The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures


Shepard Fairey bombs the ICA
By GREG COOK  |  February 10, 2009

OBEY REVOLUTION GIRL (2005): Fairey channels the old radical chic, mining the language of propaganda as well as the language of rebellion.

“Shepard Fairey: Supply and Demand” | Institute Of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave, Boston | Through August 16

Slideshow: "Shepard Fairey: Supply and Demand"

Interview: Shepard Fairey. By Evan J. Garza.

Video: Shepard Fairey slaps a mural on the Phoenix's offices.

Recap: The Shepard Fairey party at the ICA. By Chris Faraone.

Shepard Fairey and his show "Supply and Demand" arrive at the Institute of Contemporary Art like a guerrilla general emerging from the jungle after his forces have taken the capital. There's still some sniping going on (the Associated Press says the Los Angeles street artist's ubiquitous Obama "Hope" poster infringes on copyright because the image is too closely based on an AP photo, and Globe editorial cartoonist Dan Wasserman calls him a "graphic pickpocket"), but it's clear who's won the battle.

Property owners across the area have invited him — a guy arrested 15 times (including this weekend's Boston bust; see our Editorial, on page 4) for sticking stuff where people didn't want it — to poster their walls. Fairey's banner — his trademark Andre the Giant icon — is pasted atop the ICA façade. And, as you've likely heard, Obama won.

The ICA bills "Supply and Demand" as Fairey's first museum survey, and perhaps the first major museum exhibit of a street artist. The show — some 250 works spanning 20 years — is pretty awesome. It doesn't hurt that Obama is in the White House; all Fairey's prints hating on the Bush administration would be a lot pricklier — and make you feel like shit — if things had gone the other way. But time is on Fairey's side. It's probably the hottest show in the nation right now.

"For me it was never about being a rebel," Fairey, dressed in jeans, sneakers and Clash T-shirt, explains at the ICA press preview. "Dissent when necessary is a component of any democracy. . . . I am actually trying to be constructive with this stuff."

Credit the ICA for nailing the zeitgeist. Tara Donovan won a MacArthur "Genius Grant" shortly before her show opened at the ICA last fall. ICA assistant curator Emily Moore Brouillet began planning the Fairey show before his Obama poster came out a year ago. (She left the ICA last year; guest curator Pedro Alonzo finished the show.) Add in this past summer's Anish Kapoor show and the ICA has had three big hits in a row.

The Fairey phenomenon began as a throw-away joke when he was studying at Rhode Island School of Design in 1989. He photocopied stickers of the wrestler Andre the Giant with the scrawled slogan "Andre the Giant has a posse." He covered Providence with them. Then the world. It was an anti-movement promoting nothing — weird, mysterious, absurdly funny.

Fairey pioneered the move from graffiti to street art, from tagging to stickering and postering. His earliest Andre stickers are scuzzy, identifying the artist's roots in punk. During those early years he seemed to be trying on other people's styles. It wasn't until about 1995 that he found his voice by adding the slogan "Obey" and streamlining Andre's face, transforming the late wrestler from the sweet lunkhead of The Princess Bride into an ominous Big Brother.

1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Obey,  More more >
  • Share:
  • Share this entry with Facebook
  • Share this entry with Digg
  • Share this entry with Delicious
  • RSS feed
  • Email this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Today's Event Picks
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   ALTERNATIVE ENERGY  |  October 14, 2009
    At the end of August, the seven-month-old Massachusetts Creative Economy Council released its first report on the state of culture here.
  •   SEARCHING FOR A VISION  |  October 13, 2009
    Haley O'Connor, the co-founder of Stairwell Gallery, includes a few of her own photos in the gallery's new show, "Yesterday Today and Tomorrow."
    In 1993, on the occasion of her 90th birthday, friends of prominent Cambridge artist Maud Morgan donated funds to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts to establish a prize in her name. (She died six years later.) The Maud Morgan Purchase Prize would celebrate under-appreciated mid-career Massachusetts female artists.
  •   LASTING IMPRESSIONS  |  October 07, 2009
    The Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries didn't become known as the European age of rebirth for nothing.
  •   WEATHER REPORTS  |  October 09, 2009
    One of the great themes in America is nostalgia for the "good old days," which flame into being and then fade into the distance.

 See all articles by: GREG COOK

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2009 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group