot water to warm up the coffee gone cool from the freezing cold milk. Why we haven’t adopted the French method of warming the coffee milk is beyond me. The scone is crunchy and delicious and every bit what I love in a scone, but I can’t resist going back in for an oatmeal cookie for later, these have also been highly recommended online. I move on and walk down W. Broadway, there is an art show on the sidewalk and I admire the work of the artists showing today along the way. It’s so different now that I’m painting again, I no longer feel ashamed when I look at others work. I feel like an artist again with a purpose, even if I’m not doing important social commentary right now. I feel like I bought back a piece of myself. Now I begin to wander looking for good shots and feeling warm and happy, I can ignore my sore back and do what I came here to do. I pass a professional photographer sitting in a chair by his work, he too sits and writes in a small book just like I do. I wonder what he’s about…

I leave the art show and find myself on Lafayette St where an artist is painting the facade of an old bar in a  style based on a small collage of liquor ads he’s been given, it’s very nice work and reminds me of my old style of painting. I talk with him a few minutes but move on to leave him to his work, it looks like it could rain all over his parade soon. Turing the corner I pass an art gallery and decide to go in. Brentano’s Gallery on Crosby St has an amazing collection of original prints and paintings, one whole wall is nothing but Salvador Dali’s work and on the other side a nice seating area with more art. I tell the owner that I’d like to move in and he laughs. Then I share with him the story of Harvey my old friend who would have loved to be here with me looking at Dali’s work. The one I like is a hand signed  lithograph, limited to an edition of 150 which is only $4700. This may sound like a lot but by Dali standards it relatively cheap. Then of course and actual drawing by him is worth a fortune in comparison. I leave the gallery and circle back around to take some pics of the muralist from a distance without bothering him and then begin to move uptown starting to think of lunch, it’s been a few hours since the scone and I’m starting to get a little hungry.

I come to Bleeker St and turn right taking it to Bowery (4th Ave) and then north to St. Marks Place, it’s a long walk from where I was but carried along by the hipster crowds and tourists I make it to my lunch destination Yakitori Taisho, only to find it doesn’t open till 6 pm. So I will not be experiencing the delights of chicken parts cooked on skewers over glowing coals today. So I decide the only thing to do is take the long walk back to the other side of town and go to Rivoli’s Pizza. The clouds have gone away again and the sun is warm as I make my way to 7th Avenue South, passing through another street fair as I do. I stop and look at hats again and even find a $25 hat I like but they don’t take credit and I decide to pass it by instead of looking for a cash machine. When I arrive at 7th Ave South I can see Rivoli’s in the glare of the late afternoon sun and cross the street with others making the most of this glorious day and go in Rivoli’s for a well deserved break. I look at the pie and am immediately disappointed by the looks of it, this is utility pizza at best-nothing special here. I can’t imagine this place turning out veal scallopini or mussels marinara. But with a sigh I order a slice and a soda and settle down in the same window seat I struggled so hard to get the reflections of the table, chairs and taxi in. The pizza is as good as it has to be right now as I am ravenous after my long march, so I read the Village Voice and slowly drink my soda to rest for the walk back.

I sit and it occurs to me that right now or on any other day that I’ve been in NYC.  I might be the person in the picture that someone took as part of their art project, or livelihood. It’s an interesting thought as I look through the window and eyeball the people walking by and crossing the street. I leave and make my way down 7th Ave with the wind at my back. Today I saw many homeless people and heard many French voices all around me, too many of the former and not enough of the latter. The weird and wonderful I saw today in people as I passed by, I would need a personal secretary to remember and document them all. I think to myself God how lucky I am to live so close to this city. I wonder if I could ever leave it.

Cheese

Glen

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Filed under Art Shows, Food Writing, French, Greenwich Village, Life, Memories, New York City, Street Art, Village Voice, Writing

The Story of Red-Part 2-Apr 10Th 2010

When I arrive at Washington Square Park I ask around and find out the fair doesn’t start until May so I wander a little and take some pictures of the goings on today, so I will let the pictures do the talking for me and after a while I decide to walk up to Union Square. I know there is vendors there almost every week and even in April of last year some of the braver souls came out when I took Mark and Sharon on a cold day during their first day in New York, I’m praying luck will be with me. 

T-Shirt vendor in Union Square

Street artist using powdered sand.

 

An Art Fair at The Washington Arch

When I get their the market and the art show is in full swing, loads of people come here on Wednesday , Saturday and Sunday to buy produce & plants, meats and cheeses, and everything in between. I find myself walking amidst the artists sitting with their work, hoping for a sale. It makes me feel very wretched that I can no longer claim to be one of them. I know that it’s my fault I stopped painting, I always blamed it on other people and circumstances. But as someone once said “A real artist needs only his bread and his art.” Yes in modern times you need much more than that, but the bare bones of that saying ring very true for me anyway, so while I can only use writing as a lame partial excuse for not painting, the fact is that the nights I don’t write I could paint but I don’t. I haven’t painted a thing since 2007.  Why? you ask. Because I let the canvas beat me into submission. I grew more and more unhappy with a painting that still sits on my easel mocking me. It became an all or nothing game of Russian roulette between me and the painting and in the end I died. There was no smoking gun, just an unfinished canvas and ten years of work lying dormant…unseen like some hibernating bear it sleeps, waking years later like Rumplestiltskin to find an art world changed.
 The artist Mark Rothko said that eventually black would swallow red, swallow all color until nothing was left. He believed that artists should starve, that fame is what kills them. When they become a commodity, a pastiche of themselves, they seek a way out.  For Jackson Pollack it was whisky and a Oldsmobile convertible. For me it was Malibu Rum and Coke and an online video game called “World of Warcraft.” In the game I could fight and die but I came back to life and fought again to win. Every time my characters gained another level, another skill, an achievement of any kind, it was like I was winning at life. Soon it became more fun to play with others online than to face the canvas alone, and see who would blink first. So now I know …I did. 

Union Square Artists Work

 This is all revealed to me as I walk through the artists stalls practically reeling with the weight of the realization I’ve just made about myself and my art. Eventually I walk into the regular vendors space and as I come around a bend I see the exact T-shirts I wanted and the girl selling them from last year is back! This is a kind of salvation for me now as I had no idea they sold here and am overjoyed to find the shirts I want, but there is just one small problem. I’ve got no cash and they don’t take debit cards. But luckily the girl tells me that a permanent newspaper vendor set up here actually has a debit machine and he is on the other side of the fair. So I take a long walk back to the artists area and wait my turn to get some dough, and I noticed that there’s many signs up protesting something, so I stop at an artists booth to get the lowdown. It seems that our illustrious Mayor wants to start limiting the number of artists to eighteen who can show and that there will be a fee for the day and that it’s on a first come first serve basis, anyone else will be turned away! I walk back to the girl and pick out the shirts I want marvelling at the stupidity of the people in our local government. The very thing that makes New York special is the very thing they want to attack and destroy or alter in some way and make it less attractive to tourists and the local population, and then when the Union Square market closes down because they took all the good out of it they will sit and blame others for the loss, never admitting it was they who ruined it in the first place. I hope it doesn’t come to that but it’s an old story, around here  on Long Island, local politics have made the suburbs a boring place. Where kids get into trouble because all the venues for fun were closed down leaving the kids nothing to do but invent their own fun on the street. I go down into the Union Square subway station and take it back uptown to the theater district. 

 It doesn’t take long to get back to the theater and needing a sit down and a drink of some kind I go searching for a local bar where I can sit and relax till the show, but this is a tourist section and there’s only loud sports bars and tourists traps, not what I need right now. So I wind up in another French restaurant calles Pergola des Artistes near the theater, it is crowded and I sit at the bar wishing for a drink and an appetizer but finding nothing small and “tapas-like” which I really would have preferred. I order Fillet of Sole Menuiere and French Onion soup to start with a glass of Cotes du Rhone and watch the action in front of me. The woman behind the counter is Marie Ponsolle, she and her husband Jacques opened the place in 1962 and struggled with all sorts of problems including a plumbing and electrical problems, water damage from a flood in the basement and from a fire on the floors above causing flooding  to their restaurant below to put it out, and even a holdup the first week they opened! Now their son Christian runs the place but Marie runs the bar where I sit and with a watchful eye and a loud voice she makes sure the bills are tallied correctly and that the waiters are working hard. I find her a little off-putting and when my soup arrives I tell her it is good but I’ve had better actually. It was murky and greasy and seemed to me to include  the sediment on the bottom of the pot. When my fish arrives it is indeed a huge portion the size of a dinner plate with some basic vegetables on the side that were undercooked and un-inspired, the fish was tasty enough but I have no point of reference so I don’t know this dish. I eat about half and ask for the rest to be wrapped up, the play starts in about twenty minutes and I pay the tab and walk briskly for the theater wishing I had gotten a hot dog of a cart instead. I mean why should you pay 50 bucks for heartburn when you could get it for around $5. I walk past others on their way to food and shows and arrive at the theater and take my seat. 

 The stage is set up just like Rothko’s studio, bare wood floors dirty and paint splattered, canvasses on the walls, stacked up some painted others stark white and waiting. There are tables and ladders, spot lights and a big wooden Adirondack chair across from a huge red canvas hanging from a gargantuan moveable A-frame easel. The actor is already seated in that chair contemplating the canvas before the show starts. It is to say the least an unexpected and un-nerving start to the play…he is motionless. When the lights go down he gets up and lights a cigarette and looks at the canvas, he walks toward it and touches it almost with the reverence a man might touch his wifes nude body while she sleeps. Quietly a  young man enters through the door stage right, wearing a brown suit and shoes, looking earnest and eager he has come to apply for the job of studio assistant. Rothko lays down the law of employment, he’s not here to be his friend, his father, or his mentor. 

  The dialogue between them throughout the play is often raw and un-pleasant, Rothko’s contempt for people in general is very evident and he laces into his assistant many times and mocks his opinions after asking for them. But still he tries to draw his assistant, who is also a painter into the real meaning of art. Rothko talks about Nietzsche, Byron, and Socrates. He tells the young man to become civilised. during the show they actually take canvasses down off the huge easel and put up new ones. They actually finish stapling one on the floor and setting the corners and after placing it up on the easel they both cover it in red primer, Rothko working above, the assistant below whose white t-shirt gets covered in splattered paint! (Later we find out the t-shirt will be signed by both men and offered to raise money for AIDS after the show)  

 In a pivotal scene the  young assistant (who has spent two years with Rothko) finally tells his employer off,  giving a long soliloquy about Rothko’s self-absorption and mis-trust, and finally telling him that he (Rothko) doesn’t believe anyone is good enough to own his art or even view his art. He thinks he is fired but Rothko says it’s the first time he really said what he thinks and  respects him for it. In real life Rothko, after seeing  in the Four Seasons  restaurant in the Seagrams building is distraught. He will not have his work in a place where such pretentious people, will pay too much money for mediocre food and look at each other assessing their worth and comparing their status. Rothko gave back the $35,000 dollar commission and continued to paint his unique vision but in his later years fell in into ill-health, an aneurism made him unable to work high up and he was forced to paint smaller canvasses. Then also ignoring his physician’s advice to quit smoking and drinking he became more depressed. Rothko was growing increasingly unhappy with the art world, and feeling betrayed by the younger artists who he felt had learned so much from people like him, finally took his own life in Feb 1970, slicing his wrists to his elbows in his studio, which was now his home after he and his wife separated. He was found by his young assistant Oliver Steindecker on the floor near the slop sink.

Me and Alfred Molina

The play ends as it started with dramatic music being played on the phonograph while Rothko who has just dis-missed his assistant telling him to get with his friends and start something new, get with them and “do the work” he says holding his face and looking into his eyes the only fatherly advice he gives him. He looks at the canvas alone as the light dims but the red of the canvas glows with an inner fire out of the black like the burning coals of a furnace. The crowd erupts into explosive applause with many hoots and shouts of “Bravo” and the actors appear and bow before us and then leave the stage. I make my way downstairs and go outside and wait a long time for the actors to come out, Eddie Redmayne comes out first and I tell him how good the show was, he is very pleased with the attention but after finishing with us rushes to embrace a young girl and guy who waited patiently for us to be done with him. They are obviously friends and possibly fellow actors enjoying a friends big break, indeed I find out later that Redmayne was interviewed on Charlie Rose, a late night serious talk show. Next Alfred Molina comes out and I tell him that I’m a painter trying to come out of a two-year block and that he has helped me quite a bit tonight. We all take turns taking pictures with him and when all are done he gets into his limo and off he goes, he’s got to be exhausted, two shows in one day. I am too but I stop to help an old woman who attended the show find the bus stop before turning back to go down 8th Ave and Penn Station once again. The wind has died down so I am warm enough in my denim and scarf as I walk the streets and find myself standing before the big board with 40 minutes to kill before my train. So, naturally I go to Tracks for a wash up and a cold glass of Harp on tap. It’s been a wonderful day followed by a profound evening, art changes you, it should change you. With gods help and a little luck I hope to be able to say I have been changed in this way many times before Rothko’s black finally comes. I settle into my bar stool and lean back  sipping my cold brew…lost in thought. 

Peace 

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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Filed under Art, Art Shows, Shepard Fairey, Street Art

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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Filed under Art, Art Shows, Shepard Fairey, Street Art