Art and Design | Barack Obama | News | Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey Discusses Street Art and Social Change


USA Network this week announced the winners of their 'Character Approved Awards' which honor individuals for their creativity and influence on American culture. With the announcement comes this short video of street artist Shepard Fairey discussing his work, which includes, of course, the (now in the Smithsonian) Obama "Hope" image as well as his graphic created for the marriage equality movement (above).

Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP...

Shepard Fairey: Obama's Warren Invite a 'Slap'; Time Cover Commission 'Bittersweet' [tr]
EXCLUSIVE: Shepard Fairey 'Defend Equality' Art for Marriage Equality [tr]
Shepard Fairey for Obama [tr]

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  1. Oh look...the fist of love and unity is back.

    To give Fairey an award for co-opting the style and creativity of others is akin to giving Will Smith a Grammy for his career of co-opting the work of Stevie Wonder and Sister Sledge.


    Posted by: paul c | Jan 30, 2009 10:48:21 AM

  2. FYI: The Coachella music festival lineup was announced this morning, and Shepard Fairey is on it. Not sure if that means he'll be displaying his work or doing something new for Coachella.

    Posted by: crispy | Jan 30, 2009 11:03:57 AM

  3. "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" is absolutely classic!

    To say Fairey has solely co-opted other artists when he's consistently created iconic street art that is both provocative and daring is disingenuous at best.

    Posted by: Feral | Jan 30, 2009 11:10:50 AM

  4. @ PAUL C - I don't love the "Love Unites" one either (a Keith Haring to me is much more appriate) but I give Fairey HUGE props for the Obama "HOPE" image. Never in my lifetime has a leader's image been immortalized into pop culture so instantly... worldwide! Yes, it is in an existing type and style, but it is a unique and amazing piece of art. The Obama Portrait is already in the very small pantheon of images like Alberto Korda's photo of Che Guevara.
    (and no, Korda did not invent the camera or the portrait, but that image is "wow"!)

    In short, good for Fairey. Give the boy an award.

    Posted by: Strepsi | Jan 30, 2009 11:12:13 AM

  5. the clenched fist is counter intuitive to the text on this poster. not to mention that its completely unoriginal, and ubiquitous... google "clenched fist" and view images. our graphic design heroes are ROFLMAO in their graves.

    Posted by: my2cents | Jan 30, 2009 11:23:47 AM

  6. "Good artists borrow, great artists, steal"

    attributed to Pablo Picasso

    Posted by: Bading | Jan 30, 2009 11:26:47 AM

  7. Your2Cents is full of Pollyannish Pansy self-delusion. We are never going to be equal, be able to love whom we want with impunity, unless we FIGHT for it.

    I like the image, and appreciate his apparently donating it to the movement, as well as his publicly flaming Obama for Warrengate.

    HOWEVER, Fairey's first Obama image, which zoomed so quickly ENTIRELY because of the Net and because it fed into pre-existing childish Messianism, remains a chilling echo, to those who weren't born yesterday or aren't know-nothings of whatever age, of Stalin. The Change version was much better for all reasons.

    Further, he's full of crap when he says that he wants all art to be accessible to everyone while charging hundreds of dollars+ for his signed originals.

    Further still, has he taken ANY of his soaring profits and repaid the owner of the copy machine that he rigged to make free copies for him years ago?

    Finally, would he still think graffitti was so great and defensible if someone tagged HIS car or house or climbed in the window and tagged some of HIS creations? Sauce for the goose is blah blah blah...

    Posted by: Leland Frances | Jan 30, 2009 12:12:34 PM

  8. So is he gay or not? If he isn't, why should any of us give a sh*t?

    Posted by: sean | Jan 30, 2009 12:30:39 PM

  9. let's not misinterpret picasso to legitimize his profiteering of moving messages that have stood the test of time because of their messages and beautiful simplicity. fairey neither borrows nor steals; he plagiarizes.

    Posted by: onthewestside | Jan 30, 2009 12:42:45 PM

  10. Do you think that's his real name (Shepard Fairey)?

    Posted by: MikeinSanJose | Jan 30, 2009 12:59:35 PM

  11. Obama didn't become huge because of Fairey's photoshopped cartoon image of him, Fairey's photoshopped cartoon image of him became huge because of Obama.

    There are about a million other artists in this country doing much better (and obviously more original) work, but who are not riding the coattails of a media sensation to reflected glory.

    Posted by: paul c | Jan 30, 2009 1:19:51 PM

  12. I give a shit about a lot of stuff that isn't gay. I think most people do. That's why I post about it.

    Posted by: andy | Jan 30, 2009 1:32:01 PM

  13. Well, Andy, I think that's why your blog is so compromised lately. I come her to get gay-skewed news. I can read this kind of bs anywhere.

    Posted by: Sean | Jan 30, 2009 1:44:40 PM

  14. @PAUL C - no one is saying he "made Obama huge", but aside from that you are dead wrong, and your comment misrepresents both the nature of art and marketing. When most political campaigning is generic headshots and platitudes, has a single image been rallied around as exemplifying the leader -- to reflect and reinforce the message in a single spot -- in memory? Maybe "I LIKE IKE" and the Korda photo of Che mentioned above, as well as in pop culture Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe head or Matty Zimmerman's Marilyn 'blowing dress' image.

    @LELAND FRANCES - accessibility is in the eye of the beholder. In the Fine Art world, "hundreds of dollars" for America's current most famous artist is practically giving it away. On the other hand, in the regular world, you pay a plumber $100 bucks a visit, the dentist $100 bucks a cleaning, why do people not believe in paying artists $100 bucks for work it takes days to do? Are artists like magical fairies who do not eat or pay rent but are supposed to starve in garrets through their selfless self-martying act of making the world pretty?

    "It takes a fairy to make something pretty."
    - The Boys in the Band

    Posted by: Strepsi | Jan 30, 2009 1:59:06 PM

  15. He seems likea nice guy and an ally...don't care for the work...meh

    "I think art should be a tool of communication that's available to everyone"...

    I think art that's a "tool" meant to convey a message isn't art anymore than a safe sex pamphlet is. Congrats on the USA person of the millenium, though.

    Posted by: TANK | Jan 30, 2009 1:59:21 PM

  16. Shepard Fairey is the real deal - an artist that has inspired countless others to create their own art outside of the prohibitive channels of the mainstream, an artist who has stuck to his principles and intents throughout his lengthy career, and a straight guy that stands up for gay rights without hesitation. The knee-jerk reactions and lack of understanding regarding his work and his history in these comments (and dismissal of him if he isn't gay) are, however, pathetic. Cheers to Andy for continuing to keep Towleroad readers informed about Mr. Fairey, as well as other non-exclusively-gay news. What power is there in ghettoizing yourself and the information/news you consume?

    Posted by: Dave | Jan 30, 2009 2:37:59 PM

  17. Sean, it's gay news because his name is Fairey. Duh.

    Posted by: crispy | Jan 30, 2009 2:49:42 PM

  18. @ DAVE: by all means help us understand his work and history. i was definitely not having a knee-jerk reaction by saying he plagiarizes and doesn't say who his sources are, until found out. and he doesn't care who he takes from, by virtue of his taking a skull emblem from the gestapo and then apologizing when he was rightfully called out. he didn't think it was ironic to put the emblem on; he thought it looked cool. he didn't put any thought into it. he doesn't put much thought into any of his work.

    just by saying there is something more to his work, doesn't make it so. and just because you drank the kool-aid, doesn't mean we all did.

    Posted by: onthewestside | Jan 30, 2009 3:00:59 PM

  19. Strepsi, anything associated with Obama in the last year has been huge....from "Obama Girl" and her video to Fairey's cartoons to Franklin Mint plates with his face on them. I don't think any of them are of particular merit, but rather as I said, are just coattail riding byproducts of the media frenzy.

    Posted by: paul c | Jan 30, 2009 3:10:47 PM

  20. What's with all the hateful comments towards Shepard? This is a great humanitarian and selfless artist who is trying to make the world a better place and put a positive message out there for people to rally around. So what if he's straight? Fairey is a huge friend to the gay community as well as someone I've known since moving to LA in 1999. All of this negative, whiny feedback is exactly what needs to change in this country. Get off your asses and go out and do something with your life!

    Posted by: Lars | Jan 30, 2009 4:03:02 PM

  21. My friends and I use to cut up pics and photocopy them n different colored paper to create broke ass Warhols.

    This hack just did that and stole some old Soviet ideas.


    Posted by: Derek Washington | Jan 30, 2009 4:18:37 PM

  22. although i appreciated Fairley's original Obama poster, its value has been compromised by its being pimped out on recent covers of Time and Esquire. its interesting that these magazines are owned by separate magazine publishers--Time Inc. and Hearst. i'd be curious if that redundancy is effecting their newsstand sales.

    for those interested i recommend "The Design of Dissent" by Milton Glaser and Mirko Ilic -- this book is a testament to the power of art and design.

    Posted by: my2cents | Jan 30, 2009 4:55:20 PM

  23. Tear down, tear down, tear down.

    Girls, girls, girls, STFU and do something positive yourself! No one is perfect, not even Fairey (despite his talent, good looks, gay-supportive politics, etc.).

    @ CRISPY, DAVE & LARS: ♥

    Posted by: David R. | Jan 31, 2009 1:04:44 AM

  24. I need that for my pride display - where can I get one?

    Posted by: shane | Jan 31, 2009 10:51:12 AM

  25. OMG, He is a friend to our community and a contemporary artist. 'Nuf said! Go Fairey! Woop Woop!

    Posted by: Timothy | Jan 31, 2009 12:45:02 PM

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