Tonight I got the chance to hear him speak in the auditorium at the ICA. The event was a conversation with Susan Dackerman, a curator at Harvard, and was something of a free form interview.
Images and more after the jump.
There was a lot to like. Fairey was enthusiastic and genuinely seemed to enjoy talking about his art. He didn’t come off as pretentious or idealistic, which is always a possibility with celebrities famous for their political activism. At one point, Fairey began quoting, from memory, the entire letter written to him by Obama during the campaign. It would be weird to memorize a letter with the sole purpose of telling it to other people, but the way he said it made it seem like he memorized it for himself. Fairey is clearly excited about Obama (pointing out today’s decision to cap the pay of executives of bailed out firms, some of whom could have been in attendance) and was clearly excited to have had a role in electing him.
I liked some of the questions from Dackerman, such as the difference between street art and gallery art, how did you get your start, and talk about ‘Obey’ and its installation on corporate billboards. However, what I really wanted to hear Fairey talk about was the recent AP claim of copyright on the iconic Obama ‘Hope’ poster (a presidential portrait that Dackerman pointed out was one of the most famous presidential portraits ever, 2nd only to the portrait of George Washington that, you know, is on our money). Fairey mentioned his critics only one time, saying something like, “People say I appropriate or plagiarize”, but then moved on and I was disappointed Dackerman didn’t press him on it.
I actually think Fairey would have defended himself well and should have taken the opportunity in front of a favorable audience to make a statement about it. I don’t want to talk about ‘art’ and what makes art because I don’t know (or frankly, care) enough about it to defend or indict Fairey on issues of originality. I will say that I remember where I saw my first “Andre the Giant has a Posse” sticker 18 years ago (on the pay phone at Roche Bros on Linden St) and it captured my imagination then and did again 4 years later in on the top of the Olympic Tower in Munich, Germany.
We did a quick turn around the exhibit after the discussion and it’s 100% worth seeing if you’re a fan of contemporary art. The exhibit is made up of 7 parts, and now I can’t remember what they were. The Portraits were cool, the 2nd or 3rd room was cool, but the last room was breathtaking. 3 walls with giant wall-size murals and the 4th wall with over 100 of Fairey’s posters. It was astounding and makes the exhibit worth it by itself. What did you think?
There’s a bunch of other Fairey news out there, but here’s the only other review of the talk I could find – from the Bostonist. Much more blown out than mine, and more paraphrases of quotes, too.
Fairey mentioned several times the “indoor/outdoor” aspect of this exhibit and here’s a map by Hargo of all the outdoor installations.
(Images from OBEY Giant Print Archive. Left: “The Power of Presentation”. Fairey said at the talk, “Most people think that’s Che Guevara, but it’s actually a dude from a ’70s haircut book”.
Center: This was my favorite poster of the night because I love Ice-T.
Right: If I didn’t love Ice-T, this would have been my favorite picture of the night.)