Sunday, September 21, 2008

Obama’s Obedient Artist: Is Shepard Fairey a Farce?

Obama’s Obedient Artist: Is Shepard Fairey a Farce? HOPE by Shepard Fairey

I recently read an article about Shepard Fairey which suggested that he is the sole reason for street art shifting toward the mainstream art world today. I don’t agree with that. In my opinion Fairey is a minor dot concerning mainstream acceptance of street art. True, his image of Obama titled ‘HOPE’ has sparked a following, but that hardly makes him a major player in the underground scene or mainstream scene. In fact, one could say that he is simply riding the coat tails of Obama in order to achieve art stardom or that Obama is using Fairey in order to appeal to the youth of the United States. What better way to appear hip than to utilize the skills of a street artist, right? One thing is for certain, no matter who is using who or if it is truly a mutual effort-- there is a message just under the surface of ‘HOPE’ that should be examined before hype sways opinions.

For those who don’t know, Shepard Fairey is a street artist who is known for his guerrilla art tactics-- as in placing posters, stickers, and creating stencil work and other aspects of street art in places that are often in violation of the law. Due to the nature of Fairey’s art he has been arrested several times. For years he focused on images involving the slogan “Obey” as a way of provoking people to question their obedience within the context of society. While anti-corporation and anti-government themes are not overly original-- especially as far as street art is concerned-- Fairey’s work at that time had a message and a following that was beyond the control of any specific political party.

Enter Obama. Fairey’s Obama inspired art is due to his fandom for the candidate. In fact, the ‘radical artist’ was cautious about approaching Obama as a subject for his work due to the concerns he had about how his use of the Obama image would be viewed by the Democrat Party and the public. He was worried that his work might hurt Obama’s campaign. Thus, the street artist known for being radical and against political and corporate obedience sought acceptance openly from a political party-- he traded his edgy street virtue for a new vision of hope.

Fairey has stated that that at the time Obama’s camp gave him an “unofficial wink and nod” concerning his desire to use Obama’s image within the context of his work. The unofficial acceptance was enough to spur Fairey into production. In a sense, his work no longer explored the concepts of his ‘Obey’ imagery-- at least not in the way it had. Instead, his new message became ‘Obama’ which ironically challenged his previous visual statements about obedience and the avoidance of political and corporate hype as far as I’m concerned. I'd go as far as to say that Fairey's recent work fractures the very foundation of his past. Thus, the validity of his work is in question in a manner that goes beyond the common charges of plagiarism that has haunted his progression as an artist-- more on that later.
Guns and Roses by Shepard Fairey
Left: Political power comes from the barrel of a gun - Artist unknown. 1968. Chinese poster from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution period. The title of this poster quotes the famous pronouncement made by Mao Tse-Tung. Right: Fairey's plagiarized version titled, Guns and Roses. Original concept? You decide.

Now to the surface of the matter. The original concept for the Obama ’HOPE’ image involved heavy borrowing from Alberto Korda's famed shot of revolutionary Che Guevara. It involved the slogan ‘PROGRESS’ instead of “HOPE” and was very successful having sold out within minutes of being released. Fairey was contacted again by the Obama campaign shortly after the success of the red, white, and blue ‘PROGRESS’ Obama print. The Obama campaign sought an officially sanctioned poster in the same style. However, Obama’s campaign was worried that the ’PROGRESS’ slogan would be considered Marxist by the public. Thus, with Obama’s official endorsement came change of a different nature.

Under the ‘pay grade’-- I mean watchful eye-- of the Obama campaign Fairey had to use a photo and slogan approved by the Obama campaign. In a sense, he was told what to do as well as the message to convey. The end result is an image that is nothing more than political-- as well as corporate-- propaganda just under the surface. The redesigned image was destined to feature the now famous- and not so Marxist- ‘HOPE’ slogan that has captured the attention of millions. Fairey, obedient to the Obama campaign, altered the meaning of his original message as well as the image itself. In my opinion, that action demands questions concerning the validity of Shepard Fairey and his art. Does Fairey stay true to the streets when making a statement? True to himself? True to the philosophies he has built a career on? Or can his message be bought and sold? Assimilated into the very entities he once railed against?

Fairey has stated, “I didn't want anything I did to be a liability or an unwanted endorsement," concerning the art he has created with Obama as his inspiration. Fairey’s Obama inspired merchandise has earned over $400,000 for the Obama Campaign. Fairey claims that he has donated 100% of the profit from his Obama inspired works to the Obama Campaign, stating, "I have not kept one dime from the Obama posters," in a recent article. In a sense, he has tipped his hat to Obama. That is exactly what troubles me about Shepard Fairey. He will go lengths to obtain unofficial and official approval from the candidate he supports while at the same time failing to ask permission when ‘borrowing’ images from the work of other artists for his own art. If he was worried about the liability his images might be for Obama I would think that he would show some respect concerning the liability he may or may not project upon the careers of those artists and their estates.
Untitled Silk-screen poster - Rene Mederos, Cuba, 1972. This double portrait by one of Cuba’s most famous poster artists depicts the revolutionaries Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos as seen on the Art for a Change article. A must read!

From Art for a Change-- Screenshot taken from the "Bombing Science" website 7/18/2007, where the Fairey rip-off of Mederos’ poster was being sold as a T-shirt. Fairey printed the graphic without permission from the Mederos estate. Fairey never publicly acknowledged or apologized for his use of Rene Mederos image. However, that did not stop his bookkeeper from pulling the shirt off the site, acknowledging the copyright violation, and offering a royalty check to the estate-- according to Art for a Change and Lincoln Cushing, an art historian and author who brokered a royalty agreement between Fairey and the Mederos estate. If Fairey is paying homage to artists like Mederos and the causes they fought for it would be nice if he would do it the right way by acknowledging their legacy as well as the copyright of their work.

I realize that many people will not enjoy reading about my opinions of Shepard Fairey. During discussions I have had about Fairey and his recent work it is often stated that the most important aspect is that street art is gaining the acceptance and credit that it deserves. Many people feel that Shepard Fairey is spearheading the validation of street art as a legitimate form of art. In fact, some people have suggested that Fairey’s Obama inspired work is changing how the mainstream art world views street art due to the success of the Obama ‘HOPE’ image. I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with that. The fight for said acceptance has involved several key players-- not just Shepard Fairey. The blunt of that work was paved in the 1980s… long before the success of Shepard Fairey. I'm certain the history of the acceptance of street art goes back further than that.
Fairey knows the history... because he has obviously 'borrowed' more than a few images from the 1920's and 1960's. Credit should be given where credit is due-- that goes for the rich history of street art and for the art that Fairey has profited from in his own work by 'borrowing' at will. Selective history is great for hype-- especially if the art in questions involved a popular candidate-- but in the end it will make Fairey look like a fool-- if his Obama inspired work is remembered in the first place. Selective history can also build a career as long a people don't take notice of it. Unfortunately for Fairey... some people have-- for example, the article on Art for a Change.
To sum this up. Artists can flip-flop just as much as politicians. They can also avoid questions as politicians do. I have to question the ethics behind Fairey’s art and I had hoped to go straight to the source. Unfortunately, it does not seem that Shepard Fairey is open to answering questions. I first made contact on October 22nd 2007. My emails to his website had went unanswered. However, on September 4th I received an email from David Scharff. Mr. Scharff stated that he represented Shepard Fairey and Studio Number One. He asked me if anyone had replied to my interview requests. I informed him that I had been trying to make contact and asked again if an interview was possible. It is now September 21st and I’ve not received an unofficial or official response from Fairey or his team. Shepard, if you are reading this I would like to challenge you to a town hall debate about your art, ethics, and the hype surrounding both. Note my sarcasm-- though I will be in Miami this December for Art Basel if you are interested...
Before the hate mail and comments arrive I want to make it clear that the rejection by lack of response from Fairey and his team is not the reason for my harsh response concerning him. If I did have an opportunity to interview him the questions would have been tough and they would have dealt with some of the very issues I’ve mentioned in this post. It would have been nice for him to face it directly so that he could tackle some of the negative views involving his art and practice. Thus, I can only assume that serious questions-- hard line questions-- are being avoided all together with little follow-up as to the statements from answers he has given in past interviews. My interview requests are refused all the time-- that is not the issue. However, I'm normally told "yes" or "no" within a reasonable amount of time. I can only assume that tough questions are being avoided concerning the validity of his art and the contradictions of his practice. That said, I have a responsibility to report artists and work as I see it-- especially when they are covered in the news three times in under a week as being an influential force.
What do you think about Shepard Fairey and his art? In fighting the system visually has he-- in the end- joined the very system he once stood against? What do you think about his 'borrowing' without permission or failing to acknowledge credit until his actions are discovered? By 'borrowing' from images without permission or acknowledgment does Shepard Fairey mock the social issues those artists represented and stood for? Should he pay homage where homage is due by informing people about the artists he has 'borrowed' from as well as what their work stood for? Is he the reason for the boom in interest concerning street art? Is Fairey to the US what BANKSY is to the UK? What would you do if he 'borrowed' from you? Is parody sometimes used as an excuse to steal images? Does Obama's choice in calling on Fairey for campaign material reflect support for the Orphan Works bill? Is Fairey an example of how the Orphan Works bill may end up abused if passed? Should that concern artists in this election? Is Fairey a farce? Does it matter? What say you?
Don't use the Picasso philosophy in order to justify Shepard Fairey’s art. First, Picasso’s words are often taken out of context. Second, even if he did mean it that way there were no legal protections for visual artists at that time. There are today and they must be acknowledged or else we are all victims. Though if the Orphan Works bill is passed I’m sure we will see more artists like Fairey trying to exploit the work of others as long as they can before being caught. Perhaps Fairey could form an art movement called Fairism if it is passed?
For the purpose of educating-- observe quotes from a recent interview with Shepard Fairey:
“When I'm using someone else's work as a reference point, I'm just trying to give them props.” = Shepard Fairey from his interview with Liam O'Donoghue for Mother Jones.

If Fairey wants to give those artists ‘props’ don’t you think he should acknowledge them by name or at least respect what their image stood for if the artist is not known? Should he show examples of the work he 'referenced' alongside his work or at least acknowledge them on his website?

“I give money to the Zapatistas for all the prints of Subcomandante Marcos that I made. I just raised almost $100,000 for Darfur. I challenge anybody to fuck with that, know what I mean? It's not like I'm just jumping on some cool rebel cause for the sake of exploiting it for profit. People like to talk shit, but it's usually to justify their own apathy.” = Shepard Fairey from his interview with Liam O'Donoghue for Mother Jones.

I get it. Since Fairey donates money to good causes we are not supposed to question his methods or possible violations of artist rights concerning his work? One could say he is exploiting the causes as a buffer-- as a protective barrier-- to fend off anyone who challenges his intentions or art. I'm sorry, but I don't think that people should use those who have suffered as a shield to protect themselves.

“I don't want to demean anyone's struggles through casual appropriation of something powerful; that's not my intention.” = Shepard Fairey from his interview with Liam O'Donoghue for Mother Jones.

Casual appropriation? If that is the case why did his bookkeeper offer a royalty check to the Mederos estate? Why was there very little press about that? Seems it was hushed up.

“A lot of the stuff that I do is designed to try to circulate things that I think are awesome back into a new crowd.” = Shepard Fairey from his interview with Liam O'Donoghue for Mother Jones.

By projecting it as your own work?

“There's a piece by [Cuban artist] René Mederos that I used, thinking, "Well, how would I ever pay this guy anyway because he's in Cuba?" All I really changed about that graphic was I put flowers into the gun and put a peace logo in it. With Castro and Che on horses I was definitely manipulating the original intention, but at the same time, it was a really beautifully done poster and tweaking it for my anti-war agenda was a way to pass that graphic along. So when [Mederos' estate] contacted me, I immediately paid him the exact same royalty rate that any artist would be paid.” = Shepard Fairey from his interview with Liam O'Donoghue for Mother Jones.

Nice save. So it is OK as long as the artist or estate does not find out? It is OK to knowingly rip off another artist and violate copyright laws because they might be hard to reach? Is it best to 'borrow' from work outside of the US so that maybe people won't notice?

“No artist has ever come to me and said, "Hey, I'm unhappy that you took this and used it." Most say, "I really like what you're doing; I'm glad you did that. Now that we know each other, let's do a more official collaboration." They see the way I'm using the images is not disrespectful, and they dig it.” = Shepard Fairey from his interview with Liam O'Donoghue for Mother Jones.

Names please.

“I don't have a specific political affiliation.” = Shepard Fairey from his interview with Liam O'Donoghue for Mother Jones.

Say what? HOPE? Obama?

“One of the reasons I started my clothing line was because I went into an Urban Outfitters and they were bootlegging my star logo on T-shirts. To see it in there, just ripped off, was definitely upsetting to me, because I was still totally broke at the time. And the reason I get pissed off about stuff like that is because I didn't build up the resonance for that image just to hand it off to someone to exploit." = Shepard Fairey from his interview with Liam O'Donoghue for Mother Jones.

Shepard Fairey can 'borrow' or 'reference' others, but we can't reference him? How wealthy was Mederos when he started creating his art? What about Felix Beltran, Gary Grimshaw, Rupert Garcia, Pirkle Jones, Ralph "Bingo" Chaplin, Vladimir Kozlinsky, Dmitry Moor, or Koloman Moser? Granted some of the works created by the artists listed are indeed within public domain. However, if Fairey is going to suggest that he is giving 'props' to those who came before he should at least acknowlege the art that he has used and the history behind those works.
A simple page dedicated to those artists and the history and meaning of their work on his website would go a long way in making things right. I might even appreciate his work if that were to happen. I actually liked his work until I discovered the truth behind his deception. However, considering that he has mentioned the risk of being 'busted' for 'borrowing' or 'referencing' other artists in some of his statements I don't think he cares about the history or meaning behind those works or the artists themselves. Shepard Fairey cares about Shepard Fairey. Maybe that is why he avoids some interviews? The contradictions are very amusing.
Links of Interest:
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


Anonymous said...

Shepard is a hack! why does he get upset when people steal his images for merchandise when he has done the same thing. I’ve read that he was upset that shirts with Hope have been sold on street corners in Chicago and on Ebay.Looks like everything is blowing up in his face. It would be funny if it turns out he stole that image. Could the artist file against Shepard and Obama if that happened?

Anonymous said...

Dude does not like collectors reselling his prints either. I love his designs but did not know about those other people. Makes me think different of Shepard now. Heroes always turn out to be zeros in the end.

What a jerk for defending himself with charity. :(

Anonymous said...

don’t know if this blogger contacted Shepard or not but take a look

the blogger claims that Shepard put this disclaimer on his site after their email exchange

“Please use common sense and consideration when applying stickers or other propaganda materials. Giant is designed to provoke thought about the mechanics of the system we live in...not to destroy it. Everyone has to live here. Plus there are extreme individuals who wish to label all street artist as vandals and push for harsher and harsher penalties and prosecution. These people are very organized and lobby for public support. To counteract their attempts to vilify street artist, the street artist community needs to befriend local arts councils, graphic arts organizations, and anyone and everyone with political power who could be sympathetic to artists who have no sanctioned public venue to express themselves. The cities build tennis courts, basketball courts, football fields, even skate parks at millions of dollars cost to the tax payer. Where are the public mural walls? It's all about control of the public space. If the opponents of street art are the only ones who speak out then they will be the only ones who are listened to. We need to fight fire with fire and express ourselves intelligently. If we don't come across as a bunch of vandals we may find that the silent majority is actually supportive of public artistic expression. Check out the following letter to see where they are coming from.- Shepard”

i don't think Shepard understands how much graffiti cost taxpayers. some states spend millions each year getting rid of it. that might not be a drop in the bucket compared to government mess ups and the unjust war but it is a drop that people need to know about.

if states were not using millions of taxpayer money to clean up the mess they would make more legal spaces or put the money in helping the places where most of it happens. most of it is crap and there are legal places to do it already but the works end up covered in minutes by other people making stuff. those artists have more support from the government than other individual artists when you break how much is spent on them down.

Anonymous said...

I don't see anything wrong with what he is doing.Protection can create overprotection.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the link on Myspace. This stuff causes poverty stricken areas to be more threatening. I know because I lived on one of the hardest streets in America.

Street art does not cause change. It causes rage to go outward. If they wanted to make a statement they should tag, write, or bomb on corporate buildings or factories. I think the same of bands that promote anger and play at every protest that will allow them while getting a big fat record deal on the side.

Rage Against the Machine is the perfect example because they promote striking back and protecting the environment but their record label distributes singles which are a waste of plastic and other resources. Most of their dvds come with a freebie cd with one or two songs on it. That does not help the environment. It helps to destroy it.

These musicians and artists have done more to hurt social movements than anyone else by making it into a marketable spectacle. Some of the greatest political artists of our time did not put a price on their work. The corporations took note of the what Joplin and other were worth and today they invest thinking someone will fill their shoes.

Money, money, money and your values are for sale.

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that Obama supports the orphan works bill Balhatain?

Anonymous said...

Shepard is still an art god no matter what. His work is boss. Stop hating. You jealous or something? Obama supports art so don't try to manipulate people. The support for Shepard's work shows that Obama cares about creative people.

Anonymous said...

Shepard is a street artist. I don't think he cares about being legal. The art laws on copyright do not apply to him. Morals and ethics about ripping images does not apply to him. Get a clue.

Anonymous said...

Dont really care about business matters, but off the top of my head, which hurts from reding an article even longer than mine, now I sympathize. I would say political art is fair game, in the public domain, as opponennts use art adn then modify it as sarcastic attacks on the originators. now, if he makes profit, and the one of Che is obvious plagiarism for sale, not poltical posters, I have problems with that.

But his changing from street artist if fine, gotta grow up someday. And street art is just irritating, and has no effect, just pisses people off. Ugly and irritating after a hard days work, and usually quit naive. He can change if he sees something he can get behind, whats wrong with that? So I can see the issue witht the shirts, and is hypocritical, but not a real big problem.

And did Dion forward my proposal? I am too old for this myspace crap, difficult enough looking at weblogs. Email at my old address as I dont use it anymore anyway. Time is critical.


Anonymous said...

sounds like you're just looking for something to punch. he's just a guy. just another artist. he's done some nice work and probably made a lot of mistakes along the way. your "tough" questions sound more like irritating assumptions.

seriously. lighten up.

Balhatain said...

Donald, I think it does matter if he is using the work of others line for line. It makes one wonder how much of his work is authentic considering his history and the contradictions of his own words.

Using parody as a defense implies that he does not value the message of the works he has borrowed from. Which is a contradiction of his statement about giving the artists he admires 'props'.

Shepard silences those messages and the history involved with those messages by not informing people about those works until he is 'busted'. At which point he admits that he hopes the 'bust' goes well. As in the artist or family accepting what he has done without taking legal action. Nevermind the fact that he has sued artists when his own copyrights are violated.

Concerning the Mederos piece, my understanding is that the shirt was pulled from production after his copyright infrindgement was exposed. In one article he acknowledged that he new the piece was by Mederos and decided to use it without contacting the artist. He did not give credit to Mederos either.

The issue falls on your perception of right and wrong when it comes to the creation of art and the laws that protect visual artists from theft. Fairey does not want you to steal or alter his work for profit so why should we accept the actions he has taken by abusing other artists for profit?

As for the political side of Fairey. Again, my issue is mostly with the contradictions of his statements. In a recent interview he stated that he does not support one political party or the other. However, his support for Obama says otherwise.

People can change their views-- their art can change-- and the message of art can change as well. However, one could say that Fairey's art once represented defiance only to end up being obedient-- another contradiction in the validity of his work. He still holds on to one philosophy while embracing another. He can't very well cater to both, can he?

Would the Shepard Fairey of 1989 change the design of a piece just because a political party suggested that it may make their candidate appear "Marxist" as he stated? In that sense, Fairey's Obama inspired work is pure propaganda instead of an examination of propaganda.

Balhatain said...

Anon said, "sounds like you're just looking for something to punch. he's just a guy. just another artist. he's done some nice work and probably made a lot of mistakes along the way. your "tough" questions sound more like irritating assumptions.

seriously. lighten up."

Assumptions? Read some of his statements and you will observe his contradictions. Artists can make mistakes between right and wrong just as much as the next person. However, most people learn from their mistakes rather than build a career on thinking that people will not notice.

We hold politicians accountable for their mistakes. We hold corporations accoutable for their mistakes. Why should we not question an artist as well? One could say that Fairey's early work was devoted to that very idea.

Unfortunately, when questioned he uses charity as a defense, parody as a defense, or simply proclaims that the person criticizing him is envious of his success. Would you accept “people envy me” or “I donated to this charity” as a response from President Bush concerning his mistakes in Iraq? No.

Anonymous said...

I agre he was hypocritical and should probably be sued for teh Tshirt fiasco, and for any for profit activities. Just dont think what someone said as a child twenty eyars ago can be held agasnt him, things change. His Obama guns and roses thing fine, should be paying the rock band if anything. They are political postes adn fair game.

but you ar right about other things, jsut dont think it a big deal as he will be history as soon as the campaign is over. ADN STREET ART IS DAMAGING TO NEIGHBORHOODS, DEPRESSING, ADN ADDS TO THE FEELINGS OF HOPELEssness, no hope. Sorry about that gotta run

Balhatain said...

Donald, from 1989 to around 2003 or 2004 he maintained a consistent visual message with Obey. Thus, he was in his early to mid 30’s when he shifted direction and embraced a specific political party to the extreme-- an adult by definition of the word. One questions if it is authentic.

The shift is not so much the issue. However, holding on to two distinct messages is an issue from an ethical standpoint. History is history. I’m focusing on the here and now while reflecting on the past.

As for street art in general, it can be positive or negative to a community depending on the message that is conveyed. I’m not against street art. Refer to my interviews with Anthony Lister, Mark Jenkins, and BASK.

I’ve also been working on an interview with El Fatom who is known for the work he did for Rage Against the Machine-- most specifically artwork for their Battle of Los Angeles album. Among other question he will be answering some tough questions about the burden on taxpayers as far as the expense of street cleaning is concerned and the conflict that has in the message of the work... as well as other issues.

Anonymous said...

First, kudos for the in-depth research behind your article. Many points to consider and still lots to think about. But upon first read, I jotted some "comments" that are very "broad-based" and not as detailed as you may prefer:

Who among us has not flip-flopped in life and/or in our art (or any other profession for that matter)? Who among us has not flip-flopped in this Presidential Campaign at some point? I went from thinking that i shouldn't vote for any of these jokers, to listening to fellow Christians try to persuade me for McCain, and ultimately deciding for myself to vote for Obama who I sincerely "HOPE" can turn this country around for a single mother/starving artist such as myself.

None of us are perfect and we change as we age. I myself change daily.

Hooray for Obama for recognizing the art world...I don't care what artist he recognizes as long as he draws attention to art. Artists are in desperate straits right now in this economy. Bill Clinton recognized art and my business prospered then...can't really say that right now.

Artists by nature are radical and daring. Art is all about taking risks...perhaps for this guy, copyright and illegal risks. By drawing on others art, perhaps he was challenging the knowledge of his audience? Does that make it right? No. But in the end, debates such as this one make him more and more famous for what he does. Maybe it's worth the risk for him...After all, as a self-taught artist who lives in a shell, I never heard of the guy until today. And now I am just one more person off to research his work and check him out...

Balhatain said...

Anon said, "Hooray for Obama for recognizing the art world...I don't care what artist he recognizes as long as he draws attention to art. Artists are in desperate straits right now in this economy. Bill Clinton recognized art and my business prospered then...can't really say that right now."

I would like a candidate who recognizes current copyright law when selecting an artist to be his visual vehicle for change. It is great that Obama recognizes the importance of art. However, it would have been better if he displayed an understanding of the current situation facing artists-- such as concerns about the Orphan Works bill-- when making his choice.

That is not to suggest that Fairey’s Obama images are not original. At the same time-- due to the history of Fairey and his methods-- how do we know? If it is acceptable for Fairey to violate copyright laws it should be acceptable for every artist-- anyone for that matter-- to do the same. One could say that is the message Obama is making with his choice. However, Fairey does not take lightly to people who profit off of knockoffs of his work.

The Republicans have been hammered for using music without the permission of the artist several times this year so in that sense they are not any better in their choices. However, they have not made a known copyright violator into their ‘poster boy’ either.

When Republicans violated the rights of those artists there were several articles about it-- statements about how the Republicans 'attack the rights of all artists' and so on. Why are the Democrats safe from those same charges considering their association with Shepard Fairey?

Anonymous said...

Artists by nature are radical and daring. Art is all about taking risks...

Thanks, I needed the laugh. As you are self taught, maybe hope for you, but this is a stereotype built off people who lived long ago, and has absolutley nothing to do with the current state of "art".

It is a depressing day, and concerns far grater than art going on at this very moment. Art will soon be no more, as we know it. Time to really question our purpose. And get to work. Creating, things that make the world a better place, NOT worried about career. Do that, and things will take care of themselves, eventually. Patience, young grasshopper. Life was here far before you came, and will be here long past your exit.

Business collegia delenda est

Anonymous said...

first of all, s.f. is not an artist at all. he's a good and lucky designer. he's not telling me anything new. just well done old stuff.

Anonymous said...

For Donald Frazzell: Stereotypes abound for a at least 50% of the cases, they are often true. I know some radical, risk taking artists on the show circuit I travel in. I laugh just to think of them...if you told them they weren't, they would be offended. Aside from the "art" itself, many in this day and age who try to make a living off art alone are "radical, risk takers" just by nature of what they are doing (like myself). You are correct, however, in saying that creating art for the sake of creating art is much more rewarding than creating art to pay the electric is, alas, time to give up my "risk taking" personality and get a "real" no-risk job.

Thanks for the "young" comment. I'm 40 in Jan. and needed that.

I think you "stereotype" self-taught artists. There are those who "learn" art and those who are naturally "gifted" and of course many who are/do both. I've been creating since the age of 4 and as an adult, have won awards in top juried shows. There are many able, gifted self-taughts. I tend to think I've earned the title of a brown grasshopper.

And the art world becoming non-existent? Only if humans turn to robots.

And also, you HOPE the world will be here after I'm gone. Peace my friend.

Anonymous said...

Sterotypes in art are near 100% as it is a small group, inbred through academies which only advance their own. And so have mediocerized(is that a word? is now)art into meaninglesness. Those with talent go elsewhere, or learn on their own, the only way to do it. How hard is it to smear some colored mud around anyway? Look at Dions site today about the Morandi show at the Met. Self taught, took decades to learn, simple, beautiful.

And yes, you ARE a young grasshopper, I got a decade on you. Been there dont that, on most things. Execpt have always worked. Been out of work for only one three week period in almost thirty years. Worked though collge also. History, not some damn stupid art crap. And photography on the side, then turned to painting when I realized my prints WERE paintings, far more in common with Braque and Cezanne than Life magazine. While working.

And yes, this decadent art world is about to come crashing down. tomorrow, when they sign this budget busting bill, the final, biggest domino will be in place. it has no support, no added revenue to a now to be $12 TRILLION deficit. The bank is busted, and there are still more dominos to fall, and when they do, this one will also.

Write it down, tomorrow is the end of the end, this has all been the dance, the party before the fall we created. When it will fall I dont know, but they are betting this will fix everything, and so will not pay attention, you know the world is now ADD To many video games, and reality shows. We will adapt, thats what we do. But what we knew will end, as much as it did from 1929. So keep working, humanity will survive, but in a different state. We blew it. Had it all, but did not nurture it, we raped it.

Sucks to know history and economics so well, in a time of bad business and salesmen running things. The Chinese curse is upon us. May you live in interesting times. Damn Chinese.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my bad, forgot.

Art collegia delenda est.

And add to that even more importantly

Capitalism delenda est.

it was suicide.

Anonymous said...

Obama messed up by making Shepard Fairey his poster boy. Look at the Hope poster. Do they really want him to be compared to Che Guevara? What did Guevara accomplish? Nothing. He offered hope but in the end change was not found. So why depict Obama as a failed revolutionary other than to attract the scores of teens in this country who think they are revolutionaries just because they bought all the Rage cds and dvds? It does not help that Obama had a poster of Che hanging in his campaign office. Che is a combative image to have hanging and a combative historical figure to be compared to. By having that image and Fairey as his poster boy is Obama saying that people should go out on the street with guns if he is not elected? Is Obama saying that his political revolution will fail like Che’s did in the end? Who the hell does Fairey think he is using Che as an ispiration because I don't think Che would agree with him being a radical and a capitalist as the same damn time. You can't put a price on revolutionary ideas. But that does not stop Shepard from doing it to his own work and to the real revolutionary artist work that he has stolen for his marketing empire. I can see why he did not respond to your interview request with yes or no. Thanks for exposing this rat for what he is. He is a corporate artist hiding behind a liberal mask while having back alley dinners with key political figures.

Anonymous said...

People read SAMO on the streets long before reading OBEY. This character is a rip off in so many ways. Anyone with knowledge of recent art history knows that Andy Warhol fostered the acceptance of street art in the mainstream art world by taking SAMO off the streets. Without Warhols approval all those guys would have remained being street urchins. People should not rewrite history. Shepard Fairey was NOT in Warhol's posse!

Anonymous said...

I noticed that on Shepard Fairey’s website he posted this a day after your post about him.

“Another Obama post? I know there have been many posts and articles about my support for Barack Obama, but this article is the most thorough history of my involvement. I also thought it would be good to re-post the free Obama vector art download. I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic when I say that this great country is in danger of remaining in the hands of lunatics who have shrewdly manipulated the bewildered herd into thinking the Republicans are the “populist” or “family values” party. McCain has nine houses and he calls Obama an “elitist”. I’m so disheartened that people are falling for that crap. Let’s push things forward.

Which asks people to click on this link,

That article states this, “The image has spread from person to person, from organization to organization, right up to Obama himself. On January 31st of this year, Obama acknowledged Fairey’s graphic at the Avalon Club, and on February 22nd, Fairey received a letter, apparently from Obama himself, in which the Junior Senator from Illinois thanked the senior guerilla artist from South Carolina for his encouragement. “Your images have a profound effect on people,” Obama wrote, “whether seen in a gallery or on a stop sign. I am privileged to be a part of your artwork and proud to have your support.” A few weeks later, the Obama website had for sale in its official store Fairey’s CHANGE poster. It has since sold out.”

So as you suggested, why is Obama supporting an artist who is a known copyright violator? I don’t think that says much for the hard work that artists do. More artists should be taking this action by Obama as an insult!!!


Anonymous said...

I read the article and i have several thoughts. First I think it is wrong to use images or anything else anouther artist has done without crediting that artist period. I also think that if your inspired by a artist's work you should say so. I think this artist is very wrong on many levels. just because something is "street art" dosn't mean you get to take from other people. Also someone who is so anti-establishment, seems to have no problem changing his art and collaborating with the establishment as long as he agree's with them. It's hypocracy, plain and simple.

I am worried this is the direction the orphaned works bill will take us if passed, I don't like the bill. Right now there is a lot of hypocracy going on. you see it with artist and how they are willing to change there work for obama and feminist who are suppose to be for women but have turned rabid against sarah palin. It's crazy. Feminist are suppose to be for the advancement of women, NOW is suppose to be for women, no matter what their politics or choices, but you see now they are only for women that make the choices they agree with.

People get all nutty when politics are involved they don't see things clearly or fairly, it becomes about thier side winning. This is why I don't like art that has a politcal nature to it. I like art that show's social views, or concerns, but not art that is drenched in a republican or democratic point of view. That's why I like your paintings, they say something about social issues and how you see them but they don't jump out at me as partisan.

You are right. If this was McCain and Fairey teamed up the sky would be falling and artists would be lashing out at McCain for supporting an art thief.


Anonymous said...

Finally, some one breaks down Fairey! From the first time that I heard about the Obama posters I had wondered about the wisdom of the Obama campaign in allowing Fairey to contribute to Obama propaganda. Where they unaware that Fairey was in fact an artist who based his career on sarcasm and irony? Does not the fact that Fairey portrayed Obama at all make those who know of Fairey’s work think that project is a least incongruous, at most an outright failure? This is just another reason I think art + politics is always doomed to disaster.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for not seeing your excellent article earlier...look forward to contacting you...

In any event, the important issue here is NOT the plagerist but the politician...association with a career criminal, accepting donations from a criminal, pandering with a criminal for young voters. This story is the same as Rev Wright, Bill Ayers, Tony al.

Bombing buildings / 'bombing' buildings are both illegal...

a slum landlord / and an illegal vandal turning buildings into slums...

unamerican statements in a church / unamerican statements on a wall or book...

would love to work with you on this...

Hope in Art is NOT plagerism

Hope in Art is NOT pandering to power

Young voters are getting duped!

Only four weeks left

Anonymous said...

I can't support Obama because he supports Shepard Fairey. A criminal who is one reason why the US spends over 10 billion per year on street clean nationwide. How can Obama praise an artist who puts stickers over stop signs risking the lives of citizens?

Most people don't realize that the artist behind the HOPE poster is a criminal who has been arrested dozens of times for damaging public property. He was arrested after the Democrat convention this year for spray painting a wall. The theft of art is minor compared to those crimes.

Look it up. Know your facts. And ask why Obama would associate with Fairey.

Anonymous said...

Hey LG Williams! I noticed that Shepard blasted you on

"Your small mindedness is very sad. My Obama image is my unique creation and not plagiarized as you falsely state. The Obama image is a positive image that is patriotic and in no way Socialist or Communist. Is your assertion that my poster is “RED” based on my use of the colors from the AMERICAN flag, one of which happens to be red? I have criticized the U.S. government in my work, though I am a patriotic American. I believe patriotism is about trying to follow your conscience and make the country the best it can be. You are obviously a nationalist who supports the U.S. unconditionally. Nationalism brought Hitler to power. I’m not interested in promoting that mentality. If I thought it was possible to appeal to your intellect I would, but you did not even spell Barack correctly. I actually feel sorry for you, but even more so for the people who live in fear and might be manipulated by your disinformation. It is very sad that people like you resort to such sleazy tactics, and that decent people have to spend time combating small mindedness and disinformation. This once again demonstrates how much is at stake in this election. Those who support honesty and sanity need to take a look at the other side and stay motivated. Thanks.

Funny that he has not mentioned the Brian Sherwin post on his Obey website. Maybe it is because Shepard Fairey does not honestly support honesty and this post proves that. I had my doubts at first but now I know that Shepard Fairey is a farce!!!

Anonymous said...

If actions are the marking of a candidate than it could very well be that he does support the controversial bill that has had opposition from over 60 art organizations and high profile artists like Frank Stella representing the Artists Rights Society.

In an election race where actions by the candidates are investigated deeply I find it odd that very few sources have made this connection and the possibility that Obama might be the wrong candidate for the creative community that opposes the Orphan Works bill and copyright violations. If he supports the art of Shepard Fairey I don't think he can be against the Orphan Works bill at the same time.

I contacted the Obama campaign and McCain campaign about the candidates position on the bill. I've yet to receive an answer from either camp. Actions do speak louder than words. So in that since both candidates have failed the creative community. The problem with Obama is that he has openly supported a known copyright violator. This is a situation that places many artists in conflict. On one side they support the hope that Obama offers and on the other side they do not support individuals who fail to acknowledge international copyright law.

I also don't know how Shepard can say that his Hope image of Obama was inspired by Communist posters in an interview only to say that it was not and mention that red is an American color on his website. Shepard should probably not talk about his art because he contradicts himself more than Richard Nixon.

Anonymous said...

Obama is exploiting artists in his campaign. The Obama campaign communications director Scott Goodstein has worked closely with Fairey and other artists. Goodstein had the final say in the color palette for Fairey's limited-edition Obama print. He has also worked with an artist named Ray Nolan but Nolan wanted money for his work and the Obama campaign refused to pay him at first. You can read about that in the New York Post. The have also contracted work with LA graffiti artist Kofie’One and even had street artists make campaign images that would attract Hispanic voters in Texas because Obama was doing poorly with support from the Hispanic community. The campaign does not acknowledge working with most of these artists though because their activities can be considered illegal. I’m sorry, but if Scott Goodstein has knowledge of this activity than it is supported by the Obama campaign!!! I love street art, but I think a candidate using street artists for an extra edge is very unprofessional. What is Obama going to do if he is elected and street art starts popping up that is against him? I bet he will make sure that city streets are cleaner than ever before if that happens. Shepard Fairey and other street artists might be shooting themselves in the foot once the dust is settled.

Anonymous said...

Listen guys, it always happens. When someone becomes famous for something, there is always criticism. Fairey was already known to be a great artist with great talent. I'm a Graphic Design student, and I love everything that he has done and accomplished.

Balhatain said...

Anon said, "Listen guys, it always happens. When someone becomes famous for something, there is always criticism. Fairey was already known to be a great artist with great talent. I'm a Graphic Design student, and I love everything that he has done and accomplished."

Fairey was also known for violating international copyright laws before his recent boost in fame. You admire the fact that he has 'borrowed' from protected works without giving credit to the artists behind those works? You admire the fact that he admits to said abuse and is only concerned that the 'bust' goes well for him if he is caught? Are you suggesting that if someone is famous the ethics behind their practice should not be questioned? His charity is not in question. However, the good causes that he has helped should not protect him from being questioned or make him above the law.

Anonymous said...

This makes me sick. Fairey is a working artist. We should all be happy there are still people out there like him.

Anonymous said...

This is the message that Obama sent to Shepard Fairey, “Dear Shepard,” the candidate writes. “I would like to thank you for using your talent in support of my campaign. The political messages involved in your work have encouraged Americans to believe they can help change the status quo. Your images have a profound effect on people, whether seen in a gallery or on a stop sign.”

Why is the media not picking up on this? They will do articles about the Hope poster but they won't report this. Does Obama support damage to property as long as his message is made or what. I've read that SF is saying the letter is being read out of context but that is the letter he has mentioned in major newspapers and magazines so it is word for word what was said by Obama according to Shepard. So either Obama supports activity that cost tax payers billions or Shepard is more of liar than originally expected.

Balhatain said...

Everyone keep it civil. Marsr3, it is true that Shepard Fairey is a working artist, but he is also an artist who has violated the work of others. His practice should be questioned by anyone who supports international copyright laws.

Fairey admits to his theft when caught. Instead of theft he calls it "borrowing" and laughs about how he hopes that things go easy-- as in no lawsuits-- if he is caught. Remember that Fairey has came down hard on artists who have "borrowed" from his images.

That is the problem that I have with Fairey. Especially with the Orphan Works bill still lurking in the background.

Balhatain said...

Furthermore, if Fairey would be up front and honest about the artists he has 'borrowed' from and perhaps help to make them more known by including a section for them on his website I would not have such a problem with him. Instead, he waits until being "busted", as he puts it, before coming forward.

If he was honestly giving "props", as he has suggested, to artists and specific works that he admires I would think that he would want to bring more people to their attention. Don't you? Instead he calls the work his own until someone comes forward-- while earning as much as $80,000 per exhibit. Most of the artists he has "borrowed" from, a nice way of saying stolen from, never earned that kind of money and probably never will.

On the streets copyright violations do not apply. However, in most galleries and in merchandise they do. Which is why Fairey's people pulled the shirt involving the Mederos image that was used without permission from their listing.

Fairey needs to learn that copyright matters where profit is concerned. So far he has been lucky because most of the works he has violated have not involved lawsuits. Most street artists don't profit off of their work. Once you make a profit on some aspect of a protected work you are nothing more than a petty criminal.

Fairey can't play dumb as far as international copyright laws are concerned. Remember that he attended RISD and he has also went after artists who have profitted off of the use and manipulation of his images. So he knows the laws and will use them to protect his own work while violating the work of others.

The validity of his practice should be questioned by anyone who supports laws that protect visual artists. Unfortunately, people are being blinded by the message of his work to the point that exposing his practice is not in favor. Even Fairey has mentioned that people should not question him... using the money he has donated to charity as a reason for not questioning his practice. I'm sorry, I don't buy that.

My guess is that he will be more careful now. However, old habits can be hard to break. Especially when an artist has built a financial empire due to those practices.

Anonymous said...

I like Shepard. Love his work. But I did not know that he ripped off other people like this. Kinda lame.

Anonymous said... there any good Obama Art out there? how come the smithsoniam is thinking of acquiring one fairey piece for 75,000?

Anonymous said...

Crissakes. Fairey works with familiar, iconic images. His style is something of a meta-commentary. This quality may be mostly obscured for most viewers of the images by the commercialization of his style and especially in the election the fetishization of Fairey/Obey as both aesthetically cool and ideologically correct, but that's how the intersection of taste and late capitalism works. Fairey's deconstructions and pastiches may seem uninspired, theoretically sepaking these are not exactly fresh concepts, but I hardly think they rise to the level of artistic theft. If anything, Shepard's images drive attention to the source works they are riffing on.

Riddle me this: are you going to offer the same condemnation of Danger Mouse's _Grey_Album_ because, despite its creative brilliance, it relies on juxtaposing extremely recognizable hooks w/o any concern for copyright? Were the KLF thieves and not artists?

Balhatain said...

"Fairey works with familiar, iconic images"

Yeah, some of them are very familiar-- in Cuba. In order for an artwork to be considered parody or social commentary the general population in the area in which it is presented must have some working knowledge of what is being communicated about the work from which it is based. Thus, altering/manipulating obscure images does not apply with that defense-- especially if the artist claims the image as his own work without giving credit where credit is due.

Fairey knew that he was in the wrong with the Mederos image. After being exposed he used the lame excuse of not knowing how to reach the artist. Thus, he felt it was OK to go ahead and use the image without giving any form of credit. Keep in mind that Fairey knows copyright laws well-- he has defended his own work from would-be thieves using those same rights and laws.

Fairey has also threatened to take legal action against artists who have created their own version of his iconic HOPE image. Unfortunately for Fairey those images can most likely be defended with parody or social commentary since HOPE is so well known to the US public. The saying, "You get what you give" comes to mind.

When questioned about some of the charges against him Fairey has pointed out the charity he has done-- as if that makes it OK for him to violate the rights of other artists. One can assume that Fairey feels that he is above being questioned. Which is probably why he has avoided serious interviews about his work and practice. Trust me, his handlers gave me the run around for over a year.

"If anything, Shepard's images drive attention to the source works they are riffing on."

That would be true if he was open about the artists he has "referenced" as he calls it. Instead he does not give any credit until he is exposed-- as with the Mederos case.

I also think that people give him more credit than he deserves in the sense that he obviously does not know much about the history of the images he alters/manipulates-- take the image of the SS skull for example-- which was legal for him to use. Kind of hard for him to make a social comment when he is not aware of the meaning behind the images he has 'referenced'-- other than he thinks the image looks "cool".

He has also said in interviews that if a "bust" happens he hopes that it is a "good bust"-- meaning no legal action or that the artist is willing to work with him instead of exposing him. In that sense he admits that he does not care about the rights of other artists. However, he does care about his own rights as an artist.

I'm not suggesting that all of his work involves copyright violations, but certainly some of it has. With that said, I do think that the validity of his work, in general, should be questioned. Now if you are not an advocate for copyright protection and the rights of artists I suppose it is not so much an issue. For me it is an issue and it is something that needs to be discussed.

Now, you could say that street art does not follow rules or laws. You could even project Fairey as some sort of rebel. However, once a price tag is thrown into the mix the laws do apply. In other words, just because someone spent years working on the streets for no profit does not mean that he or she is above the law upon deciding to make a profit.

"Riddle me this: are you going to offer the same condemnation of Danger Mouse's _Grey_Album_ because, despite its creative brilliance, it relies on juxtaposing extremely recognizable hooks w/o any concern for copyright? Were the KLF thieves and not artists?"

Fairey is not the first artist I've focused on as far as copyright violations are concerned nor will he be the last. That said, it is important to discuss an artist who is covered by so many media outlets in such a short frame of time-- especially when very few of them have pointed out this aspect of his work.

It is important because Fairey, regardless if he wants it or not, has been made into a role model for thousands-- if not millions-- of young people who are interested in visual art. They are not getting the full story. They are getting a mixed message. As an advocate for artists and copyright protection I feel that more people need to be informed about this aspect of his work.

Again, credit should be given where credit is due. Copyright protection is vital concerning the rights of visual artists. It shocks me that so many artists and art ogranizations have made a stand against the bill regarding orphan works, but very few have made a stand against artists like Shepard Fairey.

I think it boils down to this--right now Fairey is protected by his popularity and his association with Obama. To speak out against his work is considered by some to be an attack against Obama since Fairey's art spearheaded some of Obama's progression into popular culture. It is seen as being closed-minded if you call Shepard Fairey out-- even if deep down people know that questions should be asked.

If it were not for the hype I think that more people would be making a stand. I expect a huge backlash against the validity of his art to occur at some point. I also think that eventually people will openly ask why the "champion of art and culture", Barack Obama, associated the visual aspects of his campaign with a known copyright infringer. Isn't that a question that deserves an answer?

Balhatain said...

“One of the reasons I started my clothing line was because I went into an Urban Outfitters and they were bootlegging my star logo on T-shirts. To see it in there, just ripped off, was definitely upsetting to me, because I was still totally broke at the time. And the reason I get pissed off about stuff like that is because I didn't build up the resonance for that image just to hand it off to someone to exploit." = Shepard Fairey from his interview with Liam O'Donoghue for Mother Jones.


Anonymous said...

Brian, you really nailed this guy. I'm a fan of Shepard regardless. But I will say that he has never mentioned your piece on his site. Normally he will make a post about stuff like this in order to detract it. So maybe he is avoiding this because you are dead on?

I like Shepard's work but I don't agree with him not supporting copyright laws. He is a hypocrite as you say because he has said that Ebay sellers should not take advantage of suffering yet he has stolen images that reflected suffering. You can like the art but not like the artist. Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

Everytime an artist gains a certain amount of success, people like you line up to take their shots. Why don't you try to create something rather than tear something down. It's easy to sit back and criticize from your computer, but what have you accomplished? If Fairey was not an important artist and had he not made significant contributions to street art you wouldn't have written this and no one would have read it. Talk about riding coat tails...

Balhatain said...

Anon, my job is to report on art and to interview artists. Fairey's staff gave me the run around for over a year concerning an interview with him. They dodged me. Why? Because I'm known for asking tough questions at times and I don't allow people to dodge answers by saying "but I give money to charity" and crap like that as he has done. Shepard Fairey, based on my experience, is a coward. I know that is not a popular position to take, but I honestly don't care.

I would have asked him point blank why he 'references' work without given credit where credit is due. I would have asked him point blank why he threatens legal action against artists who violate his copyright while at the same time he has exploited the works of others. I would have asked him why he utilized Rene's image knowing that he was violating international copyright law.

"It's easy to sit back and criticize from your computer, but what have you accomplished?"

What have I accomplished? Over 500 interviews in just over two years. I've interviewed emerging artists and the likes of Michael Craig-Martin, Vito Acconci, James Rosenquist, Sylvia Sleigh, should I go on? I think those individuals are a bit more important than Mr. Fairey from a historical position. That is my opinion though.

"If Fairey was not an important artist and had he not made significant contributions to street art you wouldn't have written this and no one would have read it. Talk about riding coat tails..."

I wrote this because at the time there were several articles by Wired and other sources projecting Shepard Fairey as a role model for young artists. I think the fact that the validity of his work can be questioned is important. The fact that he has been caught several times is important when considering his work. As an advocate for copyright protection I think it is important to expose this side of Shepard Fairey. Unfortunately, very few news sources have done that.

So I take it you think that people with different views should be silent?

Anonymous said...

I've researched the Mederos issue and I'm always surprised to find people defend Shepard by saying he made a mistake. That is pretty big mistake to make don't you think? Even grade school kids know that it is not good to copy off the other guy. Shepard is hardly innocent. It goes to show how visual art is different than music even though they are very much the same. If Shepard was a musician his career would be over.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if he was the official campaign artist for Obama or not. Some sources say so while other don't. In some articles Shepard states that he is but lately he says he was not. So it is very confusing.

Obama did send Shepard a letter of thanks and his campaign did advise on poster changes and other issues. So I guess you could say that he was working for the Obama campaign in an unofficial official way. That is as official as you can get.

There is a New York Times article stating that members of the Obama campaign had hired street artists for promotion but others say that those guys did it on their own time.

Obama’s campaign did respond to the NY Post by saying that they support grass roots art, but only within the parameters of the law. But if that is the case why did they give Shepard Fairey instructions on the image they wanted to see knowing full well that he is still active in illegal activity? On one side it does not matter but it does matter when you have someone running for an office that should support the laws that we have. So that is confusing as well.

Anonymous said...

“Please use common sense and consideration when applying stickers or other propaganda materials. Giant is designed to provoke thought about the mechanics of the system we live in...not to destroy it."

this was placed when i dissed his nyc walls and he claimed that he cant control how people use his stickers or stencils.

Anonymous said...

Some of the views of the Splasher. This group views artists like Shepard Fairey as tools for changing poor neighborhoods into places for the wealthy.

"Gentrification: Let's Give the Artist a Hand." It accuses the artist-class of being a tool of property establishment-- a tool used to redevelop a neighborhood before it's given part and parcel to the rich, at the expense of the poor residents who lived there in the first place: "An art school degree is a choice; eviction usually isn't." Streetartists, according to the Splasher, play a signaling role in gentrification: "by creating a public display of their work on the walls of impoverished areas... (they) advertise to real estate agents that an area is ripe for the picking." They cite other examples in the East Village in the 1980s and LES in the 1990s, and say that Banksy's mural in Williamsburg "might have shifted the (neighborhood's) gentrification into overdrive... We certainly relished destroying it."

Anonymous said...

So-called street artists like Shepard Fairey are tools of the power mongers in the US. His media driven art is nothing more than a bourgeoisie-sponsored rebellion. Honest rebellion does not involve lining pockets with wealth. Shepard Fairey is the lap dog of a President to be who is already proving himself to be a liar like Bush. He is smart though because he is already speaking out against Obama while his pockets get fatter. Young fools will continue to see him as a rebel. There is no revolution today there is only corporate sponsored ideas of revolution that come with a price tag.

Anonymous said...

so tell us how an artist can paint Obama's face without getting a copyright infringement? None of us can get close enough to take a good photo. it's a dilemma many artists are facing rignt now!

Balhatain said...

Anon said, “so tell us how an artist can paint Obama's face without getting a copyright infringement? None of us can get close enough to take a good photo. it's a dilemma many artists are facing rignt now!”

There is a difference between painting or drawing from photographs and printing the photo off for direct use within the work. If I printed off an image of one of your works and used it directly in my art would you be OK with it? Probably not.

Anonymous said...

I gotta question about fair use. Under fair use I can only see the artist using criticism or social comment to defend the use like they have to critique something or comment on something don’t you have to let the viewer of the art know what you are critiquing or commenting on? If the image itself is not widely known the viewer will not know that you are being critical or commenting on it. With Warhol people knew that he was commenting on the brand of soup as a fixture of American consumerism because the product was up in posters and ads everywhere. Using a little known photograph by a photographer who is practically unknown or a painting by an artist who is only known by a few people in the United States does not sound like fair use for people to use like this guy has.

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to being an eccentric artist with your own ideas about how you want things done? Wow is there one big pity party going on here. So the rebel artist throws his weight behind something he apparently has some faith in and now he's a sellout. Its pretty easy to go over his actions on this level of success and attention with a fine toothed comb. To take offense at something while you sip your latte with your colorful scarf wrapped around your neck discussing skepticism from your pocket Descartes philosophy guide all the while never having a brush with the kind of success he is having by TAKING BIG CHANCES and feeling that that all makes you more right about the whole thing. There's actually someone here who thinks the government would funnel the money saved from Not cleaning graffiti back into those hardened areas, demonstrating a laughable lack of understanding about the nature of government. "Well, we Didn't have to spend $15 000 on cleaning up graffiti in that area this year so lets expand the community center with the saved capital" ROFL that will be the day.

Balhatain said...

People discuss Shepard Fairey during copyright debates because of the history of copyright infringement allegations surrounding his career. True, his fame and the fact that he is covered by the media almost daily does make him a target for debate-- especially with artists who are passionate about copyright protection. However, we see that same kind of passion with issues involving politicians-- so why should successful artists be exempt from criticism and questions concerning ethics in the field of art? The fact that he has obtained so much exposure makes him the perfect point of discussion concerning issues of copyright, infringement, and fair use.

Anonymous said...

I keep reading these liberal art critics comparing Shepard Fairey to Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince. Reading their words you know that they don't even know who Shepard Fairey is and that they are commenting in support of him because it is popular to do that. Heaven forbid one of them muster enough courage to go against the Obama wackos in Chelsea or Boston. I think it is stupid to compare Shepard Fairey to these notable artists because he has not proven himself yet. Lets see if people still report on him after Obama drops in the polls. If his only claim to fame is Obama I'm afraid his career will ride on if Obama is successful or not. Warhol did not have to cling to a politician for stardom and a quick buck. Some of us knew Andy. Fairey IS NOT Andy. He never will be. SHEPARD FAIREY IS NOT ANDY WARHOL!Calling him the Thomas Kinkade of angsty youth rebellion is more like it.

Anonymous said...

Shepard Fairey is not street artists. If he was he would be with the Buk 50, MSG, and 28 crews.

Anonymous said...

It seems like Fairey sees something he likes, eats it up, and regurgitates it. Period.

Anonymous said...

"Our lives begin to end the day if we become silent about things that matter."-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Community work is rooted in its collective voice as there are many heroic voices in our community who are critics, writers and artists who have identified, joined and shared in critically questioned the work of Shepard Fairey. In our of time of great Economic collapse it is important to address the Korporate World War on Greed in identifying the different types of exploitations which exist in our day and age and have recently come to light.
The opponents to Shepard Fairey are not one singular individual but a collective union of many disenfranchised individuals who have taken a respectable stand against Shepard Fairey and his Companies Greed and Exploitative Acts.
Writers, Designers, Artists and Critics, Mat Gleason, Brian Sherwin, Lincoln Cushing, Milton Glaser, Josh MacPhee, Favianna Rodriguez and Mark Vallens have chosen to be outspoken in their views of Shepard Fairey infringed acts. The important of this protest is the underlining power struggle we as the race of the oppressed are being robbed by corporate elitist like Shepard Fairey who feel entitled to exploiting and scavenging our people’s voice and language which includes our artwork and its culture. Fairey is an Artist who is trying to hide behind fair use and the movement of creative commons.

In a time where individuals have lost the ability to question being victims of publicists, True Fair Use is employed for purposes such as social criticism, comment, news reporting, education, scholarship, or research, and is not an infringement of copyright.” These uses generally must be educational, non-profit uses. Fair Use safeguards artists who critically reference language such as satire and parody. But Fairey’s work clearly isn’t a parody of anything other then to profit, exploit and gain economically. Fairey Use TM steals in gratuitous interest.

There is great organic grassroots movement which is being born in America which is mobilizing at this very moment. This collective is not only represented by myself but many other individuals and movements across our land which are being directed towards unveiling individuals like Shepard Fairey and corporate companies like his who are exploitative in their fundamental practice as a merchant who has violated over a decade of copyright laws as well as misrepresenting the media in the marketplace.

True Democracy begins in question and ends in Dissent..