One of the most prolific and well-respected graffiti artists and activists in the USA, Shepard Fairey began in 1989 with his Obey giant sticker campaign. It originally featured an image of the actor Andre the Giant and bore the slogan “Obey the Giant” but gradually grew more and more stylised into his current logo, becoming simply Obey. He is perhaps best known for his iconic Barack Obama Hope election campaign poster in 2008, of which Obama said, ‘encouraged Americans to believe they can change the status-quo,’ achieving the rare feat of becoming a visual emblem of a moment in history.
Shepard Fairey is influenced by and forms a critique of both advertising and propaganda posters. With his politically charged images of consumer culture part of collections around the world including the Victoria and Albert Museum he is one of today’s most prolific and influential street artists.
Born in 1970 Shepard Fairey came up with the tagline ‘Obey’ based on the idea that there are forces all around us that have agendas, but they are frequently unspoken. Having worked for a number of years as a graphic designer, Fairey’s work combines elements of graffiti, pop art, business art, appropriation art and Marxist theory.
Fairey became embroiled in a contentious lawsuit with the Associated Press over the use of a photograph used as a reference for the Obama portrait of which he says, his use of the image as a reference fall under the category of fair use. Even with his Obama piece now resident in the National Portrait Gallery (Washington) he famously states that even thinking about entering an art gallery makes him want to doze off.
If you like the Shepherd Fairey’s works you might also enjoy works by an Irish graffiti artist Maser, whose unique technique emphasizes simplicity of form, complimented by bold colours.