Sunday, July 13, 2008

Obama's Posse Led by Fairey

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But Shepard Fairey, the creator of the OBEY GIANT street art campaign has produced a limited printing to illustrate his support for the Democratic nominee. It is the antithesis of his original artistic mission via the Andre the Giant has a Posse stickers and posters which Fairey described as an experiment in phenomenology. Seeing the black and white sticker of Andre the Giant on a stop sign with the enigmatic declarative that he has a posse was intended to make you stop and say "What does that mean?"
And I can remember just that feeling of seeing the sticker from a distance, staring at it, wondering about it, knowing that there was something to it that I just wasn't getting. It was an interesting, albeit rather trivial experience. Fast forward a decade and a half, and, as with so many things which rattle around in the disorganized warehouse of memory, the image of Andre or a later more abstracted one with the mandate "OBEY" comes to mind. But now it comes to mind within reach of a computer which reaches an internet indexed by Google. Moments later, the man behind the curtain is revealed as a Shepard Fairey.

Since the days of being an art student with a street art bent, he has now become an established part of the anti-establishment. He still illustrates the walls of warehouses and signposts, but he also shows in galleries and has a slick website that is happy to sell you this or that. You can join him in thumbing your nose at the man (now will that be visa or mastercard?).

Now picking up the nation's palette (red, white and muted cyan (remember it's still art)), he shows Obama and the word Progress. From an oblique subcultural reference with an ambiguous statement to a national figure with an explicit branding - so goes the way of Fairey from art to politics. Maybe I shouldn't have looked to see the man behind the curtain. For the mysterious vagueness and ambiguity, you'll have to look to his candidate.