Monday, February 16, 2009
It's not exactly news that Shepard Fairey has gone from being a street artist to the most known name in art.
Last year he created one of the most iconic images of the century which has now earned him an unjust lawsuit by The Asscoaited Press for copyright infringement. As if the lawsuit wasn't enough Shepard was also arrested by suspiciously Boston Police on the night of his art show. It has now been reported that the Boston police may have violated his civil rights and may have even tried to use Shepard's arrest as a catalyst to incite a riot in front of the show as a way to implicate the mayor of Boston as a supporter of a criminal.
I could only imagine the roller coaster this last year has been for him. I actually got to hang out with Shepard on a few occasions and even went bombing with him. Shepard played a huge role in the skateboarding/street aesthetic culture when he moved to San Diego. He created a lot of the earlier Obey Campaign designs in SD before eventually relocating to Los Angeles. He was enormously influential in the SD skate/art community.
For what it is worth I felt compelled to write this post because I have a huge amount of respect for Shepard. I've been privileged to meet a lot of the people I've looked up to in art, music, fashion, film, and the like and there is nothing I respect more than humility. Shepard has earned his stripes. He has bombed his posters and imagery all over the world and been jailed for it more times than you can count. He is the real deal. He remembers everyone by name and even when he's in the middle of huge installation or a dj set he'll stop what he's doing and shoot the shit with you. He is very open about where he gets inspiration from both in his design and concepts. He is an avid historian of youth/music culture and seeks the authenticity in everything he touches and puts his name on.
When I was beginning to design my second line for Militree Shepard was cool enough to let me convince him that Big L needed to get the Shepard Fairey treatment. My point was that Big L deserved to be in the same pantheon of artists that Shepard had immortalized in his posters, I told him that there will be a million 2Pac and Biggie tributes, but that Big L was as equally talented, but was murdered in the midst of his prime before gaining main stream attention.
The point is this:
Some people get successful and forget where they came from and why they started doing what it is they do in the first place, but thankfully Shepard Fairey is not one of those people. He is opening doors that were once closed to our sub-culture and is making a path so that others can follow his trail. It's hard to see the true impact of a legend when they are in their prime and it is usually only visible once they are no longer with us, but if you look for the signs carefully you'll see it is happening right here and now.