Shepard Fairey posters Harvard Square
By GREG COOK | October 31, 2008
Shepard Fairey and his crew of three punky glue-spattered assistants (plus an art curator) pour out of a maroon mini-van and unload buckets of paste, brushes, a ladder, and a wheeled suitcase full of his screenprinted posters onto the sidewalk. It’s around 2 pm on a sunny, crisp October Monday. And the guys are preparing to poster two walls in bustling Harvard Square.
PROVOCATEUR: Fairey’s root formula is the classic pulp combo of bad-ass guys and sexy gals.
Fairey is one of the most famed street artists (the refined term for people who do what used to be known as graffiti) in the world. His work seems to be everywhere these days — and it actually is in the case of the iconic red-white-and-blue Barack Obama “Hope” poster that he produced this spring. The 38-year-old Los Angeles artist first gained notice nearly two decades ago as a student at Rhode Island School of Design when he began (illegally) plastering Providence — and then the world — with stickers featuring the wrestler (and actor in the 1987 film The Princess Bride) André the Giant. Later versions were amended with the word “Obey.”
“I realized that getting people to question all the imagery they’re inundated with daily,” Fairey says, “was something that was actually somewhat important to, I think, the way people communicate, and the way people can either question the use of public space or just passively submit. So then that’s why the idea of making an image that confronted people with the idea of obedience.”
Fairey is in Boston to check in with the Institute of Contemporary Art, which is scheduled to present his first solo museum show in February. “It’s now been almost 20 years that I’ve been doing street art, and using street art both as a way to showcase my art and put my politics across and I guess bypass the bureaucracy of the gallery system. Now I’ve been embraced by the gallery system, but it wasn’t because I pandered to the gallery system. It was because the gallery system relies on supply and demand, and I created a demand for my work by doing street art.”
While he’s in town, the ICA has lined up officially approved spaces for him to poster: a Montgomery Street fence in Boston’s South End; the International Bicycle Center in Allston; the boutique Grand in Somerville’s Union Square; the graffiti wall around the corner from Central Kitchen in Cambridge’s Central Square. I meet Fairey’s crew at a red brick wall outside the Gap at 15 Brattle Street, which the Harvard Square Business Association has helped arrange permission for them to poster. Fairey is dressed in blue jeans, Adidas sneakers, and a black hoodie that he removes to reveal a black T-shirt bearing the slogan “Bone: thugs-n-typography.” He has shaggy graying brown hair and a raffish scar running up his left brow.
Photos: Shepard Fairey in Harvard Square, Photos: Shepard Fairey, Z-Trip, Chuck D at the ICA, Review: Shepard Fairey + Z-Trip + Chuck D, More
- Photos: Shepard Fairey in Harvard Square
- Photos: Shepard Fairey, Z-Trip, Chuck D at the ICA
Shepard Fairey spins at Obey Experiment REDUX at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston
- Review: Shepard Fairey + Z-Trip + Chuck D
So Shepard Fairey actually made it this time. No insane, last-minute sting operations by Boston cops lurking just off the ICA’s property line. But also: no grand dramatics, either. (Like, he totally could have parachuted through a shattered skylight. In slow motion.) Fairey just showed up and did his thing.
- This must be the place
It is a place so confident, so much an institution, as to presume to call itself by its last name. When someone says they’re going to the Square, nobody expects them to turn up at the Statler Building in Park Square or under the CITGO sign in Kenmore Square or in Elmer N. Buswell Square.
- With plans for a downtown mural, Shepard Fairey returns to Providence
It is a rather unremarkable collection of bricks at the moment: an exterior wall at the back of Trinity Repertory Company’s Pell Chafee Performance Center in downtown Providence.
Shepard Fairey and his show "Supply and Demand" arrive at the Institute of Contemporary Art like a guerrilla general emerging from the jungle after his forces have taken the capital.
- Shepard Fairey bombs Boston
The Massachusetts-bred street artist Shepard Fairey returned to his home-turf this month to "bomb" the Phoenix offices, conduct interviews, and unveil his latest work at the ICA.
- Arresting Shepard Fairey
A cynic might argue that anything that publicizes art is a good thing. Art, after all, challenges how you think — provokes thoughts, insights, emotions that otherwise might not be stirred. It also can amuse and entertain.
- Inside the box
"Young people, and artists especially, respond to authenticity. And whether he's just very good at seeming authentic or whether he's really authentic, I think he has a lot of us convinced."
- Slideshow: Shepard Fairey slaps a mural on the Phoenix offices
January 22, 2009
- Interview: Shepard Fairey
"Denver wasn't great because I literally had a gun pointed at my head for putting posters up at the DNC."
: Museum And Gallery
, Barack Obama, Harvard Square, Harvard Square, More
, Barack Obama, Harvard Square, Harvard Square, Harvard University, Che Guevara, Institute of Contemporary Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Angela Davis, Frederick Douglass, STREET ART, Less