This Street Artist Has Spent The Last 25 Years Spreading Positive Propaganda Around The World

Shepard Fairey has made us obey and given us hope. Here’s how he does it.

1. Shepard Fairey is an American street artist, designer, and activist whose work has appeared on walls and in galleries around the world.

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During his 25-year career, the outspoken artist has created some of the most recognisable work in the street art movement, inspiring generations of artists such as Banksy.

2. He is perhaps most famous for the 2008 Obama campaign poster, and for propaganda-style imagery featuring his iconic “obey” motif.

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Titan Books

 

This originated in 1989, when he designed a sticker featuring then WWF wrestler André the Giant. That sticker evolved into the image seen above – a stylised version of André the Giant’s face, often accompanied by the word “Obey”, inspired by the 1988 science-fiction film They Live.

3. Fairey said of the design: “The André the Giant sticker was just a spontaneous, happy accident.”

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Titan Books

 

“I was teaching a friend to make stencils and I looked for a picture to use in the newspaper, and there just happened to be an ad for wrestling with André the Giant. I thought it was funny, so I made the stencil.”

4. Over the years his imagery has been repeatedly copied and parodied, and Shepard has evolved from a sticker-bombing vandal to a presidential campaigner and gallery artist.

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Fairey’s art often involves satirical images of war, such as this girl playing with the grenade. To the right you can see the “Obey” image hidden in text.

5. Talking to Smithsonian magazine, he said. “Propaganda has a negative connotation, which it partially deserves…”

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“But I think there is some propaganda that is very positive.”

6. “I feel that if you can do something that gets people’s attention, then maybe they’ll go and find out more.”

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Titan Books

 

7. “I think that art has the ability to capture people’s imaginations and make them think that more is possible.”

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8. “My idea about the role of artists is to get people to look at things in a way that’s different than the way they normally would if they are being told how to think, what to do.”

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Titan Books

 

9. “I think when people receive information through art they are more open-minded.”

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10. His work has not been without controversy – he has been the subject of numerous arrests, and received a lawsuit from the AP over the image of Obama he used in his iconic poster.

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Titan Books

 

11. Talking to ES Magazine, he said: “My art is part of my therapy – trying to do something that I’m excited about visually, but also have it not just be about my own ego.”

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12. “It’s hopefully inspiring or provocative, and I raise a lot of money for charities.”

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Titan Books

 

Fairey made a canine-version of his Obama poster (right) to promote dog adoption, with proceeds from poster sales going to a good cause.

13. “Fortunately, at this point in my career, I have a lot of people who want to offer me legal venues,” he told The A.V. Club.

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Shepard Fairey (left) with graffiti artist RISK.

Images taken from Shepard Fairey, Inc, out now from Titan Books. All artwork reproduced with permission.

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