Monday, February 16, 2009

Bostonist: Shepard Fairey Talks Obama, Plagiarism and Capitalism at ICA

There are few people left in Boston who aren't sick of Shepard Fairey's name and his attendant controversies at this point, but I wanted to make sure that my writeup of his pre-arrest lecture at the ICA was linked here for posterity.

Fairey, for those who don't know, recently became famous for his ubiquitous OBAMA HOPE poster. He is a controversial figure these days because this poster and other works of Fairey's have been said to draw too heavily on original works by uncredited artists and copyrighted photographs. Others are turned off by the fact that the former skateboarder and staunch counter-culture figure has made a lot of money by selling his designs to companies like Saks Fifth Avenue. Fairey has also been accused of and even arrested for vandalism by putting his works up on private and government property, and in fact he was hauled away in cuffs the night after this lecture on an outstanding warrant, much to the chagrin of the assembled hipsters at the ICA, who were waiting to see him DJ an art party.

As my article indicates, I found Fairey to be charming and clever -- clever like a fox. He shook off the accusations of plagiarism and vandalism easily, and his handlers at the ICA allowed him to do so. However, the fact that he was later arrested shows there are tangible limits to the abstract conversation he was attempting to craft about power, laws, money, and ownership.

I think the conversation about the relationship between power and art might have continued after his arrest in an interesting way, actually, but the ensuing avalanche of super-simplified opinions for and against Fairey in the local media ("he's a hero!" "he's just a punk kid with no respect for authority!") has made it all very tedious instead. So I'll just leave off here.


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