Friday, February 06, 2009

Shepard Fairey Dodges Criticism at ICA: Street Artists and Copyright Advocates Demand Answers

There was a Q&A session between Shepard Fairey and Fogg Museum curator Susan Dackerman before the public opening of Fairey’s exhibit at the ICA. The Q&A session had one stipulation-- questions were not allowed from the crowd. Apparently Dackerman asked repetitive questions concerning Fairey’s street art, his Obama campaign contributions, and meeting with Obama-- information that has been regurgitated by the press for months. She failed to ask questions about the recent copyright infringement allegations against the artist and failed to question his view of fair use and copyright in general-- two issues that have long shadowed Fairey‘s career and are as much of his history as an artist as anything else.

Fairey had a great opportunity to tackle issues that fans and critics alike had hoped he would address-- issues concerning fair use and the various copyright allegations against his art in recent years. One can only assume that he intentionally dodged talking about issues that are crucial to understanding his art and the thoughts behind his process. Needless to say, many feel that these issues should have been addressed-- especially since the exhibit covers the entirety of his career.

Fairey did mention what he called “accusations of plagiarism” briefly-- but quickly addressed other topics. He stated, “A lot of my work derives its power from the ways I’ve changed the message,” followed by, “I think it’s an important part of a pop culture dialogue.”. Dackerman failed to push Fairey further on the issue as she had done with other topics during their discussion. Again, questions from the audience were not allowed.

The issue of copyright infringement and debatable claims of fair use that have shadowed Shepard Fairey’s career may have not entered his Q&A session with Susan Dackerman-- but they certainly shadowed him from outside of the ICA. As Shepard Fairey answered soft questions inside the museum a small gathering of artists, photographers, and writers demanded answers concerning allegations of plagiarism and copyright infringement involving Fairey.

The crowd of copyright supporters mentioned that they did not think Shepard Fairey would answer tough questions about his alleged infringement of an AP owned photograph or other copyright infringement allegations involving artists such as Rene Mederos. Needless to say, their questions went unanswered. The voices of the people on the street were not heard by the street artist who comfortably addressed soft questions inside.

Inside Dackerman asked Fairey about why he decided to support the Obama campaign. Fairey replied by saying, “I could not stand by and watch the Bush administration destroy the principles this country was founded on and not say something.” His bold statement was met with applause from the audience. It would have been a good time for Dackerman to press Fairey on allegations of copyright infringement since many of the Founding Fathers of the United States acknowledged the Statute of Anne (1710) and were supportive of the Copyright Clause (1787) of the United States Constitution. She failed. It would have also been a good time for Dackerman to ask Fairey about his opinion concerning President Obama’s support of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)-- which could result in alleged copyright infringers being banned by their Internet Service Provider. Again, she failed.

When asked about his work with corporate clients like Saks and Pepsi Fairey stated that he acknowledges that, “in a capitalist society, art and commerce are always going to need each other” and that his goal is to make marketing art when working with corporate clients. Fairey explained to the audience that the income he receives from the corporate campaigns allows him to have complete freedom when creating art for a gallery or art on the streets. Fairey went on to suggest that artists lacking funds are more apt to bow to market forces.

Shepard Fairey has also been noted as saying “When you do work on the street, the act is one of defiance that’s automatically embedded in the work no matter the content,”. Followed by, “When you go into the gallery, obviously it’s a designated space and the work is not illegal. But there’s still the content of the work that I think communicates my ideas. Even though I spend more time on the gallery stuff, with more depth and layers, it still has the spirit of the street techniques.” during the session.

I asked Joey Krebs aka Joel Jaramillo aka the LA Street Phantom aka The Phantom Street Artist about Shepard Fairey’s statement. Krebs is a Los Angeles based street artist who is widely known for creating art that was used on the cover of the Rage Against the Machine album titled The Battle of Los Angeles. The Phantom Street Artist told me that he and others close to him feel that Shepard Fairey is “buying status and staking claim in a world that refuses to recognize him.” Krebs then told me, "The media does not represent the voice of the street. It represents the money of those who want to be recognized on the street.". He went on to say that Fairey is, “privileged, self entitled and self consumed.”

The Phantom Street Artist then mentioned that he would like to “challenge” Shepard Fairey-- stating, “I want to challenge his point of view, his beliefs and his values in a dual of sorts. I want to challenge him physically, mentally, and perceptually.“ Krebs then told me, “This is the chance for him to win the character approved award by his colleagues-- true street artists. The challenge match is a physical as well as a conceptual performance.”

I then asked the Phantom Street Artist if he felt that Shepard Fairey would take a risk. The Phantom responded, “There is no risk if you do not risk yourself. This is not a game of perception being managed and defined by publicist and public relations officers. These money fed publicists failed to realize that media is nothing other then the perception of opinion formed in management.” He then shared a video with me in order to stress how real street artists view Shepard Fairey and his art:

All City Crew - Art Basel Miami 2008 from fi5e on Vimeo.

Susan Dackerman failed to ask questions of importance concerning the span of Shepard Fairey’s career. After all, Obama and the influence that Obama had on Fairey’s art is only a recent part of Fairey’s history as an artist. She failed to obtain answers to the questions demanded by the small crowd of copyright supporters outside the ICA. She failed to obtain answers concerning the low opinion that many street artists have of Shepard Fairey. She failed to answer questions that honestly reflect the history of Shepard Fairey’s art. She failed at her task and Shepard Fairey failed to make a stand.

I suppose you could say that Shepard Fairey had answered in the only way he knows how before the opening. After all, Shepard Fairey and his crew ’bombed’ sites around Boston. Street works by Shepard Fairey can be found in both legal and illegal spaces near the ICA. Fairey has stated that he considers the street context of his art to be a crucial aspect of the art that is currently being shown at the ICA. Unfortunately, the street artist who says that people should “question everything” did not allow questions from the Q&A audience. Shepard Fairey failed to answer the questions that so many people have asked or demanded from him.

Some reporters are commenting on how Shepard Fairey appeared calm and collective at the Q&A session and the opening of the exhibit. Some have went as far as to suggest that Fairey is not showing signs of worry concerning copyright infringement allegations or mass criticism of his art and ethics of his practice that has taken place online in recent weeks. However, Shepard Fairey did address issues of plagiarism and copyright infringement days before the opening with the help of some of his associates and the Internet.

A few days ago a commenter tipped me off about an article concerning Shepard Fairey, copyright infringement, appropriation and Mark Vallen’s 2007 critique of Fairey’s art. The article, titled 'The Medium is the Message: Shepard Fairey and the Art of Appropriation', was posted on SuperTouch by J O’Shea-- Jamie O'Shea for those who don't know. The article by O'Shea is critical of Vallen's criticism concerning Shepard Fairey. A link to Jamie O’Shea’s article was posted on Fairey’s ObeyGiant website within minutes of it being published online by SuperTouch.

Before I go any further I want to make it clear that I do not agree with every view that Mark Vallen has concerning Shepard Fairey-- or art for that matter. However, it makes since that Jamie O’Shea, the editor of Super Touch, would support Shepard Fairey considering that Shepard Fairey is listed as an author on SuperTouch. It should also be noted that Jamie O’Shea has followed Fairey’s career extensively-- and has also curated and co-curated art exhibits involving the artist.

Jamie O’Shea started his criticism of Mark Vallen’s article by stating, “As underground art phenomenon SHEPARD FAIREY’s first major museum retrospective prepares to open at the INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART/BOSTON on February 6th, we feel the need to address some of the vicious and unfounded rumors surrounding the originality of Shepard’s artwork that have been floated online in recent years.”. O’Shea suggested that criticism of Shepard Fairey by Mark Vallen and other “detractors” is nothing more than a smear campaign against Fairey-- stating that a, “widespread and baseless internet campaign to smear Shepard Fairey has been going on for some time now“. In other words, O’Shea suggests that mass criticism of Shepard Fairey is nothing more than a smear campaign against the artist. Paranoia or damage control? You be the judge. Calm or worried? Again, you be the judge.

Links of Interest:

Obey Plagiarist Shepard Fairey: A critique by artist Mark Vallen


Jamie O'Shea Obeys Shepard Fairey by Taking Jabs at Mark Vallen by Brian Sherwin -- Myartspace Blog

More Links of Interest:

ICA Boston Presents First Museum Survey of Street Artist Shepard Fairey -- Artdaily

Shepard Fairey Talks Obama, Plagiarism and Capitalism at ICA by Ryan Weaver -- Bostonist

Barack attack: Street artist Shepard Fairey’s portrait of Obama opens doors to ICA exhibit by Martin Caballero -- Boston Herald

Art Law Professionals weigh-in on Associated Press Copyright Infringement Allegation Against Shepard Fairey by Brian Sherwin -- Myartspace Blog

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


Anonymous said...

I seen that during Art Basel but I did not see it defaced. Shep mentioned on his site that the cops did not stop him from doing those works but they probably would have thrown those guys to the ground. You got my respect taking this on. Just shows how much the media and having a good publicist can create an image that is not real. If Shep is a real street artist than Joaquin Phoenix is a true rapper and Bush was a true President.

Anonymous said...

The ObeyGiant site says the opening was a huge success with lines of fans at the door. I guess he could not be bothered to mention people who protested outside or the people online who demanded that Mannie Garcia's photograph be displayed next to the poster. This is sick. Art does not stand for anything but money today.

Anonymous said...

I think this guy needs to do more research. I sense envy. Read this

Anonymous said...



Balhatain said...

Guerillaone, there were critics of Fairey before he was famous. True, he was famous before Obama. What, are people not supposed to critique artists once they reach a high level of success?

All I can say to that is that it pays to be honest and have integrity before you make it big-- if an artist lacks both he or she will end up being ripped apart by critics. That goes for Shepard Fairey, Maureen Mullarkey, or anyone else.

Integrity is key. Honesty is key. When it comes down to the line that is what most people desire from artists. As I've said before, I would not have issues with Fairey if he were more open about his 'references'.

Perhaps he could place a page on his site that shows his influences next to his versions. Instead, people are expected to buy a $59.95 book to make the connections. That said, he needs to use fair use in the way it is intended instead of using images that do not create a dialogue between base image and new image upon viewing. If that connection is lost it is not fair use-- and publishing a book to make up for it does not support fair use.

Balhatain said...

Furthermore, the fact that Shepard Fairey has sent cease-and-desist letters to artists who make perfectly legit-- under fair use-- images based on his iconic posters does not help his case.

Take Baxter Orr for example, Orr made an image based on one of Fairey’s widely known posters. He added a SARs mask to it and called it Protect. It was a good example of fair use because the image by Fairey was widely known by that time. People made a connection between the base image, Fairey’s poster, and Orr’s poster-- there was dialogue going on. That is what fair use is intended for.

When people viewed it they knew that Orr was making a comment on, or parody of, that specific poster by Fairey. Given the fame of Fairey’s Hope poster I think people could probably make a parody of it claiming fair use and it would be a legitimate claim. My point being that Fairey should acknowledge fair use by others if he is going to claim fair use himself. As I’ve said, Orr’s poster was a better example of fair use than Fairey’s posters involving the Garcia AP photograph-- because Orr established a dialogue between the two images.

Fairey has stated that he “references” work that inspires him. So why is he against people “referencing” his work if they are inspired by it? My point being that I don’t like contradictions. You can’t have the best of both worlds without having your integrity questioned. In other words, Fairey can’t say that it is ok for him to “reference” photographs and works of art that are not well known while at the same time saying that people can’t “reference” his widely known posters.

Balhatain said...

I should stress that I'm talking about works by living artists or works by deceased artists that are still protected by copyright. Many of the images that Fairey has used are no longer under copyright so they are fair game. Technically he does not have to acknowledge those specific base images-- though it does open an ethical can of worms.

Balhatain said...

It seems Fairey pulled the SuperTouch article headline from his site today.

Anonymous said...

He is covering his tracks. I just checked out the site and it looks like text about the Boston art that was put up illegally has been removed also. Only the images remain in the headline. I remember one went on about how one guy was happy that he put work up by his building. He probably does not want his own site used against him in court since he was arrested before an after party last night.

Anonymous said...

I don't see it on his headlines either. I remember he posted it as a headline on Feb, 2nd the same day SuperTouch posted it. Yesterday their was a headline about the ICA show and how great it was and the SuperTouch headline was below it. Now if you go to it has stuff that was posted back in January at the top of the headlines. Why would Shepard pull headlines about SuperTouch and the ICA opening? Maybe he read your article and saw where you used him posted it on ObeyGiant as an example of him being worried about criticism before the show?

Anonymous said...

G-One is foolish if they are bashing the Phantom. If he wanted he could have been a mainstream success with Rage. He chose not to because he respects his roots. I think it would be boss to see Shep and PSA go at it toe to toe to see which one is King.

Anonymous said...

The wording of this article was the most redundant of any piece of writing I have ever read. Fairey has an ad executive's mind & he got very lucky. Everyone works hard,even people who do nothing-the rest is timing, good contacts, & 80% dumb luck. Boom! Most folks who do street or any other kind of art are not unlucky, they're just bad.

Balhatain said...

Anon said, "The wording of this article was the most redundant of any piece of writing I have ever read."

I'll take note of that. Thanks. :)

Anon said, "Everyone works hard,even people who do nothing-the rest is timing, good contacts, & 80% dumb luck. Boom! Most folks who do street or any other kind of art are not unlucky, they're just bad."

Timing is everything-- For example, grand stage entrances with the just the right shirt on at just the right time. Right?

Good contacts-- I agree 100% with that. It helps if your business partners work for a pr machine that is connected to hundreds of media outlets and can make a minor story into major news. It also helps if they know exactly how to catch the eye of cameras. That kind of goes with timing as well.

Luck-- not sure about luck at times. Though it does help to have a fat wallet.

Good art, bad art-- eye of the beholder my friend. Though it does help if wealthy collectors purchase your art. You never know where they might donate it.

Anonymous said...

This is a great article. Thank you for covering this aspect, who can trust these corporated-funded Museums now.
Shepard's statement about working for corporations makes him sound clue-less. One thing I wanted to share with everyone is Levi's collaboration on this ICA show. Levi's Jeans, the company notorious for screwing over workers, the company that shut down factories in the United States to move them overseas to "cheaper" countries in which to produce. Levi's has it's hands in this exhibit, and they just tried to coopt May 1st, known in the world as International Worker's Day. An article reads, "To further commemorate Fairey's first-ever, career-spanning ICA retrospective, Fairey will be collaborating with Levi's(R) on a limited edition piece that will be unveiled on May 1, also known as "501(R) Day."
This is super wrong..... Levi's needs to be checked for this and Shepard should refuse to work with these folks in the name of workers.

Anonymous said...

The corporate mentality prevalent in this country, will be the ruination of this country if we don't stop it. Mom and Pop shops are already shutting doors everywhere. Big Business is bad business if left unchecked, rather than promoting free market capitalism, mega-conglomerate corporations stifle it.

A. RAZOR said...

First of all, I am inspired by both the Phantom and Shepard in different ways. I have crossed paths with both and know a bit about both artist backgrounds.
Second, I, too, am an artist, and this is from a broad perspective in this lifetime that I have experienced art. It runs through every fiber of my life, but humbly, no more than any other persons, and proudly, no less either.
I would not condemn nor defend either artist or approach or perspective. I don’t feel that this debate is new or unique to these two and it deals with the greater human struggle at large, which is why I am sounding off on it.
The world of advertising has been using the free form of human expression almost immediately after the former was incepted. I took a stand at an early age in my use of public property as a “canvas” to express myself that I would adhere to certain principles encoded in my psyche by the behavior of those in my surroundings that I looked up to and were mentored by. This codification of my behavior is commonly considered “rebel” or “outlaw” to use general terms on a societal level.
Specifically, I would remain anonymous, for mainly legal reasons, but also to drive the mystique that we are everywhere, cannot be silenced by silencing one, and are part of an ancient struggle to fight a yolk of domination and what I personally considered oppression. And, above all, it heightened my senses to participate in this behavior and to know that there were others who had come before me that I would not know, but I would be mimicking nonetheless. So, it was clear that I was generally unoriginal and anonymous, but, in my own head and close circle I was merciless and proficient. I began painting and writing and traveling and networking and learning. Almost immediately I came upon artists who had a sense of art that was more academically developed and supported than mine. I chose crime over patronage, because crime was available first, and because patronage seemed like another form of domination. I was never certain of the latter, it was just a personal feeling and it was strong enough so as I never sought it. Since it was a feeling and not a fact, I was able to not hate on others for seeking recompense in the open art world. I would meet others who not only sought it, but, excelled at its advantages. In other words, profited. And this was a source of many mixed feelings over the years. The term “sell out” can come easily to people in my situation, but after a while, I got to wonder, how much of it is envy and a feeling of helplessness that I had caste myself forever on a losing side.
In the world of the art student, there is the teacher and the critic. It is a world of constant flux, student becomes critic according to, or influenced by, his teachers and the critics that agree with his outlook at the time. They then become aligned with lineages of thought on what is moral, ethical, qualitative and decent in terms of quality of expression. We are all familiar with this struggle, it is what is proffered here, in this blog, and in this debate which has led to a symbolic challenge of one credibility over another. Both artists have demonstrated a sense of connection to people who are contemporary and sometimes even marginal in their past approaches to art, both in its execution and its appreciation. Shepard has been diligent in his campaigns, and although when I first saw them I rolled my eyes and figured it was an art student with a screen press making stickers and posters, I did like the image and its general tone. That he has blossomed so profoundly and so successfully I have to admit is admirable and somewhat contentious with my personal belief and perspective, but more because it is a different approach, and not because it lacked credibility, or that there was a corporate payoff at the end of its rainbow, which it would most definitely seem there is. Instead, it simply isn’t my personal perspective which is tainted by the fact that I have never received or audited a grant, school, museum, patron, rock band, politician, or even corporation or trust there of for sponsorship.
An astute observer would immediately surmise that my approach has cut me off from the connection to the masses that these two artists enjoy and command by selectively receiving and using to their advantage this offered support which has garnered an immediate and profound social effect in their art being culturally incorporated. My approach would seem minimal and flawed in its attempt to make any difference at all in comparison. The New York scene that offered Basquiat and Haring, as well as Seen and Crash, easily affected both these artists in a very conscious and direct way. And all sorts of “street” artists are part of this lineage that comes into this modern day now and frames this debate. These are all people that we know and can reference, as well as many others who have crossed from anonymity and into a promotional stance for the sake of artistic credence or profit or both. But, untold and unnoticed, are the artists who never stepped into the limelight, never made a deal, never “showed” and never took a class or put their “name” on their work. In my humble opinion, these artists are a much a part of this debate and as relevant by their absence from it as these two are by being at the center of this storm.
Is it legal to infringe on copyrights? No. Is it ethical to take tribal, social and anonymous artistic expressions and make websites, commercials, album covers, clothing lines, profits from them? Well, it gets murky, because its all about can you prove I did what to who cannot be counted, is no longer here and fuck them anyway cause I got mine and every nut for himself. I mean to bask in this modern false swagger mentality about who is more street, when it seems once you accept patronage of any sort you are, accepting, on some level, help from the instrument of your domination and your message about promoting rights and recognition of the “street” you are supposedly “from” becomes somewhat incredulous and you are essentially just a student who has learned from a teacher and become critic.
This is where I live by my sword and die by it as well. If I had kept to myself, my credibility would be completely intact among what’s left of my “street” collective family. But since they are fewer and further between every day, lately, I find myself alone and on the internet. A student who chose a path that didn’t involve a lot of criticism, but more action. And while no one is wearing my logo on a shirt and a good amount of the last 20 years I spent in and out of prison and on the run for my efforts to practice my art outside of patronage and completely anonymous, upholding my personal code in the bargain, I have not had the immediate and profound impact that would spark debate as these two artists have had.
You see, at the end of the day, I can’t criticize no artist for robbery, cuz I have done what I had to do outside the law to get what I felt I needed. There is a price to be paid and I am grateful to be alive and have enough fingers to punch keys right now. A lot of fools that were rebellious outlaw artists outside the realm of schools and critics and debate and profit are not this lucky. So, I wince in pain and remember them, as I read about the travails of these “popular” artists, who I do admire and respect, because expression is valid to me in any form or level it comes in.
The man whose photo was co-opted for Obama has an axe to grind, but didn’t he get paid for his photo once already? And wasn’t it altered beyond the aspiration that he received that pay for? Did Warhol ever have to pay Campbell’s? I don’t know, but it seems there might be a legal precedent there, end of argument for me. If he’s got to pay, he’s got to pay, let the court sort it out. Why do you have to protest an artists show? Shepard did a nice gesture promoting a politician that I believe he truly felt was gonna make a difference. He does, however, represent a company that has branded his art and mass produces it for profit as well as posters for politicians that save the world. It’s a shrewd maneuver, and again, I find myself unable to fault him for that. And yes, I do seem to feel that its valid that his efforts get the attention in the arena that they are getting them in, vis a vie academically sanction gallery world exposure. Why not? It doesn’t seem any more unethical than any other presentation.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to be critical of those that want to express their feelings about it being unethical. Protest, sling insults, hurl bad sentiment. Blog, fuck girls that have Obey stickers in their bedroom and run piss over their toothbrushes while you use their bathroom afterwards if it makes you feel better. Make videos of burning, all Spit style, like you learned from watching Wild Style. Call people “toys” and puff out your chest. Claim you have more street cred for whatever reason, but, as a cautionary note, remember, there is a difference between criticism, teaching and action. I am not gonna say criticism is worthless, like I used to, because I am learning to be a little more accepting these days and be a participant at this late point in life, critical as it may seem. All I know for sure, if I am not being creative, I feel like a tool, worst feeling in the world, and, obviously, I am learning to express my criticism, somewhat, in run on sentences on the internet. Creative criticism, we’ll call it. For the youth out there getting involved in this debate, just a word of advice from an old outlaw, careful about giving yourself too completely to one side against another in war, they may truce it up one day and you’ll still be fighting for an ideal that has been compromised or abandoned, as it was someone else’s artistic point, not your own, and they used the reaction of your youth to prove it, sold a bunch of shirts and dvd’s and got a grant and spent it and moved on. And your still there, holding on to an ideal that would have been better served working it out on the walls and trains and modern canvas in your mind’s eye than on a blog spot or a protest line. I wouldn’t dare speak to silence, but don’t OBEY when you don’t have to. Creation. Through thievery or destruction if you feel it’s necessary in your gut, but not because any critic tells you to. Sometimes its better to just make life beautiful and walk away, without a parade or fanfare. That carries more “cred” than anything I have come across in all the ghettos, squats, riots, train yards, tenements, prisons, internment camps, shanty towns, famines or torture chambers that I have been in.
When it comes to big “king” fights like this, I tend to retrovert to the old Godzilla-Rodan formula. Let em’ take each other out and maybe the humble one will win and bury themselves under the polar cap until the American remake.

Anonymous said...

Razor, great comment. When I think of street art I think of artists who worked on the streets because it was their only option. I think of kids growing up in a ghetto where public art is not shown and learning to hold their own on walls, cars anything. Shepard Fairey don't fit my image because he was born into wealth. His father was a doctor and he was able to afford sending his boy to college. Fairey tagged the streets by choice not by necessity. Being a white male from a wealthy family his voice could already be heard off the walls and off the stop signs and off anything else he puts his mark on. He puts his work in Boston and art districts in New York City but has he ever thrown up in Compton or Watts near the people he claims to speak for? No. If the medium is his message he is not putting it where it can be heard and related to.

Anonymous said...

I take that tone because he has thrown out his work with Public Enemy to show his blackness to show he is not racist or prejudice. Where I'm from that is like saying he is not racist or prejudice because his best friend is black. So Public Enemy is Shepard Fairey's token. This artist had no place talking about stuff like this because he never had to worry about anything. He never experienced hardships without a choice. He cry around about insulin when he is locked up for a few hours or days but he has never been locked up for a year like some youths are when they do what he does. This man is a sign of the divide that is still present in our culture. When a youth can be arrested and charged with crimes and thrown in prison and this grown man does the same and is out the next day the system is flawed! Since the dawn of time street art has been the voice of the poor and the oppressed and this guy has marketed it never knowing what povery or oppression is. All he has is stories of running from cops and a few bruises and meds taken away that he rants about because thats all he has. Thats it there is nothing else. He was born rich and he will die rich and any play he does on the culture is just a hobby for him. It is great that he had a father helping him out but remember a lot of street artists don't have that and never will. His risk is by choice not by need.

Anonymous said...

It's not fair to say that he "dodged criticism" after you say that the moderator never even asked him about the topic!

Balhatain said...

Anon, the fact remains that he could have went into further detail about it himself. He could have said, “This is how it is..“ and offered his view. Normally in a Q&A session like that the artist normally makes the decision concerning questions from the audience-- they also have the right to ask questions from the crowd regardless.

The fact also remains that in prior interviews Fairey often mentions the charity he has done or the causes he has supported with his art rather than answer direct questions about some of the allegations that have been made throughout his career.

In fact, he once said “how can anyone F with that”-- referring to the fundraising he has helped with-- when pressed about copyright issues by an interviewer. He is using the good he has done as a shield. Which begs the question-- does he support causes because he believes in them or because he knows that he can use them to defend himself later?

The best Jamie O’Shea can come up with-- as to answering questions about Fairey’s work-- is to suggest that people buy a copy of Supply and Demand for $59.95. Fairey supports that idea because he posted the SuperTouch article on his website as a headline. I’m sorry, but people should not have to pay $59.95 for the secrets to be revealed. I've seen the book-- it does not offer that much in the first place.

Trust me, if Shepard Fairey was a stand up guy he would not have so many people demanding answers. If his integrity must be questioned-- so be it.

Anonymous said...

I read the SuperTouch article and it shows how stupid Shepard Fairey's supporters are. No one is going to pay for that book just to make the connections that Fairey should have been able to make without it! If he is gong to support fair use he should accept that others are going to use his work and pay him homage in the same way he claims to pay homage to Rene Mederos and other minority artists he has stolen from without giving credit where credit is due! You get what you give and Fairey has taken a lot! He has stolen from a culture he knows nothing about. If he had a conservative bent people would be calling him a racist by now for robbing minority culture.

A. RAZOR said...

In the age old story of Robin Hood, the perspective is purveyed that Robin's integrity is that of a persecuted and oppressed individual who has no recourse until he finds a group of people with a common sentiment toward his oppressors.
It seems to me that the mainstreaming of what became known as "hip-hop", which brought with it a marginal legitimization of graffiti art, sowed the seeds of a community that spoke to all children growing up afterwards of the possibility of voicing the feelings they had on the walls of the world they lived in and appropriating symbols and images from the what seemed oppressive culture and subordinated into their own experience while using these feats to gain notoriety in this quickly forming and growing community that they know felt a part of. Shepard seems to me one of the more successful examples of this cross-cultural pollenization that has spread over all types of stereo-typical boundaries such as race, economic, social, geographic.
I don't feel it is a discredit to anyone to have come across these boundaries and not appear genuine to the original manifestation of this art movement. Shepard seems to operate within a hybrid of drawing from this source of inspiration and borrowing its most powerful tools, and being a successful business model that has converted his inertia into a profit. It seems like everybody who writes graffiti these days is hoping to get a design on a product and get their name out more so than express a feeling of protest or plain resentment against their situation. When I was a young purist I would have called this selling out. I still give credence to the concept of selling out, but I don't have time to resent people over it.
If Shepard is guilty of anything as far as copyrights go, he'll pay, and fortunately for him he has made some money so he can pay. I have appropriated copywritten material in my time, it worked for me as far as the statement went, it stayed underground and unprofitable, I liked how it looked, I would do it again.
A lot of paths overlap in this controversy, the art establishment versus the street establishment, copyright infringement advocates and free speech perspectives, people who tend to be emotional over the little picture and people that can take in the bigger view and be calm and forgiving when necessary. Shep does what he does, even if it's just to assuage his guilt, which I think if you spent 2 minutes with the man you would know its more than that, its still action instead of words as far as committing resources to what he believes will make the world a better place. If he's guilty of stealing, it''l bear out in court. If not, then I hope he keeps at it til he is guilty of something. That's what I look for in art, anyway.
You see, Robin, a Anglo noble, did not have much in common with the squatter's of Sherwood forest until he was hunted by the same system of justice as the squatter's. He felt it was wrong and fought back by stealing from the system in the company of these newly acquired comrades. He could not have stolen alone what he stole. He needed to be imbedded with these people that up until that common moment had been so unlike him and so seperated from his lot in life. He through in with them and even became a leader in the forefront of their struggle. The story ends with him being re-instated his lands and he becomes a noble again. He was only a merry man as long as he stole with them, once re-instated he became a lord over them again. He became the target they would vent their resentment against authority on. And maybe he would even try to steal and give to he poor as much as he could, a learned behavior that had gotten him through one of the darkest periods of his life, still his destiny was among the wealthy as a lord.
This is a very simplistic view, but it my toss in the pot for now.

Anonymous said...

Razor, where is this clash between the art establishment and street establishment? The mainstream art world has accepted "street art" since the 1950s. In the 1980s artists who could be called "street artists" dominated the decade. Those doors were broken down before Fairey, D*FACE, and Banksy. But people keep spinning the delusion that these artists broke down the door. It is total bunk. SAMO is hardly mentioned today.

Don't give us the Robin Hood rhetoric. The Fairey crowd have been spinning that rhetoric since allegations came to light in the mainstream media. The character Robin Hood had a strong code of ethics and did not smash the message of the minority around him. Fairey on the otherhand takes from minority visual history and claims it as his own.

Anyone can do street art no matter their background. I'll agree with that. But I also know that a lot of street artists are thrown in prison after being caught tagging a few times. Fairey has been arrested over a dozen times for something that lands many streets artists in prison.

Victoria Champion said...

These comments, especially those by Razor, have given me alot to think about. I had an intense discussion just a few days ago about graffiti/street art with my husband, and since then have been perusing the internet trying to get a grasp on where I stand with it. I grew up in the suburbs and he grew up in the ghetto. He claims I will never understand what the true value of graffiti is because of this. These comments helped me understand a little better.

Honestly, I am sick of the whole Shepard Fairy scandal. I don't know anymore how I feel about him. I was at the Dallas Museum of Art recently and saw a Rauschenberg, a giant massive, collage, and I could not help but feel that YES! this is art of the highest profound quality (so good it makes your hair stand on end), and is art that has as its core elements, art that has been appropriated. Where do we draw the line? I am beginning to realize that to make effective pop art, that some appropriation is probably necessary, especially for collage. Pop art is after all a comment on popular culture.

I know that if someone profited from appropriation of my art, I would feel awful, and angry...unless they shared the profits and gave credit where due. Then I think I would feel flattered, because then it would be collaboration. I think where Shepard goes wrong is he doesn't show respect to those he appropriates from.