UT commissions a mural from Shepard Fairey, Obama “Hope” poster artist
By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Shepard Fairey, the street artist best known for his now-iconic “Hope” campaign poster of Barack Obama, has been commissioned by the University of Texas at Austin’s Landmarks public art program to create a mural on the exterior of the Art Building at the corner of 23rd Street and San Jacinto Boulevard.

The artist’s team will install Fairey’s original composition beginning at 2 p.m. Thursday. The public is invited to show up and watch the mural be installed. Likely it will one Fairey’s signature multi-layered images that feature counter-culture heroes in a retro-like propaganda style.

The Los Angeles-based Fairey won’t commit, however, to be at UT himself to the see mural go up. Although his Obama poster now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., Fairey currently faces multiple vandalism charges in Boston for pasting his work on public and private property. Also, the Associated Press has recently accused Fairey of unfair appropriation of their copyrighted photograph for the “Hope” poster.

Still, it’s widely rumored that Fairey will be in Austin during SXSW. And if he is in town, he’s likely to be postering around town. Fairey’s can also be seen here next week in the exhibit “New Brow: The Rise of Underground Art.”

Born in 1970, Fairey received his bachelor of arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1992. While still in art school the skateboard-obsessed Fairey started making defiant images on stickers that he plastered in public spaces.

One of his earliest street campaigns was the “Obey Giant,” referencing Andre the Giant, the professional wrestler. The simple black and white image with “obey” across the bottom soon appeared in cities across the country on posters and stickers.

“The sticker has no meaning but exists only to cause people to react, to contemplate and search for meaning in the sticker,” reads the Obey campaign manifesto. “Because OBEY has no actual meaning, the various reactions and interpretations of those who view it reflect their personality and the nature of their sensibilities.”

The Obey Giant campaign still continues.

And despite his own run-ins with copyright infringement, last year Fairey had his attorneys send a cease-and-desist order to Austin graphic artist Baxter Orr who did his own take on Fairey’s work, creating an image called Protect, with the iconic Obey Giant face covered by a respiratory mask.

Fairey’s work is included in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.

The artist’s first museum survey, “Shepard Fairey: Supply & Demand,” is currently on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. To complement this exhibition, he installed an ephemeral mural for Tufts University Art Gallery, Boston.

Reproduced with permission.

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