Artist Interview: Shepard Fairey – StreetArtNews

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Artist Interview: Shepard Fairey – StreetArtNews


Shepard Fairey: I’m Shepard and I’m an artist, and an activist best known I guess for my Obey Street Art and Clothing line, and of course the “Hope” Obama poster that I made as a grassroots tool to aid the Obama’s campaign. Or maybe the, “We the People” posters that I created for the Women’s March on Washington.Matthew A. Eller: Perfect, and can you tell me a little about this beautiful Blondie Print you are currently signing?

Shepard Fairey: Well I have worked with Lisa Project on a few different projects over the years including in 2016 painting this Blondie mural depicted in this print. So when the opportunity came up to paint this image on a wall at Bleeker and Bowery, right across from where CBGB’s used to be, I couldn’t turn it down. I absolutely loved the idea because my first solo art show in New York in 1998 was at the CBGB’s Gallery, plus I love all the music that came out of CBGB’s like The Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, Bad Brains played there a lot, and of course Blondie.

Additionally, in 2016 I worked on Blondies album package for their “Pollinator” album, and the flower and the bee at the top right corner of the mural is from that album art. I was extremely excited to do something that tied in with a band like Blondie that I loved historically, but who I had also worked with recently. So this print is based on the mural that I previously painted across from CGBG’s, which is now coming down and I’m replacing it with a new mural of the one and only Bad Brains. It’s just great that this mural is now being memorialized with this really beautiful large format screen print by Gary Liechtenstein with the proceeds helping the LISA Project fund future murals and events. And just in time because as of this morning it’s just a yellow wall. We already started on prepping for Bad Brains!Matthew A. Eller: How is this new Bad Brains mural going to be different then the old Blondie one?

@obeygiant, @glenefriedman

Shepard Fairey: So this Bad Brains mural is basically an update to the first Bad Brains collaboration I did in 2008. In that image three out of the four photos were based on pictures taken at CBGB’s. Only the HR image in that 2008 collaboration was photographed at the Whiskey in LA. So to keep it geographically relevant, I talked to Glenn (Friedman) and said, “You know, why don’t we re-illustrate HR? But Glenn was so partial to his shot of HR that I ended up re-illustrating two of them. So this will be something special when it’s finished that people haven’t seen exactly before, but it’s definitely reminiscent of the 2008 piece.Matthew A. Eller: Were Bad Brains your first choice for the mural?

Shepard Fairey: Well, my first choice after Blondie <Laughing>, but I also love, the Talking Heads, I love Richard Hell and the Voidoids who were all in the running, but I think that having an opportunity to remind people that Bad Brains are the first all black hardcore band (honorable mention off course to A Band Called Death the first all black punk band). And even though they’re from DC originally, that first album cover with the Capital being struck by Lightning was recorded on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and they played CBGB’s all the time. So they are as important as anybody who was part of that history of the first wave of New York punk. They were a very crucial band. They heavily influenced that next wave of New York hardcore bands like the Cro-Mags, and Agnostic Front to name just a few. All of those bands were massive fans of Bad Brains. So I feel honored to get to paint a mural to represent that era.Matthew A. Eller: I know that skateboarding culture and Punk Rock has been a huge influence on your work. For this new Bad Brains mural you used Glen E. Friedman’s Bad Brains photos as we just discussed a bit, and he got his start as a photographer for Thrasher and later captured every punk band and hip-hop artist you can imagine. Can you talk a bit about this fusion of skateboarding culture and your art?

Shepard Fairey: I grew up in South Carolina and skateboarding was my gateway to creatively as well as my social life. Skateboarding was rebellious, it was creative, just like street art. Street art was re-enacting things on landscapes that weren’t supposed to be written on. But punk was just as in your face if not even more outspoken. It was political and I became very interested in it especially later when I started doing my street work, I was massively influenced to say the least. I already at this point in my life was skateboarding, making t-shirts, stickers, skate zines, and putting up flyers with glue. So I thought, well I wanna do work on the street… but I want to do it with techniques that I already have been using and refining. So pasting up posters seemed to fit the best.Matthew A. Eller: There also seems to be a common thread between the two because skateboarding and street art both involve objects that you need to destroy to create something new.





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