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Covert To Overt The Under Overground Art Of Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey is a prominent figure in the world of street art, renowned for his iconic and thought-provoking designs. From covertly pasting his stickers and posters on city walls to having his artwork displayed in prestigious galleries, Fairey has successfully transformed the under overground art scene. In this blog article, we will delve into the fascinating journey of Shepard Fairey and explore the evolution of his art, from covert beginnings to overt recognition.

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The Early Days and Influences

Shepard Fairey’s artistic journey began in the early days of his youth, where he was heavily influenced by the punk rock music scene and its associated album covers. The rebellious spirit and DIY ethos of punk resonated deeply with Fairey, shaping his artistic style and motivation. The raw energy and bold graphics of punk album covers inspired him to experiment with different visual elements and techniques.

Additionally, Fairey’s interest in skateboarding culture further fueled his passion for art. Skateboarding graphics, with their vibrant colors and edgy designs, captivated Fairey’s imagination. He would spend hours studying the intricate details and bold imagery of skateboards, immersing himself in the world of counterculture art.

These early influences served as the foundation for Shepard Fairey’s artistic journey, setting him on a path of creative exploration and self-expression.

The Influence of Punk Rock Album Covers

Punk rock album covers played a pivotal role in shaping Shepard Fairey’s artistic style. The DIY aesthetic and rebellious spirit of the punk movement resonated deeply with Fairey, inspiring him to create his own unique brand of art. The bold graphics, provocative imagery, and anarchic typography found on punk album covers pushed Fairey to experiment with similar visual elements in his early works.

He would meticulously study album covers from bands like the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and the Dead Kennedys, analyzing how the artwork visually represented the music and the band’s ethos. Fairey recognized the power of art to convey a message and evoke a response, and he sought to capture that same energy and impact in his own creations.

By immersing himself in the world of punk rock album covers, Fairey honed his skills in graphic design, color theory, and composition. These foundational elements would later become defining characteristics of his art.

The Influence of Skateboarding Culture

Skateboarding culture played a significant role in shaping Shepard Fairey’s artistic journey. As a young skateboarder himself, Fairey was exposed to a visual landscape filled with vibrant skateboard graphics. The bold and eye-catching designs adorning skateboards captured his attention and ignited his passion for art.

Skateboarding graphics often featured surreal imagery, intricate patterns, and vibrant colors. Fairey was drawn to the rebellious and subversive nature of these designs, which pushed the boundaries of conventional art. They were a form of expression for skateboarders, reflecting their unique identity and counter-cultural attitude.

Fairey’s fascination with skateboarding graphics led him to experiment with similar elements in his own art. He began incorporating bold patterns, vivid colors, and captivating imagery into his early works, creating a visual language that was unmistakably influenced by skateboarding culture.

The combination of punk rock album covers and skateboarding graphics laid the groundwork for Shepard Fairey’s artistic style, imbuing it with a rebellious spirit and a distinctive visual aesthetic.

The Birth of Obey Giant

One of Shepard Fairey’s most iconic creations is the Obey Giant campaign, which has become synonymous with his name. The birth of Obey Giant can be traced back to Fairey’s desire to challenge the prevailing culture of conformity and consumerism.

The Obey Giant image itself features the face of the late professional wrestler Andre the Giant, with the word “Obey” emblazoned beneath it. Fairey intended this image to provoke thought and encourage individuals to question authority, societal norms, and the messages propagated by mass media.

With its simple yet powerful design, the Obey Giant image quickly gained recognition and became a symbol of resistance and dissent. Shepard Fairey plastered the image on walls, street signs, and other public spaces, often under the cover of darkness, creating a sense of intrigue and mystery.

Through the Obey Giant campaign, Fairey sought to challenge the notion of public space and question who has the right to control it. The image became a form of visual disruption, forcing passersby to confront their surroundings and engage with the underlying messages of the artwork.

The Power of Visual Subversion

The birth of Obey Giant represented a turning point in Shepard Fairey’s career, marking his transition from covert street artist to overt cultural provocateur. The power of the Obey Giant image lay in its ability to subvert traditional modes of communication and challenge the status quo.

The image of Andre the Giant, a towering figure synonymous with strength and dominance, juxtaposed with the word “Obey,” immediately evokes a sense of irony and contradiction. Fairey deliberately created this contrast to spark curiosity and encourage viewers to question the authority figures and messages they encounter in their daily lives.

By plastering the Obey Giant image in public spaces, Fairey aimed to reclaim these areas as platforms for public expression. He challenged the notion that advertising and commercial messages had the sole right to occupy these spaces, asserting that art and dissenting voices deserve equal representation.

The Obey Giant campaign also demonstrated the power of repetition and ubiquity in conveying a message. By flooding the streets with the image, Fairey ensured that it became a part of the urban landscape, impossible to ignore. This saturation of the visual landscape forced individuals to confront the image repeatedly, gradually eroding its shock value and normalizing its presence.

Through the birth of Obey Giant, Shepard Fairey successfully harnessed the power of visual subversion and created an enduring symbol of resistance and dissent.

Covert Operations: The Street Art Revolution

One of the defining aspects of Shepard Fairey’s artistic journey is his involvement in covert operations within the street art scene. Fairey, along with other street artists, initiated a revolution that challenged the traditional boundaries of art and its place within society.