I think of Shepard Fairey as an underground artist who came out of RISD. It is kind of crazy to me that he is now a hugely well-known artist who famously did (traced) that Obama Hope poster.
I have no idea how I learned about him. I just sort of became aware of the Andre the Giant has a Posse art. Maybe from early Internet message boards? However I found out about Fairey, I liked him immediately. I remember that right after I graduated university, I went on a solo trip to the West coast. Somehow I found the address of Fairey’s studio in San Francisco and spend half a day (before google maps and smartphones) trying to track him down. I failed and got totally lost but it was fun trying (later in that trip I met some people I was talking to on one of those message boards in San Diego and went to a party in LA with them, complete with parking lot meet point to get a map to the venue and everything).
Everything to do with Shepard Fairey and his art is tied to a specific and formative time in my life. To house music and sketchy friends and parties in falling down warehouses that don’t start till 3am.
Its weird to write about how much I like Shepard Fairey when I consider what pieces I have from him in a streetwear context. I own exactly 0 Obey shirts. Until I wrote this post I actually kind of forgot that he was behind that. I am not opposed to mall-core at all (witness my undying love for Uniqlo) but I don’t feel that the Obey stuff really connects to the art that I am so into.
My favourite Fairey pieces are… I can’t pick. The pieces I have are so connected with nostalgia and memories of when I picked them up. The two bigger posters I grabbed at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2000. It was a ridiculous weekend of techno and searching for Carl Cox and drinking way too much off-brand Red Bull. And apparently buying art.
The only other Fairey art I have is a rave flyer. During the 90s I spend a lot of time picking up flyers whenever I went to party. Flyers were the primary way to find out who was coming to town and when your favourite promoter had something new going on. I always picked up as many as I could (good thing my pants pockets were so large). Sometime in 1999 or 2000 we went to the Whistle party in New Jersey. It was big and intense and amazing (and very, very dirty). I picked up a ton of flyers as usual. But this time one of the flyers turned out to be for the Starscape 2000 party and it is based on a Fairey design. I have no idea if it was official but I love it and it is my only framed flyer to this day.
I have everything I need from Fairey right now. My two prints are my favourite pieces of art I own and the rave flyer is the icing on the cake. I am not trying to be a hipster when I say I like his earlier stuff… I like it because that was the time in my life when I most identified with what he was doing. His art was less polished, less commercial and closer to my heart.