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Yo, Shepard Fairey is straight up sad!

January 19, 2009

08row.1-500

I have recently been asked about why it is that I dislike Shepard Fairey. Its actually not that I dislike Shepard as a person, its more that I have a big problem with his practices. I find them to be unethical and I believe that the political spectrum of people trying to make social change in the world will ultimately not benefit from his art. I believe that as artists and activists, we should be open about critiquing each other and open to changing how it is that we do things. That is what movements did before us .The Black Panthers consistently criticized each other in order to make assessments, and grow, as people, as an organization, and as a movement. We should never be closed to critique because in doing so we are doing ourselves a disservice. I would love to have the opportunity to talk to Shepard about my critiques, but the word on the street is that he does not like to debate about this stuff. Again, I have to say that this is not a personal attack, Shepard is actually in a book I co-edited with Josh MacPhee (also part of Justseeds), Reproduce and Revolt, and it’s not my intention to smear him nor censor him. Rather, my intention is to provide a look at his practices from the perspective a woman of color, an artist activist, and a person who thinks our capitalist system is very flawed.

Today a friend shared an article which you can read by clicking here. The title of the article is “Consumers of the World Unite,” based on the phrase, “Workers of the World, Unite!” The title itself says alot of Fairey’s practices, which is, that he commodifies political movements with the intention of making HUGE profits from them. Read the article and judge for yourself. It’s sad to me that me that in our ultra consumer world, EVERYTHING is up for grabs when it’s about profit. Very similar to how Hip Hop started in our communities, was even illegal in some forms, then repurposed, and is now sold back to us, by the very forces that also put our people in jail, deport our families, and push for bail outs in which the people ultimately pay the price. The article starts like this:

“SHOPPING, these days, is a political act. If you are brave enough to buy a $2,000 Prada handbag, you might rationalize that you are helping to stimulate the economy. Solidarity, people!”

Read more about Shepard Fairey’s practices:

This article here was researched by a few of us in Justseeds (Jesus Barraza, Josh MacPhee, and myself) as well as other notable voices in the world of political posters:

http://www.art-for-a-change.com/Obey/index.htm

This article here was written by my fellow co-editor and JustSeeder, Josh MacPhee:
http://justseeds.org/blog/2007/12/a_response_to_obey_plagiarist_1.html

This article was written originally for release in Mother Jones, but Mother Jones then refused to run it, and then instead ran a very pro-Fairey piece:
http://nyc.indymedia.org/en/2008/06/97988

Here is an open letter to Shepard from a powerful sister who works at KPFK, Aura Bogado.
http://tothecurb.wordpress.com/2008/05/29/i-have-a-name-an-open-letter-to-shepard-fairey/

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4 comments on “Yo, Shepard Fairey is straight up sad!”

Mr. Fairey said “But I think most people are sophisticated enough to realize it’s a way of grabbing attention. It’s commerce. I don’t think there is really any political statement embedded in this.”
Or that there is any political statement in any of his designs. Shep doesn’t make ART, he’s a simple designer.

I was also talking with a friend this evening
who had a very appropriate take on the Progress/Hope posters.
He said it was the perfect match,
Art stripped of politics/Politics stripped of politics
A really successful way to run a(n) (Ad)campaign.

am i missing something here, or was this entire article about how you aren’t going to attack shepherd fairey, followed by a link with a short anecdote/summary?