Shepard Fairey is the man behind OBEY GIANT, the graphics that have changed the way people see art and the urban landscape. What started with an absurd sticker he created in 1989 while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, has since evolved into a worldwide street art campaign, as well as an acclaimed body of fine art.
The OBEY GIANT campaign is rooted in the DIY counterculture of punk rock and skateboarding, but it has also taken cues from popular culture, commercial marketing and political messaging. Fairey steeps his ideology and iconography in the self- empowerment of those who refuse to be manipulated by the machine of manufactured consent. With biting sarcasm verging on reverse psychology, he goads viewers, using the imperative “obey,” to take heed of the propagandists out to bend the world to their agendas.
In 2003, Fairey founded Studio Number One, a creative firm dedicated to applying his ethos wherever art and enterprise intersect. Building from Fairey’s approach to design striking, thought-provoking work, the company has since evolved into its own creative entity and become one of the top boutique agencies in the country.
Fairey’s art reached a new height of prominence in 2008, when his HOPE portrait of Barack Obama became the iconic image of the presidential campaign and helped inspire an unprecedented political movement. The original image now hangs in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Along with the Obama campaign, Fairey has also donated artwork and made contributions to charitable organizations such as the ACLU, MoveOn, Hope for Darfur, the Chiapas Relief Fund, marriage equality reform, 11th Hour Action, Hurricane Katrina relief, the Art of Elysium, Southern California fire relief, shelters for L.A. teens, children’s charities in Iraq and the U.S., Free the West Memphis 3, Feeding America, Adopt-a-Pet.com and the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation.
As Fairey’s body of work reached its 20-year mark in 2009, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, honored him with a full-scale solo retrospective, which drew a record number of visitors for the museum. Entitled Supply and Demand, the exhibit shares its name with Fairey’s career-chronicling book. After its time in Boston, the Supply and Demand exhibition made additional runs at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA, and the Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, OH, also breaking attendance records in both museums. In May 2010, Fairey unveiled a new collection of work, entitled MAY DAY, through Deitch Projects as the world-renowned gallery’s final project.