Everyone has to have heroes. And I emphasize the plural in the word. Sometimes one man can be a hero across multiple categories simultaneously.

Ice Tea Obey
All images taken by author in Cincinnati

Shepherd Fairey tends to embody much of the heroic not just in a man, but in an artist, entrepreneur, cultural icon, conscientious citizen, participator, critic, observer, comedian, satirist, rebel, success. It is rare for one person’s life to encompass such a gamut, but much in the likeness of a Da Vinci with a separate toolkit–public relations, branding, corporate identity, graphic design, illustration, political propaganda, media theory, mass communications vs. painting, ideation, sculpture, invention, rendering–we have that Giant.

His voice is at once both mysterious and truthful, observant and conscientious. His renderings are honest and capable, but not unapproachable. There is no unnecessary distance between the observer and the work. It is both the work of the immortal and unattainable  (to many) title of artist, and also the manufacturing of a hand that we all have and share. That simple marriage and coordination between hand and eye that results in a picture.

I haven’t yet seen his work in a gallery, but having experienced his work and the work of others’ in the street, I wonder why they would venture into those elevated halls where the war of art once took place. Clearly, this work is evidence of battle for all to see.

Giant in Findlay

We can see the John Carpenter references still run strong in his work. Why change the variables when the methods of delivery work so well, and since the game has not yet changed?

Inserting into even the smallest of details, a political message may bring up questions as to Fairey’s motivations, but also as to his classification. Is he an artist? Is he a street artist? I leave that to the viewer, but I caution the viewer to be informed of his methodology even before making an aesthetic argument. For in Fairey’s work, much of the beauty is contained within the detail of the message and in the form of its delivery.

Subjugating the realms of pattern and ornament and (what is often) dead space in a collage for use in delivering a commentary on the East meeting the West. Using the normally awkward space on the front of a newspaper (not always taken into consideration) to make a few simple statements on throw-away culture and sustainability is cogent and bold. Especially when the method of delivery is also paper. Every piece of space, every diagonal relationship is still thought out, even though some of the pieces have the appearance of haphazardness. Fairey’s politics are layered like everyone’s. His method of delivery happens to be visual.

little copy of political message

hide your eyes

The arc of the eyebrow revealing the slightest amount of Persian ethnicity. The tear drop. The layered lace on the woman’s nightgown referencing Eastern ornament. The lotus. The red stars. The rose and the thorn with the barrels of guns. All while maintaining the solidarity of his original message. Obey. Giant.

Most of us do exactly what he says. Even if we don’t know how we’re doing it. Right or left. Republican or Democrat. These things may have little meaning in our daily lives. Symbols might be similar in their diffusion through mass communications. The power both have over all their constant streams will not end, however. Shepherd rows his boat in many streams, and I applaud his journey. It is both courageous and original. What are your thoughts?


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