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Shepard Fairey interview (Nineteeneightyfouria

GALLERY SHOW  Obey (Shepard Fairey) has his first solo exhibition in London at stolenspace (Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane) from the 2nd to the 18th November 2007.      

STREET WORK Paste ups from across London in advance of the show opening.

INTERVIEW Shepard interviewed before the opening of the show

All photographs copyright artofthestate 2007

SHEPARD FAIREY interview - Artofthestate interviewed Shepard prior to the NineteenEightyfouria show in London, November 2007

Shepard’s been in London for a week when we meet up and he’s still struggling to acclimatise. Having previously moved from Rhode Island to L.A. for a climate that suits him London right now must seem like a large step back. He’s now resigned to the misty, damp grey skies that have enveloped the city – besides; they tie in with the theme of his upcoming show ‘Nineteeneightyfouria’. It’s the perfect backdrop for a show inspired by George Orwell’s novel, which dealt with a state that has a controlling presence in every aspect of an individual’s life: “Over the last few years I’ve been really upset about the war and then I’ve been upset that other people are not upset by the war” Shepard explains further about the concept behind the show. “The tide is finally starting to turn now. The title of the show ‘Nineteeneightyfouria’ is sort of a continuation of my last big show in New York which was called 'E Pluribus Venom‘ (translates as "out of many, poison) that’s based on the Latin that’s on a lot of US money (E pluribus Unum - "Out of many, one"). A lot of the stuff is similar, it’s talking about less privacy, less civil liberties, the war, the herd mentality that allows the government to push its agenda through without too much resistance, the connection between governments and corporations that allows corporations to get away with whatever they want to get away with. On the other side its celebrating the people that think independently and resist. There’s also a bit of music influenced stuff because I’ve always liked music as a form of entertainment and as form to put a philosophy across – it’s a tool for social change whether it’s reggae, hip hop or the Sex Pistols a lot of artists have used it as a platform for their political ideas”.   

E Pluribus Venom

There’s a connection to be made here. Is it fair to compare what Shepard is doing with his art to how many bands with agendas have operated in the past? “When I look at what I’m doing it’s really analogous to what the Sex Pistols were trying to set out to do which was to create something that was entertaining and hits you on a gut level but then also there’s more to it in that it embraces pop culture and is accessible but it aims a little higher than that at the same time. The Sex Pistols had Jamie Reid as a graphic artist, Malcolm McClaren as a media manipulator, Vivienne Westwood as the fashion component and the band itself made great music. That sort of convergence of talents and ideas and the impact that it made is always something I’ve been shooting for. Then there’s this idea that it doesn’t matter that you don’t have any money, being resourceful and ingenious will take the place of having financial resources – the do it yourself part of punk rock”.  Shepard took this attitude to heart. “I printed my own posters and stuff off on a copy machine - built my thing up from when I had a job at a skateboard shop on four dollars an hour – that’s as punk as you can get I think”.   

Joe Strummer Obey Records - Shepard Fairey

Joe Strummer Obey Records - Shepard Fairey

Typically graffiti has been more aligned with hip-hop than punk rock so how much of an influence has that genre been on Shepard in comparison? “I do like a lot of hip hop” Shepard explains “but it’s Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, NWA – the stuff that was the punk bands of hip hop. That’s gone now and there’s really very little contemporary hip-hop that I care about now. There’s rock bands now – whether you want to call them a punk band or not – like The Libertines and Franz Ferdinand that are doing their own thing in a punk way. They may not wear bullet belts and have Mohawks but they have the attitude. The moment something becomes a uniform it becomes irrelevant as being provocative and becomes a label. I still love wearing punk T-shirts (Shepard is sporting a Black Flag shirt where the words Black Flag have been sprayed out and changed to Flat Black like the spray paint) because that’s my history and I’m proud to say that. But I’m not a punk fashion victim though!” 

“You’re seduced by the energy and the way the music hits you on a gut level and then you find out that there’s so much more to it than just the music itself. It’s cool because you have a euphoric association between the thing that hit you on a gut level and the ideas and the politics behind it. For me, if I make an image that isn’t visually striking then it doesn’t matter how great the content of the idea is – if it doesn’t hit you then you to need to investigate a little further. I think that’s something of an analogy to music where you’ve got a punk band or a rap artist and what they have to say is great but the music's boring – it’s got to have both”.

Article Continues>  ( pages 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 )



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