Posts Tagged ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’

Welcome Back to Idyllwild, Shepard Fairey

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Shepard Fairey is a 1988 Idyllwild Arts grad. Photo courtesy Sidney Morgan.

For the first time in 24 years, (Frank) Shepard Fairey, a now famous graphic designer / street artist, returned to his old high school, Idyllwild Arts Academy.

During an hour-long lecture on Feb. 10, Shepard showed slides and told how he raised hell, worked hard, believed in causes, got arrested, got lucky and gained some fame from his 2008 Barak Obama poster and 2010 documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”

Students, faculty and Idyllwild town folks packed the IAF Theatre and mobbed him for photos at the art show afterwards. It was his “Welcome Back, Kotter” moment.

“This is the best thing that’s happened to visual artists,” said Kevin, a senior visual artist from Korea, as he stood in front of Shepard Fairey’s posters at the show. His friend took his picture with Shepard Fairey, which likely was later posted on Facebook.

“I’ve got one of his stickers,” beamed Bella, a senior fashion design major from China. “And it’s signed!”

Back in 1987, when Shepard Fairey attended his senior year at Idyllwild Arts Academy, he was “stagnating” (according to his parents) with interests only in punk rock and skateboarding. When he got kicked out of North Carolina School of the Arts during the summer, he came to Idyllwild Arts.

“When I met one of my art teachers, David Amico, he was wearing biker boots and a Ramones (punk rock) T-shirt,” Shepard said during his slide presentation/lecture. “For the first time, there was no adversarial relationship with my teachers. They treated me like one of their peers.”

Ellenie, his former 2D design teacher, said that Shepard was an average art student.

“But being average at Idyllwild Arts means that you’re among the top three percent of young artists in the country,” she clarified. “He also had to be reminded about the rules a couple of times.”

That year, he studied black-and-white photography, but then used color photography to make fake California Driver’s Licenses with his friends. Later, he used that same fake ID to get into LA clubs to post his “Obey” posters.

"He's the best thing that's happened for visual artists," exclaimed Kevin, with Cynthia, before Shepard Fairey's posters.

Shepard also told how he jammed the color printer at Kinko’s with a paperclip and printed off hundreds 11 x 17-inch posters in black and red, but only paid for six copies.

He’s not saying that it was right, but it’s what he had to do to as a struggling arts student to get his message (of questioning authority) out to the masses.

A the Rhode Island School of Design, he remained active in the skateboard /punk rock culture. One day, he was showing a friend how to make stencils, using a newspaper photo of Andre the Giant. His friend refused thinking it ridiculous, but Shepard’s interest in the wrestler took off. And so did the popularity of his art.

He stylized the image, and put it on buildings and walls around Providence. It made the local news.

“I realized that the only things occupying the public space were government signs and advertising,” he said.

It all started with a crude sticker of Andre the Giant, Shepard Fairey said.

He filled that public space with his “Obey” campaign.

“But then I realized that scale was important,” Shepard told the crowd. (After all, Andre was over 7 feet tall and weighed 525 pounds).

He saw an opportunity to paste over a large billboard featuring a local politician in full scale pointing his finger. The headline read: “He Never Stopped Caring About Providence.”

The next day, Andre the Giant’s face covered the politician’s, who also had mob connections. The billboard ‘makeover’ made the news again, but Shepard had to apologize.

“It took him about four minutes to figure out who did it,” Shepard said, shaking his head.

That incident didn’t stop Shepard from promoting his “Obey” campaign all over U.S. cities and towns, and getting arrested 16 times along the way.

This wasn’t your average street artist “tagging” for his own fame, but a serious conscious objector using his art to bring issues to light.

Shepard Fairey with iconic Obama poster and student.

Some of them he showed during his slide presentation, including anti-war images featuring then-president George Bush with a Hitler moustache, and a young girl carrying a grenade in her hand. Other issues included the oppression of the Tibetan monks, air pollution, and water pollution. Yet, his anti-war slogans were most prominent.

“We spend a lot of money on the military in the U.S., rather than education,” Shepard claimed.

He showed a poster of new parents proudly cradling a bomb. Another one featured a gas mask with bold text: “I don’t want my taxes to pay for the new world order.”

After showing the last slide of a giant tyrant boot ready to crush masses of people, he softened a bit.

“All I’m saying is that you can use your art to speak up,” Shepard told the Idyllwild Arts students. “Few people have the courage to do the heavy lifting. Be brave, OK?”

He spoke not just to the visual artists, but to young musicians and writers as well.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect,” he said. “You could build music on your laptop or write a blog.”

He’s doing what we’ve always told our students to do, said Ellenie. Take something that you believe in and show it through your art.

Although Shepard became most famous for his 2008 Barak Obama poster, Shepard didn’t spend much time on it. He said he was impressed with then-candidate Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention and decided to create a poster. He was lucky that it was sanctioned by the Obama campaign by a former skateboard friend.

“That poster rose to the national spotlight like none other,” he said.

Early in Obama’s campaign, Shepard was identified as the artist who created the iconic poster. When asked if he was mad that others were taking his image and profiting from it, Shepard said, “no.”

On campus, Shepard Fairey was approachable and congenial. He allowed Sidney M. to take these pictures.

Since then, Shepard has become disappointed with some of President Obama’s politics, but said that he’s the best candidate around.

Shepard’s work has appeared in galleries and museums around the country. He illustrated Time magazine numerous times.

Even with all of his success, Shepard was “at home” among the artists at Idyllwild Arts.

“I saw him sitting in the cafeteria eating lunch,” exclaimed Peter. “This was my big moment! So I sat down next to him and told him what a big fan I was.”

He allowed Sidney, a photography major, five minutes before his lecture to take several portraits of him.

(from L) Eric, a film student, with Shepard Fairey. Eric offered to be an extra camera man sometime.

“He was so nice and casual,” Sidney said. “You can see how natural he is in the pictures.”

View the pictures that Sidney took on her blog, www.sidneymorganblog.com.

Eric, from Mexico, spoke to him about filming him in the future.

“I’ve been saving up for my own video camera, and told him that if he needed an extra guy to shoot, I could do it,” Eric said.

Shepard gave Eric his contact information, and since he was hanging around, he was interviewed by Gail Wesson for her Feb. 11 Press-Enterprise article.

When asked if he had seen Shepard Fairey’s lecture before coming to the alumni show, Hubert Halkin of Cafe Aroma replied, “Of course I did! I saw it in the comfort of my own home–on UStream!”

Shepard Fairey’s posters, including the 2008 Obama poster, remains on display at the Parks Exhibition Center on the Idyllwild Arts campus. Call (951) 659-2171, ext. 2251. To hear his one-hour lecture in its entirety, visit www.idyllwildarts.org, and click on UStream, or visit the latest issue of the Idyllwild Herald at www.idyllwildherald.com.  For Shepard Fairey’s art, visit www.obeygiantart.com.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Feb 16, 2012 @ 12:39

 

 

Shepard Fairey to Speak at Idyllwild Arts Friday

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Poster shown on campus

By Marcia E. Gawecki

His iconic ‘Hope’ poster of Barak Obama united a fractured nation, and help send the first African American to the White House.

Before then, Shepard Fairey, a successful graphic designer, was better known for his Andre the Giant ‘Obey’ posters that would “appear” on buildings around Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

This past year, Fairey’s work was featured in a 2010 documentary about street artists called, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” which was nominated for an Academy Award.

However, this Friday, Feb. 10, Shepard Fairey will be returning to Idyllwild Arts for the first time since his graduation in 1988.

His 3:30 p.m. lecture at the IAF Theatre is a much-anticipated event, especially by the Visual Arts students. Some of them have been seen wearing “Obey” T-shirts and sweaters to class. Peter, a visual artist originally from China, was grinning from ear to ear when discussing the upcoming event.

“I never thought I’d get a chance to meet Shepard Fairey in person. He’s kind of my idol,” Peter said. “And now he’s coming to our school.”

Peter was trying to think of a good question to ask Fairey during the Q&A portion of the lecture on Friday.

“I was going to ask him what it was like to be a student here,” Peter said. “But that was way back in 1988, so that was a long time ago.”

Even though Shepard Fairey’s Obama “Hope” poster was popular with supporters, the Associated Press (AP) whose photo Fairey used as inspiration, was not. AP sued over copyright infringement, but they came to a settlement. That’s what prompted Peter’s question:

“With the availability of images all over the internet these days, how does copyright fit into an artist’s work?” Peter will ask. “Otherwise, no artist can create an image of a famous person unless he takes the picture himself. That would mean we could only paint portraits of our family and friends.”

Obviously, controversy doesn’t scare Fairey. After all, his “Obey” images are spray painted and stenciled on office buildings all over Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities. Some start on the rooftops, so he can’t be afraid of heights or getting caught.

“I think he was arrested once,” Peter added with a gleam in his eye.

Shepard Fairey is a 1988 graduate of Idyllwild Arts

You can bet Fairey is revered even more now.

According to web sites, Fairey has been arrested numerous times. In 2009, he was arrested in Boston for “tagging” two properties with his “Obey” image, including a railroad trestle. The police grabbed him on his way to his “Supply and Demand” show at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

So the rebel artist is coming home to Idyllwild for the first time in 24 years. After graduation, he attended the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration.

At the Friday show, Fairey be featuring 16 pieces, including serigraphs and one print that also includes works by Nate Lowman and other Visual Arts alumni.

Fairey’s pieces were picked up Tuesday from his Los Angeles studio on Sunset Boulevard., down the street from Disney Hall. The studio also houses a gallery of Fairey’s work that he’s created over the decades.

Mallory Cremin, an arts teacher who also runs the Parks Exhibition Center on campus, invited Fairey to speak at Idyllwild Arts more than a year ago with no definite plans. This past September, however, she and her printmaking students visited his gallery.

“Afterwards, the students were so excited, they couldn’t wait to get back and try making their own prints,” Mallory said.

She was persistent in emails with Fairey’s associate, Dan.

“Until one day, our schedules finally came together,” Mallory said.

While wrapping and loading up the artwork, Dan said that Fairey owns the original Obama “Hope” image, but a rose print is featured in the National Portrait Gallery (in Washington, D.C.) He said Fairey also got to meet the president.

The 16 pieces, which were created by Fairey from 2001 to 2010, with prices ranging from $500 to $1,000 each, are not for sale, Mallory said. Those who are interested in his prints can buy them online.

16 pieces were picked up from Shepard Fairey's studio in LA

“I don’t think we’ll be selling the smaller prints because we just have a limited amount,” Dan added. “But if someone is really interested in the bigger prints, maybe we’ll sell those.”

The Alumni Show should remain up in the Parks Exhibition Center for several weeks.

Fairey’s work can be found at the Irvine Contemporary Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

“I just hope the students don’t mob him afterwards for autographs,” Mallory added as she assessed Fairey’s framed prints. “We’ll have to make an announcement.”

Shepard Fairey’s lecture at Idyllwild Arts begins at 3:30 p.m. at the IAF Theatre. Like all Idyllwild Arts events, it is free and open to the public. However, arrive early to get a good seat. At 6 p.m., there will be an artist’s reception at the Parks Exhibition Gallery on campus.

For more information on the event, call (951) 659-2171, or visit www.idyllwildarts.org. Shepard Fairey’s artwork, clothing and collectibles can be purchased online at www.obeygiant.com.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me.

Published on: Feb 8, 2012 @ 6:49