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I remember spotting an “Obey Giant” sticker under the old Grace Bridge when I first moved here in 2000 and thinking, “Wow, that guy gets around.”
For years, I had seen the cool modern-day Kilroy graphic pasted on street signs and utility boxes around Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Francisco and relegated it to “a California thing.” Little did I know that “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” was a global phenomena created by Shepard Fairey, a native son of my newly adopted city.
As time passed and I learned about Charleston and its residents, more and more people mentioned Shepard (a RISD grad now living and working in L.A.) and always suggested him as a profile for the magazine. I did some research and found him and his work intriguing but hadn’t figured out the correct timing or the context, as there are so many artists doing great work here.
And then last spring, Fairey’s career hit what Malcolm Gladwell dubbed a “tipping point” with his Obama Hope portrait, which the campaign astutely adopted as its central image. Within a year, Fairey was commissioned to illustrate covers for TIME and Esquire magazines; he released a second addition of his monograph Supply & Demand: The Art of Shepard Fairey; the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston opened a retrospective of his work; and Obama Hope was installed into the National Portrait Gallery, not to mention the Associated Press lawsuit.
Considering his schedule, I’m thrilled that Fairey accepted our request to feature him in this Arts issue. In “Shepard Fairey Has a Posse”, contributing editor Stephanie Hunt profiles the artist whose iconic images appear on public street corners as well as within public institutions—artwork that taps into the collective consciousness and instigates debate by playing with our perceptions and, in his words, “questioning everything.”
After Fairey’s retrospective at ICA/Boston closes in August, the show will travel to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh (October 2009-February 2010).
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it made a homecoming to Charleston as well?
Check back regularly as I will be posting random snapshots of “public art” in Charleston and asking guest bloggers to discuss street art, vandalism, and the ownership of public spaces. Please make a comment and join the conversation.