Most days, I’m a fan of Shepard Fairey. He’s been getting up longer and harder than almost anybody else in street art, he’s a talented artist and few others have done more for the street art scene. But nobody’s perfect, and the bigger the star, the more bigger those imperfections. Every once in a while, I do a post like this about the latest crazy things Shepard has said or done.
1. There are the posters depicting Joaquin Phoenix which have been popping up in a few major US cities. Forget about this being illegally place guerrilla advertising for some film, they’re pretty unappealing to look at. Even if they were straight up street art, they’d be pretty unremarkable, unless you were remarking on their poor design. Well, according to New York Magazine, these posters were designed by Shepard Fairey and they are presumably being placed by his street team. The poor design of this image is EXACTLY WHY people criticize 1-layer stencils and Shepard’s poster style as nothing more than failed art students putting a photo through Photoshop. And that’s not what all 1-layer stencils or Shepard Fairey images are. Some of them are brilliant (I think). Then again, the rumor about this Joaquin Phoenix documentary is that the last two or so years of Joanquin’s life have been some elaborate performance piece about a man gaining fame through a career path that he has no business being on. Kind of like the ending that everyone was hoping for with Mr. Brainwash in Exit Through The Gift Shop, except that Joaquin is trying to be a rapper. So if the rumors are true, maybe this sub-par poster is just another component of the hoax.
2. Last week, a mural Shepard recently put up in San Diego was partially tagged over by a fire-extinguisher-wielding writer going by the name of Polo Joe. It was a nice mural. It’s a shame to see it written on so swiftly. I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with me on that point, but I liked the mural. Unfortunately, pieces getting covered, written over, removed or even just decaying is part of street art and graffiti. Every artist that I know accepts this as part of the culture. Typically, street artists are more open to this than graffiti writers. And yet, I’m not that shocked by Shepard Fairey releasing a statement about this wall getting written over. After all, a lot of people who enjoy that mural might have expected it to last longer. What did surprise me a bit was what Shepard said in his statement: “The endeavor fulfills some need for the heckler but has no redeeming value to any of the other participants, but I firmly believe in street art as a democratic forum. In street art, tenacity always wins and I’m not going away.” That just sounds a bit supercilious to me. Polo Joe is not merely a “heckler” who should be completely ignored. He was making a statement with his tag. I wouldn’t expect Shepard to agree with Polo Joe, but since Shepard has been involved in street art for longer than I have been alive, I figured he wouldn’t just brush aside such an important part of graffiti and street art culture so simply. Like Team Robbo writing over Banksy, Polo Joe might be annoying and ruining a piece of art history and I might wish he didn’t do it, but he has as much right to tag over a Shepard Fairey mural as Shepard has to put up a poster without permission. I think it’s unfortunate that Shepard agree (or if he does, won’t admit that he does).
Via Animal NY
Photo by EL AYE ONE